Heavy Equipment Training: Program Overview

Heavy equipment operators require little formal education. Learn about the training and course topics as well as employment outlook and salary statistics to see if this is the right career for you.

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Some kind of training or experience is probably the best way to prepare yourself for a job as a heavy equipment operator. Especially since these workers handle very large and very heavy pieces of machinery in different environments. Some employers may require their heavy equipment operators to receive safety and health certification as well.

Essential Information

Heavy equipment operators are used in many industries, such as construction and manufacturing. Most companies require their employees to complete some sort of training program. Heavy equipment vocational training programs can prepare individuals for employment and possible certifications.

Required Education Varies, but may include a vocational school program in construction equipment operation or an apprenticeship program
Certification Optional certification from professional associations
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 10% (for all operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $47,810 (for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Heavy Equipment Training Program

A heavy equipment training program should teach candidates how to safely operate several types of equipment, such as late-model bulldozers, excavators, cranes, street sweepers, rollers and backhoes. Students also learn various construction-related tasks, including road building, grading and compaction, land clearing and pipe laying. Training may be provided through classroom settings, simulator training and on-site training. On-site training should provide students with extensive hands-on experiences.

Course Topics

While heavy equipment training programs can include didactic courses in safety and regulations, students can spend a majority of their time obtaining hands-on training. Course topics include equipment maintenance, equipment safety and general heavy equipment operation. Courses can also prepare students to earn a Commercial Driver's License (CDL).

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all construction equipment operators are expected to see an employment increase of 10% between 2018 and 2028 ( Contributing to this employment growth projection is the expected increase in improvements to roads, bridges and electric transmissions. The BLS reports that construction equipment operators earned a median annual wage of $47,810 as of May 2018.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Graduates may find employment immediately after finishing training, although many receive additional training on the job. The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) offers various training programs and apprenticeships to union-managed companies. Apprenticeships provide additional training and can improve employment opportunities. Advancement often comes with work experience and training.

Heavy equipment operators may advance to become managers or may also become teachers in the field. Although certification is not a requirement for heavy equipment operators, many employers in the construction business prefer their workers are certified to meet OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards. Two associations offering certification are the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) and the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).

For heavy equipment operators who want to prepare for their field, vocational schools usually offer training programs in heavy equipment machinery and operation. These programs provide valuable hands-on experience on different types of machines as well as other construction-related tasks. Certification is available for heavy equipment operators, and some employers may even require OSHA certification.

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