How Can I Earn a Certification in Operating Heavy Equipment?

Certification in heavy equipment is typically only available for crane operators. However, heavy equipment operation certificate programs, which train students in this field, are available through vocational schools and professional associations. Learn more below. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Certification in Operating Heavy Equipment

The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) oversees the crane operator certification process. Skills in crane operations can be obtained through a qualified training program. Certification requires you to complete a training program, as well as written and field exams. While certification is usually voluntary, a handful of states require licensure for crane operators.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Key Skills Hand-eye-foot coordination, mechanical skills, physical strength, ability to work at great heights
Entry-level Education High school diploma or equivalent
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Work Environment Construction environments, often outdoors in all types of weather conditions

Training and Apprenticeship

Heavy equipment operators who don't work with cranes typically don't need certification. However, they can pursue accredited certificates and degrees in the field. Degree programs are typically 2-year associate degrees, while certificate programs can be completed in about one year. Throughout the program, you complete coursework and hands-on training with scrapers, excavators, bulldozers, and graders. You will become skilled in the set-up, operation, and inspection of equipment; you may also learn equipment maintenance skills.

Other types of training and apprenticeship programs are offered through organizations like the National Center for Construction Education and Research and the International Union of Operating Engineers. Apprenticeship programs combine classroom experiences with on-the-job training. Apprenticeships provide paid training that lasts approximately three to four years. During that time, you work on construction sites under the guidance of a journeyman. As you advance through the apprenticeship and gain the necessary skills, you eventually work your way up to journeyman status.

Career Overview

Heavy equipment operators work on construction sites. They are skilled in driving and maneuvering machines, such as backhoes, bulldozers, pile drivers and cranes. Additionally, they might also possess skills in basic mechanics and machine maintenance. Heavy equipment operators frequently must hold a commercial driver's license (CDL).

Employment Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that from 2016-2026, employment opportunities for construction equipment operators are projected to grow by 12%, which is faster than average compared to other careers. This growth may be due to an anticipated increase in infrastructure repair and enhancement. Additionally, the BLS indicated that this field oftentimes doesn't attract qualified workers, so the opportunities for job placement might be more available for those with proper training. According to the BLS, the mean annual wage for construction equipment operators was $53,030 in May 2018.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Washington-Holmes Technical Center

    Campus Locations:

    • Florida: Chipley
  • Washington County Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Maine: Calais
  • Washburn Institute of Technology

    Campus Locations:

    • Kansas: Topeka
  • Uintah Basin Applied Technology College

    Campus Locations:

    • Utah: Roosevelt
  • Southern Maine Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Maine: South Portland
  • South Louisiana Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Louisiana: Lafayette
  • Somerset County Technology Center

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: Somerset
  • The University of Montana

    Campus Locations:

    • Montana: Missoula
  • Santiago Canyon College

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Orange