How to Become a Heavy Equipment Technician: Career Guide

Learn how to become a heavy equipment technician. Research the education and career requirements, certification, and experience required for starting a career as a heavy equipment technician. View article »

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  • 0:00 Heavy Equipment…
  • 1:09 Complete a Heavy…
  • 2:09 Participate in an Internship
  • 2:48 Earn ASE Certification

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Video Transcript

Heavy Equipment Technician Basics

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; employers prefer certificate or associate's degree
Degree Field Heavy equipment technology, diesel equipment technology
Training On-the-job training typically provided
Certification Voluntary certifications available
Key Skills Mechanical and troubleshooting skills; manual dexterity and physical strength
Salary $47,120 (2015 median for all mobile heavy equipment mechanics)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Heavy equipment technicians service, repair, and maintain heavy equipment machines and vehicles used in the farming, construction, or transportation industries. Examples include bulldozers, semi-trucks, cranes, buses, and tractors. The specific duties include diagnosing malfunctions, replacing parts, and testing components. This work can be physically challenging, with heavy lifting and working in awkward positions, and it often takes place in noisy shop areas. Heavy equipment technicians might work outdoors in all different kinds of weather conditions. Depending on the geographical area, some technicians' work is seasonal.

Heavy equipment technicians need mechanical and troubleshooting skills, manual dexterity, and physical strength. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians earned a median annual salary of $47,120 as of May 2015. Let's trace the steps to become a heavy equipment technician.

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Step 1: Complete a Postsecondary Program

Both associate's degree and certificate programs in heavy equipment technology include classroom study and field practicum experiences. Students learn how to diagnose and repair various types of machines and equipment. Courses in the program might include:

  • Heating and air conditioning systems
  • Electronics and diagnostic repair
  • Fuel systems
  • Diesel engine technology
  • Hydraulics
  • Technological applications

Students also might have an opportunity to learn about engine maintenance, transmission repair, hydraulic testing, and electrical troubleshooting.

Have a Background in the Field

Before enrolling in a heavy equipment technology program, students should have some knowledge of heavy equipment and machines. Taking classes in shop, mathematics, and computers at the high school level could help prepare students for postsecondary diesel equipment and technology-related coursework.

Step 2: Participate in an Internship

Participating in an internship, gives aspiring heavy equipment technicians the opportunity to begin applying kills developed in the classroom in a real-world environment.

Intern in a Specific Industry

Whether it's the agriculture or construction industry, students should pursue an internship where they'll be working with specific types of equipment and machines. While there may be some crossover in engines and transmissions systems, selecting an area of specialization can help to build expertise.

Step 3: Earn ASE Certification

Some employers may prefer that prospective technicians obtain certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Technicians can select from a number of ASE certifications, including:

  • Medium Heavy Truck
  • School Bus
  • Parts Specialist
  • Engine Machinist
  • Electronic Diesel Engine Diagnosis Specialist
  • Truck Equipment credentials

Individuals must pass an exam to earn each designation.

To recap, heavy equipment technicians typically need a certificate or associate's degree in heavy equipment technology. Completing an internship and earning ASE certification could improve career prospects.


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