An Associate of Applied Science in Heavy Equipment Operation program imparts hands-on experience operating bulldozers, backhoes, loaders, track excavators, wheel loaders, skid steers, motor graders, rollers, tractors, dump trucks, water tankers, and equipment transports. Students acquire skills in grade reading, laser level operation, engineering stake interpretation, safety procedures, and equipment maintenance.
It's important to select a program that's accredited by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). This accreditation is recognized by professionals throughout the industry, ensuring national portability of skills and providing students with an objective analysis of the quality of the programs they consider.
Prerequisites for these programs include a high school diploma or GED. Class 'A' Commercial Driver License training and testing are usually integral to the program.
Associate's Degree in Contracting
An AAS graduate can operate and maintain heavy equipment, work safely in a construction setting, read and interpret grades, survey markings and stakes, apply critical thinking skills, and evaluate and solve problems. General education credits in areas such as communications, sociology, and arts and humanities can also help prepare students for a 4-year program. In addition to or alongside a work experience component, expect specialized coursework to include:
- Preventative maintenance, reconditioning, and welding
- Diesel service and repair
- Heavy equipment operations
- Geology and soil science
- Management and career advancement
- Trade math and communications
Heavy equipment operators can utilize their skills in a number of industries, including cities, counties, state highway departments, logging, construction, and mining. By obtaining an Associate of Applied Science degree, experienced operators can be on the fast track for a supervisory or managerial role overseeing construction projects.
Grading operators frequently grow into the job of operating engineer on other construction equipment, working at such jobs as paving, surfacing and tamping or pile driving. Employment may ebb and flow due to conditions of weather, season, economy, and cyclical periods of activity, but jobs for construction equipment operators and technicians, as well as construction managers and supervisors, are expected to remain excellent since well-trained, qualified candidates remain hard to find.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that construction managers with bachelor's degrees in construction management and related construction experience should have good prospects over the 2018-2028 decade, projecting a 10% increase in jobs (www.bls.gov). Heavy equipment operators who opt for an associate's degree program can continue with part- or full-time study at a 4-year school to earn one of these.
There are many certificates offered for heavy equipment operators, available at various vocational schools, 2-year colleges, training facilities, and machine manufacturer sites. Some are specific to types of equipment, such as a crawler tractor, front-end loader, backhoe-loader combination, hydraulic excavator, and motor grader. Others are offered by manufacturers to those technicians and repair people who attend their training programs. NCCER offers credentials and certifications to individuals through its own training programs, which can be beneficial for employment and career advancement.
For example, a Bachelor of Science in Heavy Equipment Service Engineering Technology (HSET) trains candidates to diagnose, repair and rebuild machinery--skills that are difficult to find without the degree. Another program offers the Bachelor of Business Administration in Technology Management to develop the skills to run small-to-medium sized businesses or to manage and supervise departments or divisions.
Aspiring grading contractors can choose from training in a variety of programs to prepare them for work with heavy equipment on a construction site. Additional heavy equipment operator certifications are available specifically for certain types of machinery and may help increase job opportunities for those who hold them.