Aspiring construction equipment operators who decide to pursue formal education gain an understanding of heavy equipment operation and maintenance and safety protocols. They also learn how to read the markings and stakes that surround construction sites and mark off plans for building.
Students have the option of a certificate program or an associate's degree program. Applicants are generally required to have a driver's license prior to beginning any such program and must demonstrate good health by passing a physical examination. Aspiring construction equipment operators will also need to obtain a commercial driver's license to operate the machinery.
Heavy Equipment Operator Certificate
Certificate programs in heavy construction equipment operation are typically strict vocational programs. They do not include general education courses, instead, they provide students with the exact technical skills and training needed to operate large pieces of construction equipment. Students gain hands-on, practical experience in operating dump trucks, tractors, bulldozers, excavators, equipment transports and more.
Many certificate programs in the field of construction equipment operation contain just 30 credits worth of courses, most of which are practical in nature. Some specific examples of topics covered in the courses include:
- Introduction to heavy equipment operation
- Welding theory
- Heavy equipment operation safety
- Heavy equipment maintenance
- Practical heavy equipment operation
- Backhoes and bulldozers
Associate of Science in Heavy Construction Equipment Technology
Some community colleges and technical schools offer 2-year degree programs in heavy construction equipment technology. This degree program requires a high school diploma or GED. Much like certificate programs in the field, associate's degree programs provide students with the technical skills necessary to operate the large equipment used in construction sites. Unlike certificate programs, associate's degree programs also often offer training in heavy construction equipment service, maintenance and repair.
Associate's degree programs in heavy construction equipment technology include many of the same skills-related courses as certificate programs in the field, while also offering advanced courses in technology and general education courses in mathematics and communication. Discipline specific topics may include diesel engine systems, construction safety and site engineering. Other examples of courses might include:
- Heavy equipment tools and hardware
- Machine electronics
- Blueprints and grade stakes
- Earthmoving equipment
- Haul truck equipment
- Trenching equipment
Popular Career Options
Individuals working in the field of heavy construction equipment technology might choose to specialize in a particular type of technology. They may become:
- Paving equipment operators
- Asphalt spreader operators
- Pile driver operators
- Operating engineers
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
As of 2015, there were 355,140 operating engineers and other construction equipment operators working in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS predicts that the number of jobs in the field will increase by 10% between 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators as of May 2015 was $44,600.
Continuing Education Information
Some aspiring heavy construction equipment operators might choose to opt out of a certificate or associate's degree program and enroll directly in an apprenticeship program at a community college or training institute. These programs provide individuals with the same skills and training as degree and certificate programs in the field. However, students enrolled in apprenticeship programs are actually working at a professional level while they complete their training. They generally earn a small percentage of the standard wage until their training is completed. At that stage, they continue working, but take on full wages.
Students enrolled in a certificate program in heavy construction acquire the technical skills needed to operate heavy equipment. Associate's programs are similar, though they also include general education courses as well as lessons on how to keep heavy equipment in good condition.