School Requirements for a Heavy Equipment License

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a heavy equipment operator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about educational training, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Heavy equipment operators run certain kinds of large equipment, such as construction machines, and they typically need to hold a commercial driver's license (CDL) to do so. Training for a heavy equipment license is usually completed at vocational trade schools or 2-year colleges. Certification programs are also available. This article discusses the school requirements for a heavy equipment license.

Required Education Completion of a heavy equipment operator certificate program
Other Requirements CDL license
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 19% (for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)
Median Annual Salary (May 2013)* $42,540 (operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

License and Training Requirements

A CDL license is required for transportation of equipment, such as a large flatbed trailer. A CDL is also required to operate a dump truck on public roads. Many students train for a CDL in combination with a heavy equipment operator's certificate.

Training Options

Students seeking to become a heavy equipment operator can apply to a certificate program, usually offered by a community college or trade school. The program usually takes eight weeks to complete.

In this program, students learn how to operate motor graders, scrapers, crawler-tractors, front end loaders, excavators, dump trucks, back-hoes, bulldozers, rollers, all-terrain forklifts and hydraulic excavators.

Approximately 50% of training is hands-on, with students training on heavy equipment in the field. Classroom instruction includes the use of computer programs to practice planning and completing projects, GPS training, safety training, applied math and surveying techniques.

Prospective heavy equipment operators learn how to manipulate controls precisely, judge distances and maintain heavy equipment machinery. Many heavy equipment training programs require a student to qualify on at least two types of heavy equipment.

Hybrid heavy equipment operator courses are available. Students learn about heavy equipment safety, signs, hand signals and safety, principles of diesel engines, basic hydraulics and electrical systems through distance education. Students then go in to resident training, where hands-on skills are learned.

Salary Information

Contractors are having a hard time finding qualified individuals trained and certified for heavy equipment operation according to Lansing Community College (www.lcc.edu). Graduates of a heavy equipment operator program will be able to find work in construction, trucking and transportation.

As of September 2014, heavy equipment operators can expect to earn between $27,186 and $68,094 (10th to 90th percentile range) annually, according to PayScale.com; this includes bonuses and profit sharing.

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