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Online Heavy Equipment Operation Certification

Online training options for heavy equipment operation are uncommon due to the hands-on nature of this field, though you may be able to find some certificate programs. Read about online and on-campus training programs for becoming a certified heavy equipment operator, as well as apprenticeships. Check out what you'd learn, and review the licensure and certification process.

Can I Earn Certification in Heavy Equipment Operation Online?

Online and distance learning programs in heavy equipment operation are very rare, but there are some schools that offer courses via distance learning. Most of these programs offer a certificate of completion as opposed to a certification. Campus-based certificate programs are widely available through community and technical colleges. Apprenticeship programs may be available through local trade unions like the International Union of Operating Engineers.

In a distance learning program, you'll view text-based lessons online, which include illustrations and heavy equipment terminology. Each lesson is followed by a short quiz. After completing all of the online courses, you'll complete a 4-week campus residency; you'll gain practical experience operating different types of heavy machinery, including tractors, bulldozers and backhoes.

Online Availability Some courses are offered online for certificates of completion
Common Course Topics Diesel engines, pipe installation, truck operation, hand signals, power trains
Other Requirements Be prepared to earn your commercial driver's license (CDL) to work in this field
Median Salary (2018)$47,810 (for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)*
Job Outlook (2018-28)10% growth (for all construction equipment operators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Lessons Will I Take?

Some schools allow you to study general information about equipment operation online before applying your skills in-person. However, most programs require students to attend all classes on campus. You'll learn about workplace safety, hand signals, map reading and soil testing techniques. You'll also learn how to maintain and operate excavators, skid loaders and motor graders. Some other topics of study could include:

  • Power trains
  • Exhaust and fuel systems
  • Demolition equipment and techniques
  • Laser operations
  • Diesel engines
  • Brakes and brake systems
  • Pipe installation
  • Truck operation

What is a Commercial Driver's License (CDL)?

Heavy transportation or construction vehicles are usually considered commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in the U.S. Because CMV operation requires specialized skills, heavy equipment operators are required by law to obtain a CDL. The CDL exam is administered by each state according to federal guidelines. It's designed to test an individual's knowledge of the CMVs he or she will be operating.

What Can I Do With a Certificate in This Field?

You could find a position in heavy equipment or construction equipment operation, operating a bulldozer, an excavator, a tractor or other piece of equipment. You might work as a paving and surface equipment operator. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), construction equipment operators made a median hourly wage of $22.98, or about $47,810 annually, in 2018 (www.bls.gov).