How to Be a Heavy Equipment Operator

Evelyn Long

Mar 22, 2023

heavy equipment operator

We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

A heavy equipment operator can drive and use the large machines needed for various construction projects, such as building and repairing roads, securing bridges, mixing cement and lifting scaffolding. 

It’s a fun profession that’s necessary in the modern construction industry. It’s also one with a lot of responsibility and some safety risks, so getting the proper education and training is necessary before you begin. This article explores how to become a heavy equipment operator and what you can do once you are one. 

What is Heavy Equipment?

There are many moving parts on a construction site, with heavy equipment providing various services. These trucks are large machines that vary in size, structure and capability and include the following: 

  • Tractors
  • Backhoes
  • Dump trucks
  • Bulldozers
  • Drum Rollers
  • Forklifts 
  • Hydraulic Mining Shovels
  • Scissor Lifts

To operate this machinery safely, you need the right education and skills. 


Most companies require a high school diploma, pass the General Education Development Test or at least two years of related experience to be a heavy equipment operator. You’ll also need a valid driver’s license and a commercial driver’s license (CDL), 

The CDL certification process is vital in teaching you how to operate large vehicles and other pieces of machinery, Even if you have one already, your licenses will need to be valid in the state you will work in. 


As a heavy equipment operator, you’ll also need specialized skills you learned through your education or work experience. 

You’ll need to know how to operate heavy equipment safely and perform various maintenance tasks. You must also know how to operate power tools and other light equipment, retain information on plan sites and follow listed policies and procedures with your machinery. 

Being physically and mentally healthy is often another requirement to work on construction sites. The equipment you use is dangerous and accidents are more likely to happen if you are not well. Even when not operating the equipement, you might be subject to various physical tasks with possibly injury-causing materials. 


It could take a few months to a few years to accomplish this career goal. Companies will judge you on your resume and the recommendations others give you based on previous experience. 

The more you know about the industry when you apply, the better, Education from an accredited institution or experience working around the equipment at a previous construction job. A bachelor’s degree takes most students four years to complete. If you go from high echool or GED to a job, you’ll likely need to commit to around two years to get a recommendation to be a heavy equipment operator. 

If you have a company you’d like to work for, you might be able to start in a different position and then switch to a heavy equipment operator when a position becomes available. Some companies will provide the training you need to achieve your career goals. 

Becoming a Heavy Equipment Operator

A heavy equipment operator is an excellent profession for people who love construction and being in the driver’s seat. With the right skills, education and experience, you can become one.

Did you enjoy this post? Join the Renovated community!

A house is more than just where you live. It's where you build a community. We'll give you all the latest trends you need to make your home your haven. Subscribe and never miss out!
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

About The Author