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Construction/Heavy Equipment/Earthmoving Equipment Operation

Program Description

Just the Facts

Construction/Heavy Equipment/Earthmoving Equipment Operation. A program that prepares individuals to apply technical knowledge and skills to operate and maintain a variety of heavy equipment, such as a crawler tractors, motor graders and scrapers, shovels, rigging devices, hoists, and jacks. Includes instruction in digging, ditching, sloping, stripping, grading, and backfiling, clearing and excavating.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Related Programs

Often similar programs have different names. Be sure to explore all your options.

Additional Information

Heavy equipment operator students learn to drive dump trucks, backhoes, bulldozers and excavators. They may also specialize in crane, forklift or boom truck operation. Experience is the best training in this field.

Each state has specific driver's license requirements for heavy equipment operators. To find out the requirements for your region, contact your local driver examination center.

This training is offered both at community and technical colleges and by private vocational training centers. If you're thinking of going with a private trainer, don't shell out any money until you check out its credentials.

Some types of training require an apprenticeship, which combines on-the-job training with classroom study. For apprenticeship programs, you'll need an employer to sponsor and train you.

During training, you won't be sitting in class all day. Stu Seiffert coordinates the training program at a community college. He says students get "hands-on experience with equipment on actual work sites."

Courses vary in length. If you have no experience, Seiffert recommends you get at least 60 hours of training.

The National Center for Construction Education and Research in Florida offers a similar program. "Coursework includes instruction in equipment maintenance, safety and the specific uses of each machine," says former center representative Tanya Fisher. "We also offer courses in soil types, techniques and heating and cooling systems."

It's not difficult to get into a program, but it does depend on who you are competing against for admission.

"We require a minimum of Grade 10 and applicants must be 19," says Seiffert, who emphasizes that that is a minimum requirement. "Applicants with experience or those who are upgrading skills or have a guaranteed job after graduation are obviously taken first."

What can you do to prepare? "Get some experience," says Seiffert. "Work on construction in the summer, especially with a company doing pipe-laying or subdivision work."

A high school mechanics class might be useful, because many of the training programs teach you some repair basics.

"Keep a clean driving record," advises Rosalie Edwards. She is co-owner of CEO Training in Oregon, which offers heavy equipment operator training.

"Kids don't realize that it can take five to 10 years to clear a driving record. Meanwhile, companies can't hire you to use their equipment because their insurance companies will refuse to insure you."

Most programs offer modular training, where students can purchase what they need or what they can afford. Training is expensive -- costs reflect the expense of buying and maintaining the equipment. You may also have to buy a hard hat, safety vest, gloves, hearing protection and steel-toed workboots, says Seiffert.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Material Moving Occupations

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