School Requirements for a Heavy Equipment License

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a heavy equipment operator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about educational training, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Heavy equipment operators run certain kinds of large equipment, such as construction machines, and they typically need to hold a commercial driver's license (CDL) to do so. Training for a heavy equipment license is usually completed at vocational trade schools or 2-year colleges. Certification programs are also available. This article discusses the school requirements for a heavy equipment license.

Required Education Completion of a heavy equipment operator certificate program
Other Requirements CDL license
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 19% (for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)
Median Annual Salary (May 2013)* $42,540 (operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

License and Training Requirements

A CDL license is required for transportation of equipment, such as a large flatbed trailer. A CDL is also required to operate a dump truck on public roads. Many students train for a CDL in combination with a heavy equipment operator's certificate.

Training Options

Students seeking to become a heavy equipment operator can apply to a certificate program, usually offered by a community college or trade school. The program usually takes eight weeks to complete.

In this program, students learn how to operate motor graders, scrapers, crawler-tractors, front end loaders, excavators, dump trucks, back-hoes, bulldozers, rollers, all-terrain forklifts and hydraulic excavators.

Approximately 50% of training is hands-on, with students training on heavy equipment in the field. Classroom instruction includes the use of computer programs to practice planning and completing projects, GPS training, safety training, applied math and surveying techniques.

Prospective heavy equipment operators learn how to manipulate controls precisely, judge distances and maintain heavy equipment machinery. Many heavy equipment training programs require a student to qualify on at least two types of heavy equipment.

Hybrid heavy equipment operator courses are available. Students learn about heavy equipment safety, signs, hand signals and safety, principles of diesel engines, basic hydraulics and electrical systems through distance education. Students then go in to resident training, where hands-on skills are learned.

Salary Information

Contractors are having a hard time finding qualified individuals trained and certified for heavy equipment operation according to Lansing Community College (www.lcc.edu). Graduates of a heavy equipment operator program will be able to find work in construction, trucking and transportation.

As of September 2014, heavy equipment operators can expect to earn between $27,186 and $68,094 (10th to 90th percentile range) annually, according to PayScale.com; this includes bonuses and profit sharing.

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Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Montana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at The University of Montana include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Ground Transportation
        • Heavy Equipment Operation
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at New Castle School of Trades include:
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Ground Transportation
        • Heavy Equipment Operation
        • Truck, Bus and Commercial Driver
  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Cellular Biology and Anatomical Sciences
      • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
      • General Biology
      • Genetics
      • Microbiology and Immunology
      • Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics
      • Pharmacology and Toxicology
      • Physiology and Related Sciences
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Communication Studies
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Biomedical and Medical Engineering
      • Chemical Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Computer Engineering
      • Electrical Engineering and Electronics
      • Environmental Engineering
      • Geological Engineering
      • Materials Engineering
      • Math
      • Mechanical Engineering
      • Systems Engineering
  • School locations:
    • Rhode Island (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • English Composition
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
  • School locations:
    • North Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Biomedical and Medical Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Electrical Engineering and Electronics
      • Math
      • Mechanical Engineering
  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Notre Dame include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering
      • Chemical Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Computer Engineering
      • Electrical Engineering and Electronics
      • Environmental Engineering
      • Math
      • Mechanical Engineering
  • School locations:
    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Georgetown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Math
  • School locations:
    • Tennessee (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Bioinformatics
      • Cellular Biology and Anatomical Sciences
      • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
      • General Biology
      • Genetics
      • Microbiology and Immunology
      • Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics
      • Pharmacology and Toxicology
      • Physiology and Related Sciences

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Avg. Wages For Related Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics