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How To Become a Heavy Equipment Operator

If you thought that a career with job security, job flexibility, and good pay didn’t exist, think again. A career as a heavy equipment operator promises just that. Keep reading to learn more about the heavy equipment operation industry and whether it’s the right career choice for you.

What Does a Heavy Equipment Operator Do?

A heavy equipment operator works in the construction industry and controls heavy machinery that a.) transports materials and b.) builds various types of infrastructure—including roads, bridges, and buildings. Some types of machinery that heavy equipment operators use include cranes, bulldozers, and forklifts.

Heavy equipment operators work for either government entities or private employers. Each option comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Choosing between the two depends on factors such as job type, hours, and desired pay, benefits, and work environment.

Heavy Equipment Operator Job Outlook

A career in heavy equipment operation is often overlooked and highly underrated. Here’s why.


Jobs operating heavy machinery and construction equipment offer competitive salaries. The average industry salary in November 2021 was $67,261, and the general salary range is $56,256 to $76,312. Factors that determine an individual’s salary include job location, experience level, education, certifications, skills, and what specific equipment a worker will operate.

Industry Growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the heavy equipment operation industry will experience a 5% growth between 2020 and 2030. An average of 51,500 new heavy equipment operator jobs are created every year. As the U.S. economy continues to bounce back from the pandemic slow down, even more jobs will become available.

Because construction happens throughout this country, heavy equipment operators are in high demand just about everywhere. Their work is vital to create and maintain various forms of infrastructure. This simple fact promises both job security and job flexibility for heavy equipment operators.

Why You Should Choose a Career in Heavy Equipment Operation

Are you wondering whether a career in heavy equipment operation is the next best step for you? HEC’s accelerated training programs teach students how to operate heavy equipment with safety in mind. Read More!

Benefits of Heavy Equipment Career?

Are you wondering whether a career in heavy equipment operation is the next best step for you? HEC’s accelerated training programs teach students how to operate heavy equipment with safety in mind. Our career services help students enter the workforce upon program completion. Enroll in our specialized courses to start your career in construction and heavy equipment operation.
Read More

Pursue Education & Training

To enjoy a successful career as a heavy equipment operator, you’ll need to undergo some education and training first. The good news is that you have options. Check them out below:

  • Earn your high school diploma: The first step you need to take is earning your high school diploma or a GED. You won’t land a job as a heavy equipment operator without one of the two.
  • Attend a vocational school: If you want to learn about heavy equipment operation in a classroom setting, consider attending a vocational school. This option will allow you to learn about the industry and know what to expect before stepping onto a job site.
  • Complete an apprenticeship: You get the best of both worlds with an apprenticeship. Yo’ll learn about heavy equipment operation in an educational setting while also gaining hands-on experience.
  • Obtain your CDL: A CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) isn’t generally required to operate heavy machinery on construction sites, but it can increase both job prospects and salary. If you have the time to do so, obtaining a CDL will be beneficial.
  • Gain hands-on training: No form of education or certification can beat getting hands-on training. You can’t learn in the classroom what you learn on the job; it’s invaluable. Whether it’s before you start your career as a heavy equipment operator or once you’re already working in the role, gain as much hands-on training as possible. The more you know and the more equipment you know how to operate, the more successful you will be.

Gain Necessary Skills

While job descriptions can differ slightly in the skills required and desired, every employer looks for this set of skills when hiring a heavy equipment operator:

  • Detail-oriented
  • Critical thinker
  • Problem-solver
  • Mechanically minded
  • Physical stamina
  • Analytical
  • Communicative
  • Collaborative
  • Learner
  • Hand-eye coordination

Keep Safety in Mind

Following proper safety protocols prevents unnecessary worksite injuries and fatalities. Here are some steps to take that will keep yourself and those around you safe while on the job:

  • Pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Know the load capacity of the equipment you’re operating.
  • Know how to operate the controls.
  • Always wear a seat belt while operating heavy machinery.
  • Perform regular equipment inspections.
  • Wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), such as gloves, a hard hat, and goggles or safety glasses.

Know the Benefits

While a career in heavy equipment operation comes with long and sometimes odd hours, it has many more benefits. Keep reading to learn about the main benefits of working as a heavy equipment operator:

  • Flexible hours
  • High job demand
  • Hands-on training
  • Insurance coverage
  • Career growth
  • Diverse job opportunities
  • Competitive pay
  • Job satisfaction

Heavy Equipment School Locations

For those looking for a job outside the norms of a 9 to 5, switching careers, or veterans transitioning to civilian life, HEC has provided training that specializes in preparing students for careers in skilled trades. Find out our Locations Here!
HEC Locations
Try the Heavy Equipment Programs at HEC

The diverse collection of accelerated training programs and career services at Heavy Equipment Colleges of American (HEC) prepares students for careers as heavy equipment operators. Whether you’re searching for your first job or want to make a career change, HEC is here to help you succeed. Enroll today to get trained in as little as three weeks and be one step closer to achieving your career goals.


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Heavy Equipment Colleges of America cannot guarantee employment or career advancement or any particular earnings or salary.

OKLAHOMA LOCATION ONLY: This school has a Certificate of Approval from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The TWC-assigned school number is: S2698 . The school’s programs are approved by TWC, as well as Accrediting Commission of Careers Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Heavy Equipment Colleges of America has a Certificate of Approval from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The school’s programs are approved by TWC. Students must address their concerns about this school of any of its educational programs by following the grievance process outlined in the school’s catalog. Students dissatisfied with the school’s response to their complaint or who are not able to file a complaint with the school, can file a formal complaint with TWC, as well as with other relevant agencies or accreditors, if applicable. Information on filing a complaint with TWC can be found on TWC’s website at

Heavy Equipment Colleges of America endorses the national certification program offered by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) and provides training to prepare candidates for CCO examinations.

*SkillBridge prepares service members for civilian employment through first-class apprenticeships, on-the-job training, job shadowing, internships and employment skills training. Service members are eligible to participate in a SkillBridge up to 180 days prior to separation. To be considered for an open seat in a SkillBridge you must contact the POC at the installation where you want to attend a SkillBridge and submit your commander authorized/signed participation memo in advance of the start date.

WIOA/TAA funded training may be provided only to individuals who qualify for the program and not only if funds are available.

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