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Heavy Equipment Operator Degree Options

Find out about degree options that teach the skills needed to operate heavy equipment. Get information about skills acquired and career options along with median salary information and employment outlook.

What are the Most Common Heavy Equipment Operator Programs?

Most heavy equipment operator programs award certificates or diplomas. However, you also can earn an associate's degree in heavy equipment operation and maintenance, heavy equipment operations or heavy equipment technology.

Program Levels Certificate or diploma program, associate's degree
Common Courses Servicing equipment, geology, technical manual reading, equipment safety, materials accounting
Possible Careers Civil engineer, construction worker, miner, sewage treatment worker
Median Salary (2018)$46,990 (Construction Equipment Operators)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)12% growth (Construction Equipment Operators)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Can I Learn?

In a degree program, you'll learn to work with heavy construction equipment safely and as part of a project team or group of independent contractors. You also might learn to service equipment, read technical manuals and operate additional equipment, such as pile-drivers and pavers.

Heavy equipment courses usually take the form of classroom instruction before you're allowed to operate equipment under the supervision of experienced professionals. You'll learn to evaluate the needs of projects, including calculating the amount of materials that need to be moved and estimating costs. Other coursework might cover:

  • Diesel equipment servicing
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Welding
  • First aid
  • Geology

What Should I Know About Applying My Skills in the Workforce?

In the workforce, you can expect to apply your degree in construction, civil engineering, mining, power generation, oil, water or sewer projects. Many heavy equipment operators receive their training through apprenticeships or paid work experiences if they don't earn a degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the minimum educational requirement to enter this field is a high school diploma before you can seek training on the job.

Overall, the BLS expected the number of heavy equipment operations positions to grow 12% between 2016 and 2026. Much of this increase was attributable to federally funded projects and the need to maintain existing infrastructure. You also might find work on projects that involve alternative energy or existing energy generation technologies.

In 2018, BLS data indicated that operating engineers and other equipment operators received median earnings of $46,990. This doesn't include paving equipment operators, who received a median salary of $39,780 in 2018, or pile-driver operators, who earned a median of $58,680 during the same year.