Construction and Heavy Equipment Operator

If you like the idea of working with heavy machinery, a career as a construction and heavy equipment operator might be for you. Read on to learn more about education and licensing requirements for operators, as well as what you can earn in the field.

Is a Career as a Construction and Heavy Equipment Operator for Me?

Career Overview

As a construction and heavy equipment operator, you might clear land parcels, dig ditches for utilities and assist in building streets. You might also compact and grade roads. In this position, you'll be expected to work in a variety of different temperatures and environments and may be scheduled during nontraditional hours. Some postsecondary schools offer formal training for construction and heavy equipment operators; you'll also be required to obtain a commercial driver's license.

Career Options

If you are interested in working in construction equipment operation, you might find a job as a tractor trailer or dump truck driver, forklift operator, grade helper or heavy equipment operator. You might also be employed as a paving and surfacing equipment operator, an asphalt spreader or pile-driver operator or an operating engineer. As a construction equipment operator, you might find work with private businesses or on a government road crew.

Employment and Salary Information

Nationwide, employment of construction equipment operators was expected to increase 19% from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is faster than the national average of 11% for all occupations. In May 2013, operating engineers and other construction equipment operators earned an average annual wage of $47,080. In the same year, the average annual wage of paving, surfacing and tamping equipment operators was $41,720, while pile-driver operators earned an average of $56,220 a year (www.bls.gov').

How Do I Become a Construction and Heavy Equipment Operator?

Education and Training

You can typically find construction and heavy equipment operator programs at 2-year educational institutions. Successful completion of a program may lead to a certificate in heavy equipment operation; some schools award associate degrees or diplomas as well. Once enrolled, you'll learn how to safely operate a variety of different vehicles, such as backhoes, excavators, dump trucks and bulldozers. In addition to training in the use of heavy equipment, you'll find out how to use hand tools and work with binding and soldering technologies.

Additional program features can include the study of hydraulics systems and training in equipment repair. Some programs might also offer internships.

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