Operating Engineer Training Programs and Requirements

Operating engineers work in a variety of settings as equipment operators, mechanics and stationary engineers. They work at construction sites, power plants, industrial complexes and chemical plants repairing, renovating and maintaining heavy equipment and stationary machinery such as graders, boilers and industrial heating and air conditioning units. Typical training begins with apprenticeships, either through formal education or through unions.

View 9 Popular Schools »

Training Requirements and Recommendations

At a minimum, potential operating engineers need a high school diploma or its equivalent for employment. Some applicants are hired immediately after they graduate high school and receive on-the-job training from experienced engineers. Operating engineers may also receive a bulk of their training through formal apprenticeship programs, which are sponsored by community colleges, vocational schools or the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). These programs generally take four years to complete and consist of up to 6,000 hours of on-the-job training.

If operating engineers work on construction projects, they may work irregular hours, including early mornings or late evenings. They also need to be in good physical condition and have strong hand-eye coordination. Most employers require operating engineers who maneuver construction equipment to possess a valid commercial driver's license (CDL). It is also beneficial if operating engineers are familiar with construction terms.

Formal Education

Although formal education isn't mandatory, operators of large stationary equipment can obtain a certificate in HAC (heating and air conditioning) or an associate's degree in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning). Both programs offer internships where students can conduct installations and solve diagnostic problems on HVAC and HAC equipment. Heavy equipment operating engineers can enroll in apprenticeship programs offered through a community college or vocational school.

Certificate Programs

An HAC certificate can be completed in one year. Students learn about the fundamentals of electricity, heating and air conditioning as well as how to install and maintain the equipment. Classes in a HAC certificate program include heating and air conditioning systems, job safety and planned maintenance. A large portion of the curriculum involves hands-on labs.

Associate Degree Programs

A 2-year associate's degree program in HVAC-R teaches students how to install, maintain and repair heating, refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. Typical coursework includes thermal controls, electrical wiring, welding and HVAC installation. Many of the classes are hands-on and take place in simulated work environments.

Operating Engineer Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are available through technical or vocational schools and community colleges. These operating engineer apprenticeships generally take 3-4 years to complete and require classroom instruction in addition to hands-on experience. Depending on the apprenticeship program, topics covered include equipment repair and maintenance, excavation, crane, backhoe and paver operation, safety and hydraulic systems. Apprentices work under the supervision of experienced engineers at schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, industrial and power plants, government facilities and office buildings. Some programs may be offered in conjunction with local chapters of the IUOE.

Job Experience

Many companies expect aspiring stationary equipment operators to possess 1-3 years of experience, with most employers requiring candidates to partake in supervised apprenticeships. Heavy equipment operators can find employment after graduating high school. New hires often make the transition to heavy equipment after operating lighter equipment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a knowledge of engine mechanics and computers is also a plus for entry into this field (www.bls.gov).

Licenses and Certifications

Many states and local governments have specific licensing requirements. Most stipulate that stationary equipment operating engineers must be at least 18 years of age, live within a certain area where they wish to work, fulfill experience prerequisites and pass a written exam. Heavy equipment operating engineers may need a CDL for employment. Applicants need to check their state's eligibility and certification requirements.

The American Society of Power Engineers (ASOPE) issues voluntary licensing for power plant and facility operating engineers. There are four classifications of operating engineers, ranging from first to fourth class. First class is for supervisory or managerial positions while fourth class is for entry-level positions, with mid-level certification in between.

Workshops and Seminars

Professional organizations and unions offer single-day development seminars for operating engineers. Topics covered at these seminars include federal and state compliance, apprenticeship utilization and safety. Multi-day seminars are another option. Speakers discuss union leadership roles, finances, safety overviews and the operation of successful apprenticeships.

Additional Professional Development

Many operating engineers join a union and attend continuing education seminars and classes to remain current on operating techniques. The IUOE is a labor union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). The IUOE represents equipment operators, including operating engineers.

Show me popular schools

Related to Operating Engineer Training

  • Related
  • Recently Updated
  • Popular
Operating Engineer License and Certification Information

Operating engineers use heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, pavers, cranes, dump trucks and trench excavators to build...

Chief Operating Engineer: Career Info & Requirements

Chief operating engineers work on construction sites, where they are responsible for the maintenance and safe use of heavy...

Responsibilities of a Chief Engineer

Do you want to change lives? Do you like making practical ideas into reality? If engineering is your field, see what it takes...

Job Description of a Staff Engineer

Staff engineers may perform a variety of duties for the companies that employ them. Most are employed in technical services or...

Building Engineer Degree and Training Information

Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Eligibility and relevancy of sample programs below will vary by article and program
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (3 campuses)
    • California (16)
    • Colorado (3)
    • Florida (6)
    • Georgia (5)
    • Illinois (7)
    • Indiana (2)
    • Maryland (1)
    • Michigan (1)
    • Minnesota (1)
    • Missouri (2)
    • North Carolina (2)
    • New Jersey (3)
    • Nevada (1)
    • New York (2)
    • Ohio (4)
    • Oklahoma (1)
    • Oregon (1)
    • Pennsylvania (4)
    • Tennessee (2)
    • Texas (7)
    • Utah (1)
    • Virginia (3)
    • Washington (3)
    • Wisconsin (1)

    What is your classroom preference?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Masters degree applicants must have a Bachelors degree
    • Doctorate degree applicants must have a Masters degree
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    When are you looking to start?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Currently not accepting applications from Texas residents
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    Which subject are you interested in?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Bachelor
        • BS in Information Technology/Multiplatform Software Development
    • Associate
        • AAS in Information Technology - Multiplatform Software Development

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Florida (1 campus)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 18 years of age or older
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must live within close proximity to school locations
    • Must be graduated from high school by 2011
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Nevada (1 campus)
    • Washington (1)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    • Bachelor
        • Bachelor of Science - Software Engineering
        • Bachelor - Software Engineering

    What is your highest level of education?

  • School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Alabama (3 campuses)
    • Arkansas (1)
    • Arizona (3)
    • California (14)
    • Colorado (2)
    • Florida (9)
    • Georgia (4)
    • Iowa (1)
    • Idaho (1)
    • Illinois (3)
    • Indiana (5)
    • Kansas (2)
    • Kentucky (2)
    • Louisiana (2)
    • Maryland (2)
    • Michigan (6)
    • Minnesota (2)
    • Missouri (4)
    • Mississippi (1)
    • North Carolina (4)
    • Nebraska (1)
    • New Mexico (1)
    • Nevada (2)
    • New York (3)
    • Ohio (9)
    • Oklahoma (2)
    • Oregon (2)
    • South Carolina (4)
    • Tennessee (5)
    • Texas (8)
    • Utah (1)
    • Virginia (5)
    • Washington (3)
    • Wisconsin (3)
    • West Virginia (1)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    • Bachelor
        • Bachelor in Software Development
        • Bachelor in Industrial Automation Engineering Technology
    • Associate
        • Associate in Industrial Engineering Technology
        • Associate in Software Development
        • Associate in Computer and Electronics Engineering Technology
        • Associate in Electrical Technology

    What year did you graduate from high school?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Non-Degree
        • Advanced Software Developer Certificate

    Do you prefer online or campus based learning?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Engineering
      • Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering
      • Biomedical and Medical Engineering
      • Chemical Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Electrical Engineering and Electronics
      • Environmental Engineering
      • Industrial Engineering
      • Materials Engineering
      • Math
      • Mechanical Engineering
      • Petroleum Engineering
      • Systems Engineering

Popular Schools

Avg. Wages For Related Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics