The Gulf of the Maine (GoM) is one of the fastest warming bodies of water in the world, posing serious physiological challenges to its marine inhabitants. Marine organisms can cope with the cellular and molecular stresses created by climate change through changes in gene expression. We used transcriptomics to examine how exposure to current summer temperatures (16 °C) or temperature regimes reflective of projected moderate and severe warming conditions (18 °C and 22 °C, respectively) during larval development alters expression of transcripts affiliated with the cellular stress response (CSR) in postlarval American lobsters (Homarus americanus). We identified 26 significantly differentially expressed (DE) transcripts annotated to CSR proteins. Specifically, transcripts for proteins affiliated with heat shock, the ubiquitin family, DNA repair, and apoptosis were significantly over-expressed in lobsters reared at higher temperatures relative to current conditions. Substantial variation in the CSR expression between postlarvae reared at 18 °C and those reared at 22 °C suggests that postlarvae reared under severe warming may have a hindered ability to cope with the physiological and molecular challenges of ocean warming. These results highlight that postlarval American lobsters may experience significant heat stress as rapid warming in the GoM continues, potentially compromising their ability to prevent cellular damage and inhibiting the reallocation of cellular energy towards other physiological functions beyond activation of the CSR. Moreover, this study establishes additional American lobster stress markers and addresses various knowledge gaps in crustacean biology, where sufficient ‘omics research is lacking.