Learn to Operate a Bulldozer: Training Options and Requirements

Heavy equipment operators use bulldozers to level construction sites and grade highway construction sites. Training is accomplished in several ways through different programs.

Aspiring bulldozer operators can consider enrolling in a certificate or apprenticeship program for their training. They must get a specialized license before they can work; optional certifications are also available.

Learning to Operate a Bulldozer

Heavy equipment training can be acquired through trade schools and vocational schools, through either certificate or apprenticeship programs. Education may also be provided through on-the-job training programs.

Formal Education Options

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs at technical schools and community colleges prepare students to operate and maintain heavy equipment in a variety of occupations. Training is often provided on a large tract of land using industry-standard heavy equipment. Students learn how to operate, maintain and repair this equipment. They also practice troubleshooting and repairing drive trains, external engine components, hydraulic systems and running gear while complying with safety regulations. In addition, some schools offer Red Cross, CPR or first-aid training that leads to certification in those areas.

Apprenticeship Programs

Apprenticeship programs provide a mixture of paid, real-world bulldozer operating experience and in-classroom coursework. They take approximately three years to complete. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that apprenticeship programs are advantageous because apprentices may be exposed to a larger variety of equipment and can practice their skills. For instance, some programs provide training in the operation of lots of types of heavy equipment in addition to bulldozers, including:

  • Cranes
  • Forklifts
  • Haul trucks
  • Motor graders
  • Front-end loaders

To start an apprenticeship program, there are a few minimum requirements that aspiring bulldozer operators may be required to meet. These include:

  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Having U.S. citizenship
  • Holding a high school diploma or GED
  • Having a valid driver's license
  • Passing a job skills assessment
  • Have the physical fitness and coordination necessary to perform job duties

Certification and License Requirements

The BLS reports that a bulldozer operator may need a commercial driver's license to haul equipment to a construction site. States may also individually require and offer licensure, which designates professionals as eligible for employment.

Certification, although not required, shows a potential employer that a certified applicant has proven skills - some employers may consider it mandatory. The National Association of Heavy Equipment Training Schools and the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators are just two examples of organizations that offer voluntary certification.

Job Outlook

Retiring operators and those leaving for senior positions may provide job opportunities for incoming bulldozer operators. The BLS expects the number of jobs for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators will grow 10% during the decade 2014-2024, which is faster than the national average. As of May 2016, the median salary among all construction equipment operators was $45,890, per the BLS.

For aspiring bulldozer operators, certificate and apprenticeship programs provide valuable training in the maintenance and operation of heavy equipment, which can help prepare them for success in this growing field.

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