What Are Some Jobs in the Heavy Construction Equipment Industry?

Find out about the type of careers you could pursue in the heavy construction equipment industry. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and potential job growth information. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Career Options in the Heavy Construction Equipment Industry?

There are a variety of specialized careers in the heavy construction equipment industry, but most can be split into two categories: equipment operator or repair and maintenance. Equipment operators generally work outside at construction sites whereas repair and maintenance technicians ensure the equipment is running well.

Construction equipment operators operate equipment controls when working on projects. At times they may need to coordinate activities with other construction equipment operators. When working with heavy equipment all members of a crew need to follow safety protocols given the dangers of being crushed or worse.

While construction equipment operators may perform general maintenance and repairs, there are times when equipment breaks down and repairs are beyond the capacity of operators. This is where mobile heavy equipment mechanics come in. These professionals diagnose problems, and consult manuals to determine how to repair equipment. Often they travel to large equipment since it's easier to move tools and parts than it is broken down heavy equipment.

If working in this industry appeals to you, read on for an outline of important information.

Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics Construction Equipment Operator
Education Required High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Additional Training On-the-job training offered On-the-job training offered
Licensure/Certification Professional certification may be required Commercial driver's license often required
Key Responsibilities Lift and move heavy parts and tools, disassemble and reassemble equipment, perform maintenance tasks, identify mechanical problems Drive and maneuver equipment, uphold safety standards, clean and maintain equipment, communicate with ground team to complete construction tasks
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% 10%
Median Salary (2015)* $47,120 $43,810

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kinds of Heavy Construction Equipment Careers Are Available?

There are about as many careers in this industry as there are kinds of heavy construction equipment: backhoes, bulldozers, cranes, front-end loaders, graders, pavers, scrapers, trench excavators and more. Using this type of equipment, you could help build airports, buildings, highways and dams. You might also work in shipyards or ports, oil fields or forests. You might construct water and sewer systems or do landscaping and much more.

Operators generally work outdoors in good weather and sometimes bad, although most jobs close down during bad weather. In this position, you might move or dig dirt and lay pipe in some of the holes you create; you could move and lift construction materials such as bridge trusses and oil rigs. You could spread concrete and asphalt. As a service technician and mechanic, you would keep the equipment running well, safely and for a long time. You will work with transmissions, hydraulic systems, brakes and fuel systems, as well as electronic and electrical systems.

What Training Do I Need?

To become a service technician for heavy construction equipment, you would do well to take high school courses such as math, chemistry, physics and auto repair. Some employers will offer on-the-job training, but your job opportunities will likely increase if you have some formal training. This may be taken through community colleges or universities. Schools offer certificate, diploma and, occasionally, bachelor's programs for maintenance and service engineering technology.

To prepare to become an equipment operator, you may wish to take similar high school courses, as well as mechanical drawing. You can learn to operate the equipment through on-the-job training or an apprentice program. An apprentice program usually lasts about four years. Most apprentice programs and many employers will also expect a certain amount of classroom training. This, again, is available through community colleges or universities. Some schools offer programs that train you on the equipment as well.

What Salary Might I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) reported that the hourly median wage in May 2015 for construction equipment operators was $21.06. The annual median salary was listed as $43,810. Though, pay depended on the type of equipment operated. In 2015 paving, surfacing, and tamping equipment operators earned a median annual salary of $38,270, while pile-driver operators saw $49,430 a year. Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators made $44,600.

At the same time, they listed an hourly median wage of $23.45 for mobile heavy equipment mechanics, not including engine repair. This translated to an annual median salary of $48,770.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Agriculture workers, farmers and ranchers may all operate heavy agriculture equipment. As with construction equipment, operators of agriculture equipment need to maintain and complete basic repairs on their equipment. They use their equipment to plant crops, maintain crops and harvest crops. There is no standard education requirement for these workers. Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians are also used to working with large equipment as it is their job to maintain and repair large and small aircraft. These professionals need to have a certificate from a Part 147 FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school.

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