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Which Classes Are Helpful to Earn a Heavy Equipment Operator License?

Some states require heavy equipment operators to either have a license or earn a certificate before operating and driving equipment. Other states require both. Read on to find out about the courses you can take to learn the skills you'll need to operate heavy equipment.

Skills Needed to Become a Heavy Equipment Operator

The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) provides certification and skills assessment to heavy equipment operators. According to the NCCER, qualified operators must be able to demonstrate certain skills. Aspiring operators of backhoes, loaders and similar equipment should be able to complete various inspection, safety and operational tasks:

  • Inspecting the engine
  • Checking for leaks and appropriate fluid levels
  • Ensuring visibility
  • Checking gauges and hydraulic controls during start-up
  • Loading
  • Performing shutdown

Important Facts About This Field of Study

Prerequisites A valid driver's license, algebra coursework recommended
Concentrations Agricultural, construction, or general equipment operation
Online Availability Programs require in-person experience but may have online elements
Continuing Education Additional certification in specific equipment available through NCCER
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

Heavy Equipment Operator Classes

Aspiring heavy equipment operators can take classes to learn necessary skills. Many of these classes can be found at community colleges and technical schools throughout the country. In a program, students take courses on maintenance, safety and reading survey markings. Courses on digging trenches, loading trucks, ditching and sloping are also helpful. Potential operators who hope to work on construction sites may benefit from classes on reading blueprints. These courses help prepare students for licensing exams. Course titles vary, but they can include the following:

  • Electricity and electronics
  • Construction safety for HEOP
  • Backhoe and excavator
  • Principles of site finishing & grades
  • Maintenance and service

Schools Offering Heavy Equipment Operator Training

You can train to become licensed or earn a certificate within a couple of months. Butte College offers a heavy equipment operator technician certification program which can be completed in one year. According to Butte College, students who complete the program are prepared for a job in agricultural fields requiring the use of heavy equipment. Students can also earn a certificate from the State Technical College of Missouri, which takes around a year and prepares students for a career in many fields relating to heavy equipment operation. Successful completion of this program require the acquisition of the MoDOT Commercial Driver's License and NCCER certification.