It sure is a proud moment to cross high-rise towers, bridges, tunnels, or other structures knowing that you contributed to the construction. The job of a heavy equipment operator is a tough one, but at the end of the day, the fact that you were part of a massive project that enhanced a city is enough to give you immense satisfaction in your role.
If you are interested in exploring the field, here’s what you should know about this career choice
What are Heavy Equipment Operators?
Heavy equipment operators operate heavy equipment and machinery such as bulldozers, cranes, forklifts, cargo trucks, backhoes, excavators and other earthmoving vehicles that aid in the construction of buildings and other structures.
Heavy equipment operators are instrumental in construction and engineering projects because they are equipped to drive and properly maneuver heavy machinery. They are also responsible for cleaning and servicing the machines to ensure they are in the best condition. Given the sheer size and weight, operators need to be up-to-date with the technical know-how and maintain safety standards at the construction site.
Heavy equipment operators are mostly employed by civil engineering construction companies, specialty trade contractors, mining and quarrying companies, and local government organizations.
What are the Work Conditions?
If a sedentary desk job never fascinated you and you prefer the outdoor and working across different environments, then you will enjoy your job as a heavy equipment operator. It is adventurous and eventful. Today you’re in one location and the very next month, you are in a completely different setting. When it comes to the working environment, there sure is no scope for boredom and stagnancy.
Heavy equipment operators also work in almost all weather conditions, so you’ll be expected on the construction site whether it’s cold, hot, or even raining. Work rarely stops for weather so do be prepared to face harsh conditions on occasion.
The schedule usually depends upon the weather conditions. There will be times you will also be required to put in extra hours or work overnight shift, but most times construction sites will be active from sunrise to sunset.
What is the Job Outlook?
One of the critical questions to ponder before choosing a career path is its job outlook and growth prospects.
It’s a well-known fact that the U.S. government is committed to undertaking developmental projects and adding to the infrastructure of the country. Moreover, the rise in the population is sure to add to it as well. This creates an increasing demand for heavy equipment operators, making this career choice a potentially lucrative one.
As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of construction equipment operators is projected to grow 12% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for most all occupations.
A heavy equipment operator earns hourly or monthly rates and is paid based on experience, location, and the type of work. In May 2017, the median annual wage for construction equipment operators was $46,080.
What are the Desirable Qualities?
Apart from the technical knowledge and training required to become a heavy equipment operator, there are also some desirable qualities and soft skills that one must have in order to excel in this field.
Love for Outdoors
Whether you operate a bulldozer or a backhoe, you will be subjected to the outdoors on an everyday basis as a heavy equipment operator. Hence, having a love for outdoors will certainly make this job more enjoyable for you.
Understanding of Machinery
Working with heavy machinery is a challenging task. You need to fully understand how each machine operates, be on the lookout for any malfunction, and know how to make quick repairs. Given the different kinds of heavy machinery available, equipment operators need to be updated on the latest methods and techniques of operation.
How difficult can operating a machine be you may wonder, but the truth is, it’s much more difficult than it looks. Sometimes, in the midst of all the chaos in busy job sites it’s easy to get distracted and lose focus, which can lead to dangerous consequences. Good eye-hand-foot coordination ensures proper maneuvering of machinery and promote safety.
Accidents do occur in construction environments. Being a heavy equipment operator you need to be a quick thinker and have good judgment and problem-solving skills to take prompt corrective action before it snowballs into something more serious.
There will be times when you will need to do certain jobs slowly in order to do them right because rushing into it will just end up ruining it. This is why patience is a revered virtue in this field.
How to Become a Heavy Equipment Operator
Heavy equipment operators are required to have a high school diploma as the minimum education criteria. In addition to this, one can also enroll in vocational schools to pursue a degree in construction equipment operation wherein students gain technical and practical knowledge.
Being on a site that demands rigorous on-the-job experience, students need to join training programs to become well-equipped to manage, maintain, and service heavy equipment. Heavy equipment operators are also required to have a valid driver’s license.
Speaking of training courses, one such extensive course is at West Coast Training. Supervised by NCCER Certified Craft Instructors, this full-time course promises personal attention to every student over an 8-week period.
Students get to experience classroom training to understand the theoretical aspect and also spend a good amount of time in the field, gaining the required practical experience. During the program, each student is taught to perform site preparation, flagging, grade checking, and operator preventative maintenance.
Worried if you have it in you? Take the HEO Career Training Readiness Quiz to identify your strengths to make a better-informed decision.
If you have any more queries, feel free to contact us and we will gladly assist in your transition from student to heavy equipment operator.