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How to Become a Heavy Equipment Operator

Do you like power, job security, high salaries, and building things? Well, you’re looking into the right profession. There are around 160,000 operators in the US who were smart enough to pursue this career path, and you could be one of them!

So what is a heavy equipment operator, what are the different types, and how do you get started? Let’s talk about that.

What Is A Heavy Equipment Operator?

Heavy equipment operators play a critical role in the world of construction, as well as plenty of other trades. They may take many forms and provide many different services.

Heavy equipment operators could work with a construction company, a landscaping company, in a junkyard, on a railroad, or in any location where things need to be done that can’t be done with bare hands in an efficient manner. Here’s what it could look like.

Different Types Of Heavy Equipment

When you think of heavy equipment, you probably think of cranes. This is one very advanced tool in the industry that very few ever operate. Other examples of heavy equipment will include:

  • Backhoes
  • Forklifts
  • Excavators
  • Bulldozers
  • Road Graders
  • Paving Machines
  • Scrapers
  • Rollers

These are only a few examples, there are plenty more on the list. Some equipment requires less licensure and experience than others. For example, someone may work more than 25 years in the industry before ever becoming certified to operate a crane, if they become certified at all.

However, for most equipment, operators require extensive training and experience in order to work with some of the largest tools. Let’s talk about some of the training that’s necessary for an operator.

Education And Certifications For Equipment Types

It’s important to note that most companies will require a high school diploma or GED to operate heavy equipment. If you’re able to join any vocational training in or beyond high school, that would be very helpful!

It’s also important to do your research on the types of heavy equipment and see what interests you the most! You may want to look into the most in-demand certifications in the region where you intend to work, as this will help you with landing a job, job security, and a higher salary.

Once you have the training and certifications to get started, you’ll be able to apply for jobs. Note that just about every company will require a drug screening before allowing you to operate their equipment. However, this is what you’ll need before landing a job in the industry.

Types Of Training For Operating Heavy Equipment

There are a few ways to go about this. You can start with a shovel and dig ditches hoping to work your way up in a company, or you can go out and get your first couple of certifications yourself.

If you’re able to take out student loans or educational credits (from military service or company benefits) then you could use that money for the training where you want to start. If you want to start out small, there are several certifications that can get you started for a reasonable fee, including forklift operator certification. However, this may limit you if you start working in a warehouse.

You could also get your CDL and health card to prove that you meet the physical requirements if you wanted to start with a small dump truck or similar piece of equipment. Any type of CDL will be beneficial in the industry but a CDL-A will be the most beneficial right off the bat.

You can also go in for training on general heavy equipment. These are fast-paced educational programs that get you familiar (and licensed) with a wide variety of different equipment. Each program will offer completely different training, so do your research and find the right fit for you!

You should expect to spend anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 on this education. However, it will give you the ability to start pursuing higher-paying jobs within the field.

Is The Job Worth All The Training?

Honestly, yes. There is extensive training required in the industry but that doesn’t mean you have to do it all right away. The good news for operators is that if you get your foot in the door with a certification or two, you may find a company that is willing to train you and help you advance in your career.

This could save you thousands of dollars on certifications and education, and help improve your salary down the line. Speaking of which, how much should you expect to make as a heavy equipment operator?

Well, let’s put it into perspective. If you start out working with smaller excavators, dump trucks, and forklifts, you could expect to start between $15 and $20 per hour.

If that doesn’t sound too exciting, don’t worry. The average salary for a heavy equipment operator in the US is over $66,000 a year! Some will see over $80,000 in their careers, and depending on the state you work in, you could even see 6 figures later in your career.

It’s not just salary to boast in the industry. Job prospects are looking great, skilled workers are in demand, and most people working in the industry look forward to a secure retirement.

How To Get Hired As A Heavy Equipment Operator

Now that you know the different types of heavy equipment and the types of training for operating heavy equipment, you should take the training and apply for some jobs. They’re in every city around the world and licensed operators are in high demand. Get some training, get licensed, and reach out to us with any questions!

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