How to Become a Heavy Equipment Operator

Whether you’re working on a construction site, re-paving a road or anything in-between, heavy equipment is the backbone of the industry. Excavators, forklifts, rollers and other large pieces of machinery are to the construction industry as Atlas is to the sky — they do all the heavy lifting so we can get more done in less time and with less effort. These massive pieces of construction engineering need skilled operators to ensure they’re used safely. How can you become a heavy equipment operator? This article will detail the steps. Figure Out What Kind of Equipment You Want to Operate The title of heavy equipment operator is a broad one that covers many different options. You can learn to operate different types of machinery, but each one will have its own skills and safety measures you’ll need to learn. Start by doing your research to figure out which types of equipment you’re interested in specializing in. That could be excavators and backhoes, or you could decide to specialize in cranes and other lifting equipment. Maybe you want to stay closer to the ground. In that case, specializing in steam rollers or other similar machinery might be the best choice. There are numerous options out there, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t have a plan.
photo of a man on a piece of heavy equipment Look At Your Training Options Next, you’ll need to consider the various training options available to help you learn the skills you’ll need to succeed as a heavy equipment operator. You can approach this step in a few different ways, depending on your needs, location and means. One option is on-the-job training. In many cases, you can start at the bottom of the ladder and work your way up, gathering the skills you need along the way. You may find experienced workers willing to train you or a pseudo-apprenticeship program that will teach you everything you need to know. From there, you can obtain certifications later. Vocational training programs are also an option for becoming a heavy equipment operator. These classes give you all the skills and training you’ll need — as well as some hands-on experience — so you’re ready to start working as soon as you head into the workforce. Heavy equipment operators don’t generally need a college degree, but if you’re planning on building a career in the construction industry, seeking a degree in a related field is always a good idea. That way, at least you have all your bases covered if something doesn’t work out. Get Certified Next, before you get behind the wheel of a piece of heavy equipment, you need to look into obtaining the necessary certifications for that machine. The exact tests you’ll have to take will vary depending on the equipment you’re training for, as well as your area and state requirements. Talk to your employer about obtaining these certifications. If you have the necessary experience, your job may even be willing to pay for them, which can save you a lot of money in the long run. Once you have your certifications, make sure you renew them as necessary. They may last anywhere from 1-5 years or more, depending on the exact details of the certification. Secure Your Future Career Once you have training and certifications under your belt, all that’s left to do is find a job in your chosen field. They say that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Keep that in mind when you decide what type of heavy equipment to specialize in.


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Ginger Abbot

Ginger Abbot is a lifestyle, learning and career writer for a variety of industries. Find more of her work on Classrooms, where she serves as...

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