Both the certificate and associate's degree programs geared towards becoming a forklift mechanic require a high school diploma or GED for entry and may take one to two years to complete. These programs in diesel and heavy machinery also feature hands-on training.
Students of certificate programs will learn about and work with diesel engines, hydraulic systems and electrical components. At the associate's degree level, students may learn diagnostics and explore electronic engine systems. Students in associate's programs are typically required to take general education coursework not required in certificate programs. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence grants voluntary certifications to experienced applicants who pass their examinations.
Certificate in Diesel and Heavy Machinery
Students prepare for working on forklifts by learning everything from diesel engine design to maintenance of lubrication systems. Programs are hands-on and teach students to use wrenches, power tools and specialized gauges to diagnose problems, repair engines and rebuild heavy machinery.
Students in diesel and heavy machinery programs learn to work on several kinds of equipment, including oil rigs, forklifts and construction vehicles. Topics of study often include:
- Air brake systems
- Diesel engines
- Electrical components
- Hydraulic systems
Associate Degree in Diesel and Heavy Machinery
Students in associate degree programs learn to diagnose mechanical problems, perform adjustments and repairs and overhaul diesel engines. These programs prepare graduates to become heavy machinery mechanics that perform inspections, change oil, lubricate machine parts and use hydraulic hoists to raise vehicles. Work in this field requires the ability to lift heavy equipment.
Courses teach students how to diagnose problems by training them to listen for the different noises that defective parts make and use specialized diagnostics equipment to read computer codes related to mechanical malfunctions. Commonly offered courses include:
- Electronic engine systems
- Engine construction
- Fuel systems
- Power trains
Popular Career Options
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 251,750 diesel engine specialists employed in 2015 across various fields, such as freight and logistics, automotive manufacturing and product wholesalers. Forklifts are used in warehouse, distribution and retail establishments that might also employ on-staff mechanics. In addition to working in forklift mechanic positions, entry-level workers with diesel engine repair education could expand their services to include:
- Agricultural equipment
- Construction equipment
- Short- and long-haul trucks
- Utility vehicles
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, employment of diesel service technicians and mechanics was expected to increase 12% over the 2014-2024 decade. In 2015, BLS data showed that the median annual wage of diesel engine specialists was $44,520. The top three industries employing diesel engine specialists were general freight trucking, local government and automotive repair and maintenance.
Certification is voluntary, but could increase the employment opportunities of inexperienced diesel mechanics. The National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers an Electronic Diesel Engine Diagnosis Specialist designation that demonstrates a mechanic's abilities in mechanical, electronic and fuel-controlled systems repair. The requisite two years' experience can be substituted by completing a vehicle manufacturer-sponsored associate degree program or an apprenticeship program. Additional qualifications for this certification include earning ASE's engine and electronics certifications for light or heavy-duty trucks or buses.
In just two years or less, students can complete a certificate or associate's degree program in diesel and heavy machinery and enter a job market with projected growth of 12% over the 2014-2024 decade. Students can seek professional certification and find work in industries such as general freight trucking and local government.