The Qualifications Needed for Construction Machines

A lot of kids have fun with dump trucks and toy construction equipment. This is normally their first introduction to construction, engineering, and building. From excavators to bulldozers, kids get excited to play with these toys! 

As they grow up, some kids still love those machines, and decide that’s what they want to do when they get older. With trade jobs being so important, it’s a great place for these young adults to jump into construction, logistics, and other jobs.

What Does it Take To Operate Heavy Machinery?

Generally, there are a few ways to become a heavy equipment operator. 

  • On the job training programs
  • Trade schools and vocational training programs
  • Apprenticeship programs

If you know what type of equipment you would like to specialize in operating, such as becoming a pile driver operator or operating skid steers, it’ll be easier to figure out what path will work best for you.

A heavy equipment operator doesn’t often require a college degree, although some employers may ask for one. If you have a high school diploma or GED, you can likely become an operator.

Training for Heavy Machines

On-the-Job Training

On-the-job training programs and apprenticeship can possibly be found in the same space. Depending on the equipment you’re willing to start working with, you can start at the bottom with smaller machines and work your way up.

Some jobs may require you to start on machines like forklifts and skid steers before moving you up to something a little heavier. 

Be sure to ask your employer about any help they may offer to get you the certifications you need for different equipment! If you have the right experience, they may even be willing to pay to get you certified for different machines, which is a big plus.


While on the job, you may find there are co-workers willing and able to provide you with apprenticeship training, taking you under their wing to learn more about machines you’d like to move up to.

The benefits of this type of training are that you are getting paid to learn. This way, you get right to work, and still get to move along from construction project to construction project, learning as you go.

The drawbacks of this type of training are that you have to start wherever the other person feels most comfortable starting you, and move at their pace, not just yours.

Vocational Training and Trade Schools

Another option to get your training for construction equipment and heavy machinery is to pick a vocational or trade school.

These schools can help you prepare for working on the job and teach you about the different types of construction equipment operators that exist along with the operational procedures for each. 

These programs can get you actual hands-on-training and they can earn you the qualifications for construction machines of all types, allowing you to find work already prepared. Just don’t forget about those certifications.

The drawback to these programs is that you will be paying upfront for the education you’ll need as well as all licenses and certifications that you’ll need before operating these machines in the real world.

The benefits, however, are that you learn everything you need to know perhaps faster than you would if you choose on-the-job training or apprenticeship.

Construction Equipment Operator Work

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the job outlook for construction equipment operators is decent, with a growth rate of about 5% in the next 10 years. While this may not seem like a lot, that’s an estimation of about 24,900 extra jobs that will be open to people willing to learn the trade.

At $49,100 per year or roughly about $23.61 per hour, that’s a pretty good return on investment for learning a job that can let your inner child play in the dirt! 

Operating engineers are going to be a job that will likely not be replaced any time soon, and as long as there are buildings that need to be built, there will be a need for the people that can drive them.

Getting Them Hooked Young

If you think your kid(s) show some desire for building, nurture that love while they’re young! STEAM and STEM are among some of the options to help teach your child the skills they will need in order to follow those dreams of being the next great architect, building engineer, or general constructor.

These kinds of classes and projects help young minds learn the critical skills needed in order to succeed in many different fields, not just construction.

Have a young scientist on your hands? Or maybe they want to be a math teacher. STEAM is great for all of these. And while it may not seem like what is required to operate heavy machines, it can still help them develop a love of thinking and building.

So get them hooked young to help build the next generation of builders,  engineers, scientists, and yes, machine operators!

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