Combustion engineers work to harness energy from burning fuel. They operate equipment and control heating systems where fuel is transformed into heat energy. Their knowledge is applied in the manufacture of domestic and industrial heating systems, car engines and rocket motors. To enter this profession, you should possess a degree in engineering and superb practical skills.
What do Combustion Engineers do?
The primary responsibility of combustion engineers is to harvest energy from burning fuels. Other duties include:
- Designing new heating systems and redesigning existing ones to increase their efficiency
- Diagnosing problems in fuel-fired heating equipment and making repairs
- Collecting and analyzing data from gas and oil-fired combustion machines
- Installing and maintaining components of heating systems in factories and manufacturing facilities
- Ensuring the installation of burning systems meets the established standards and does not violate any laws
- Developing engineering tools and equipment to be used in burning various types of fuel
- Interpreting technical drawings and blueprints to other members of the engineering team
- Compiling technical reports and submitting to project managers or senior engineers
Combustion engineers work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Although these engineers spend most of their time in work sites, they often retreat to their offices to compile technical reports or study blueprints.
Some combustion projects result in the production of loud sound. As such, they must wear ear defenders and other protective equipment to stay safe. The work can also be physically demanding, as some tasks include operating heavy equipment in confined spaces.
The average annual salary for combustion engineers is:
Average annual wage
Source: Simply Hired
In the U.S., there are no colleges or universities offering degree programs in combustion engineering. To get started, you should pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical or chemical engineering. The topics covered by these programs include:
- Thermal-fluid systems
- Energy science
- Heat generation thermoelectric energy conversion
- Combustion process
As part of the degree requirements, you will complete an internship, which will equip you with some industrial experience. With this credential, you can qualify for employment as an entry-level combustion engineer.
Important Skills and Abilities
To become a successful combustion engineer, you should have the following competencies:
- Extensive knowledge in heating processes and thermodynamics
- Good mechanical and technical skills to easily execute engineering concepts
- Good communication skills
- Strong IT skills to use computer software effectively
- The ability to use engineering concepts in solving problems
- The ability to work in a team of other engineers and as an individual
- A reasonable level of physical fitness
- Good analytical and creative skills
After getting a job, it is important to earn the Professional Engineer license. This license will not only prove your competence but also demonstrate to your employer that you are ready for senior responsibilities. To obtain it, you must:
- Have a four-year degree in engineering from an accredited institution
- Have at least four years’ of experience working under the supervision of a professional engineer
- Pass a two-part examination, which is typically administered by your state’s licensing board
You can then pursue a master’s degree program in industrial and commercial combustion engineering. This credential will enable you to engage in basic research projects. If you wish to instruct and nurture future combustion engineers in colleges and universities, you can pursue a doctoral degree.
You can also secure membership in relevant professional bodies, such as the American Coal Ash Association.
As a qualified combustion engineer, you can find jobs in:
- Aerospace and automotive companies
- Engineering consultancies
- Colleges and universities
- Independent research centers
- Government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Energy
Apart from the advancement options listed above, you can also establish your own engineering consultancy after gaining vast experience in the field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of engineers will grow by 9 percent from 2012 through 2022. For a field that is widely known to produce a small number of engineers into the job market every year, you should be confident of getting hired after completing your studies. Engineers with advanced qualifications have the strongest employment prospects. So focus on obtaining a graduate degree.
Image: U.S. Department of Energy