Heavy Equipment Mechanic: Training and Career Information

Sep 18, 2019

Heavy equipment mechanics often require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and responsibilities to find out if this is the career for you.

You may be able to secure a position as a heavy equipment mechanic with just a high school diploma or GED, in addition to on-the-job training. In this position, you're essentially a doctor for vehicles such as bulldozers, tractors, trucks and the like. You'll diagnose problems with the machinery and apply the proper treatment.

Essential Information

Heavy equipment mechanics repair and maintain heavy vehicles, mobile equipment and their components. Some of the vehicles that heavy equipment mechanics may work on include trucks, tractors, bulldozers, cranes, forklifts and railcars. Although on-the-job training may be sufficient, formal training programs are an option for those who would like to become heavy equipment mechanics.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent; certificates and associate's degrees are available
Additional Requirements On-the-job training is common
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 4% for mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines*
Annual Median Salary (2018) $51,920 for mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Heavy Equipment MechanicTraining Information

Although on-the-job training may be sufficient, formal training programs are an option for those who would like to become heavy equipment mechanics. Community colleges and vocational schools may offer diesel technology programs that cater to students who aspire to become heavy equipment mechanics. Programs are 1-2 years long and result in either a certificate or an associate's degree. Students enrolled in these programs learn the basics of diagnostic techniques, hydraulics and electronics. Completing a formal training program may allow heavy equipment mechanics to advance to the journey level sooner than their peers who have undergone on-the-job training.

Those who decide to learn their trade through on-the-job training may need to train for 3-4 years before they are considered to be fully qualified. Trainees gradually work their way up. They perform routine service tasks and minor repairs after a few months of training, and gradually move on to more advanced jobs. Trainees may also be required to attend week-long sessions hosted by heavy equipment manufacturers. During these sessions, manufacturers instruct trainees in the repair of their equipment. Some manufacturers may offer certification in specific types of repair or for working with specific types of equipment. Earning a certification may allow heavy equipment mechanics to advance their careers or take on more responsibilities.

Heavy Equipment Mechanic Career Information

Mechanics who choose this specialization perform routine maintenance checks on heavy vehicles and mobile equipment. They diagnose and repair problems found in engines, transmissions, electronic controls, brake systems, electrical systems and fuel pumps. They help to ensure that vehicles are safe and perform well. Heavy equipment mechanics may use tools, such as torches, saws and welders to fabricate or modify equipment parts. They also perform routine adjustments to fluid levels, brakes, hoses, belts, tires and clutches, as well as change oil and filters. Additional job duties may include maintaining service logs and road testing vehicles.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technician employment would grow slower than the average through 2028 compared to all professions. Formal training can give mechanics an edge in the job market. In May 2018, the BLS reported that mobile heavy equipment mechanics (except those working on engines) in the 90th percentile or higher earned $76,600 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $33,910 or less per year.

While a high school education can get you in the door at the entry-level status for a job as a heavy equipment mechanic, you're going to need some on-the-job training, which can take up to four years. You should also be aware that community colleges offer 1- to 2-year formal training programs in this discipline that lead to a certificate or an associate's degree. Employment opportunities for heavy equipment mechanics are projected to grow at the same rate as the national average for all occupations.

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