What Training Is Needed for a Career in Heavy Equipment Operation?

Heavy equipment operators usually have a high school diploma and on-the-job training, though training programs are available through vocational schools. Read on to learn more about what you need to do to enter this field. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Skills Needed for Heavy Equipment Operation

Heavy equipment operators need agility and mechanical expertise to control large machinery. To work on construction sites and in industrial facilities, heavy equipment operators must undergo training to learn the safe operation of forklifts, bulldozers and other equipment. Heavy equipment operators also must know how to maintain and inspect the equipment they use every day. To gain these skills, many heavy equipment operators enroll in certificate and license programs, including those offered by the following types of institutions:

  • Technical schools
  • Community colleges
  • Professional organizations
  • Employers
  • Manufacturers and dealers of heavy equipment

Important Facts About This Field of Study

Common Courses Safety, mathematics, knowledge of tools, truck/ heavy equipment driving
Prerequisites 18 years of age, high school diploma or GED, physical capability and a valid driver's license are expected for apprenticeships
Possible Job Titles Operating engineer, heavy equipment operator
Continuing Education You can pursue a bachelor's degree in construction science and management to become a construction manager
Median Salary (2018) $47,810 (for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)
Job Growth (2016-2026) 12% (for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Training Programs

Regardless of where aspiring heavy equipment operators undergo training, many programs teach operators similar basic skills. The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) assesses the skills of heavy equipment operators. The NCCER offers certifications for mobile crane operators, riggers and signal people. It also offers curricula in 70 different areas and more than 80 different assessments. Subjects taught in heavy equipment operation training programs depend on the program, but may include the following skills:

  • Inspecting an engine
  • Testing for leaks and levels of fluids
  • Demonstrating safety and visibility know-how
  • Performing digging, loading, sloping and earth moving
  • Executing start-up procedures, like inspecting gauges
  • Completing shutdown tasks and parking

Schools that Offer Heavy Equipment Operation Training

While many employers offer on-the-job training, potential heavy equipment operators can also enroll in a certificate or associate's degree program at their local community college or vocational school. Certificate programs generally take a few months, while associate's degree programs take a few years. Some programs may include an apprenticeship to help students gain hands-on skills.

Chattanooga State Technical Community College in Chattanooga, TN, offers a 6-week heavy equipment operation program. Students can earn certification through NCCER at the end of the program. Gateway Community College in Phoenix, AZ, offers an associate's degree in construction trades: heavy equipment operations. Students need to complete 60 credit hours worth of work, and the program helps prepare students for supervisory and leadership roles. Gateway Community College also offers an apprenticeship program in heavy equipment operations.

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