Jobs in Heavy Construction Machinery: Salary and Career Facts
Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in heavy construction machinery. Read on to learn more about career options along with certification requirements and salary information.
What Are the Career Options in Heavy Construction Machinery?
There are a variety of job options in heavy construction machinery, most of which require the operation of large machines with job duties that could include paving roads, pouring concrete and removing debris. Some of your options include becoming a mobile heavy equipment mechanic, which involves fixing and repairing machines often involved in construction, like bulldozers and cranes. Another option is becoming a paving, surfacing, and tamping equipment operator. These operators drive and control heavy machines that are involved in resurfacing roads. They must be knowledgeable about appropriate asphalt temperatures, how to level wet concrete, and how to break-up existing concrete to reconstruct. Finally, a career as a operating engineering or other construction equipment operator is an option. These professionals are in charge of driving and operating machines like road graders, industrial trucks and tractors, and forklifts.The table below outlines the general requirements for these career options.
|Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics||Paving, Surfacing, and Tamping Equipment Operators||Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators|
|Education Required||High school diploma, certificate or associate's degree preferred||High school diploma||High school diploma|
|Training Required||On-the-job training common||On-the-job training or apprenticeship program||On-the-job training or apprenticeship program|
|Key Responsibilities||Diagnose and repair construction and mining surface equipment, read and understand manuals and blueprints, perform scheduled maintenance||Control machines that spread asphalt, may regulate temperatures of asphalt, may operate machines that compact the earth||Work with power construction equipment, operate excavation and loading machines, drive industrial trucks and tractors|
|Licensure/Certification||Certification is voluntary||Commercial driver's license often required||Commercial driver's license often required|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)||4%*||11%*||10%*|
|Average Salary (2018)||$53,370*||$44,360*||$53,030*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Are Some Job Options in Heavy Construction Machinery?
In this field, your job may correspond with a specific equipment type. For example, you might operate a paver, crane, excavator, pile driver or loading truck. Job duties might include paving roads, digging holes or ditches, grading surfaces, pouring concrete or removing debris from a construction site. You could also work as a mechanic who maintains and repairs heavy equipment. Some mechanics specialize in repairing specific types of machinery, like diesel engines or hydraulic systems.
Heavy construction machinery jobs are available in almost every area. Work may be year-round in warmer climates but is typically seasonal in areas that have harsh winter weather.
What Training Do I Need?
Formal education is rarely required; apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training are the most common ways to prepare for these types of jobs. Most employers hire workers who have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED.
Paid apprenticeships involve classroom instruction and hands-on work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), apprentices often learn how to operate a wider variety of machinery than on-the-job trainees (www.bls.gov). These programs usually take 3-4 years to complete and may be offered through unions or other professional organizations.
Some colleges and vocational schools offer training programs in heavy construction machinery. These programs offer training that is similar to an apprenticeship; you might learn how to operate a variety of heavy machines, including backhoes, trucks and bulldozers. College and vocational school programs usually last from 4-8 weeks and may lead to a certificate or diploma.
Additional training may be required once you secure a job; newly employed truck drivers may receive instruction in company regulations or record-keeping. Workers who use or transport hazardous materials are required by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to undergo training in safety procedures (www.osha.gov).
Are There Certification or Licensing Requirements?
Some, but not all, jobs in heavy construction machinery require certification or licensure. For example, heavy truck drivers are required to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL). Requirements for the CDL vary by state; you'll usually need to complete a training program as well as a state-administered exam. Licensure is also required for crane operators in some states. You'll need to complete a skills test as well as a written test in order to earn a crane operator's license.
What Can I Earn?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), operating engineers and other construction equipment operators earned a mean annual salary of $53,030 in 2018 (www.bls.gov). During the same year, material moving workers made a mean annual wage of $35,000. The mean annual wage for mobile heavy equipment mechanics was $53,370 in 2018, while the mean annual wage for paving, surfacing, and tamping equipment operators was $44,360, as reported by the BLS.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
You may be interested in pursuing a career as a mechanic in a different type of industry, like aviation or the automotive industry. Aviation mechanics and technicians generally need to pursue post-secondary training and be licensed by the FAA. They fix problems and mechanical issues on airplanes and make sure that airplane parts are functioning properly. As a mechanic in the automotive industry, you will work on different types of vehicles. You will likely need to be familiar with a wide variety of different car makes and models and be able to properly identify problems and provide solutions. A high school diploma is required and generally some on-the-job training is necessary.