Operating Engineering Degree and Certificate Program Information

Oct 11, 2019

Students in an operating engineering degree or certificate program learn to operate heavy equipment, as well as maintain and repair these machines, in preparation for a variety of construction, maintenance, and operating engineer positions.

Essential Information

Operating engineers generally work with construction equipment like loading machines and bulldozers. They also work in industrial plants that produce commodities like sand, gravel, and asphalt. Some certificate programs require union membership as a prerequisite. Applicants typically need a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some associate degree programs require students to be concurrently enrolled in an apprenticeship program and take a placement exam.

Certificate Programs in Operating Engineering

Undergraduate certificate programs for prospective operating engineers typically cover heavy equipment maintenance and repair. Students also might learn to maintain electrical and plumbing systems and boilers. Additionally, they gain leadership and management skills in preparation for positions such as foreman, manager, or supervisor. Certificate programs don't usually require general education classes. Program specific courses might include:

  • Diesel engine diagnosis and repair
  • Fuel system diagnosis and repair
  • Transmissions and hydraulics
  • Welding
  • Electrical and electronic systems

Associate Degree Programs in Operating Engineering

Associate degree programs in this field consist of core training competencies like heating and air-conditioning systems, electricity, plumbing design, and boiler technology. Other classroom instruction focuses on safety procedures. Apprenticeships may be required and take as long as three years to complete. Many apprenticeships are affiliated with local divisions of the IUOE. The program curricula include general education requirements. Specific topics covered may include:

  • Bulldozers and cranes
  • Heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) systems
  • Industrial maintenance
  • Mechanical repair techniques
  • Pressurized steam boilers

Popular Career Options

Students with an associate degree are qualified for a variety of skilled maintenance positions and may work on projects for businesses, schools, or hospitals. Possible titles include:

  • Building maintenance supervisor
  • Facilities manager
  • Stationary operating engineer

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

As of 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that there were 453,200 construction equipment operators, with employment predicted to grow by about 44,000 jobs in the 2018-2028 decade ( As of May 2018, operating engineers and other construction equipment operators, with the exception of crane and tower operators and extraction workers, had a median annual wage of $47,810.

Certification and Licensure Information

According to the BLS, operating engineers may be required to obtain licensure or certification, which is generally dependent upon the type of equipment being utilized. For example, as of 2016, piledriver operators were required to have a crane license or certification in 17 states. Certification in using various cranes, including boom truck, lattice boom, overhead, telescopic boom, and tower cranes, is available through the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE).

Certificate and associate degree programs in operating engineering train students to use and maintain construction equipment and heavy machinery. Depending on the job graduates have and the equipment they will be using, certification and/or licensure may be required.

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