Heavy Equipment Operator Video: Training Requirements for Heavy Equipment Operators

Heavy Equipment Operator Video: Training Requirements for Heavy Equipment Operators Transcript

Is sitting in an office looking out a window not the life for you? A career as a heavy equipment operator allows you to work outdoors with exciting and challenging construction equipment. On any given day, you may operate a tractor, back hoe or a similar piece of construction or agriculture equipment. Most positions in agricultural or construction applications require only a high school diploma and commercial driver's license.


Construction and agriculture are two of the largest industries that rely on heavy equipment operators to safely use machinery like tractors, back hoes and bulldozers. Most training is done on the job, though a high school diploma is usually required. No professional certifications are needed other than a commercial driver's license.

Job Duties and Skills

Machines such as piledrivers, tractors, back hoes, bulldozers, paving machines, and earth movers are all examples of the equipment used by heavy machine operators. The main duty of these professionals is to follow directions set forth by an engineer or contractor while operating the equipment safely, effectively and efficiently. Depending on the equipment used, a heavy machine operator may pour concrete, create a space of level ground, remove debris from a construction site or harvest crops.

In addition to operating heavy machinery, these professionals must also perform some minor maintenance and repairs, as needed. They also may be called upon to prepare a job site, marking soil to be moved, trees to be cut or buildings to be demolished.

Excellent hand-eye coordination is needed to delicately maneuver massive machines. Heavy equipment operators must also be able to follow directions, as their activities are planned in advance with little room for improvisation. Heavy machine operators must work outdoors in extreme temperatures around noisy machinery and dangerous equipment without sacrificing safety or quality of work. Some tight construction deadlines may require overtime, including weekend and evening work.

Training Required

While some employers are willing to train employees without a high school diploma, most prefer to hire high school graduates. Virtually all training is done on the job. Heavy equipment operators start their careers working on light machinery and equipment, like tractors. As they build experience, they can expect to learn how to use heavy equipment like cranes, bulldozers and steamrollers.

A heavy equipment operator with an aptitude for computers and electronic equipment may have the opportunity to operate more advanced machinery containing hydraulics and computer-assisted navigation. The Associated General Contractors of America and other labor unions offer formal training programs for heavy equipment operators interested in advancing their skills. These programs are made up of three years of on the job education and up to 150 hours of classroom study per year.

Most positions will require a commercial driver's license, criminal background check and periodic drug screenings due to the potentially dangerous nature of the work.

Career Options

Construction firms are the largest employers of heavy equipment operators. With experience, a heavy machine operator may find themselves in a managerial or supervisory role. Depending on the region, opportunities for heavy machine operators may exist in the field of agriculture. Tractors, reapers, threshers and irrigation equipment are all operated by heavy machine operators, especially on large corporate-owned farms.

Business-savvy heavy machine operators may be able to start their businesses, supplying machinery and manpower to construction companies. Such a business can be profitable but does require a substantial initial investment. Other career possibilities include heavy machine maintenance and repair and construction equipment sales. Both are challenging careers that may require additional education and skills not needed for heavy equipment operation.


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