7 Answers to Questions Students Ask Before Applying to Heavy Equipment Operator School

Blog, Heavy Equipment School

Heavy equipment operation is one of the fastest growing job categories in the U.S. From being treated as ‘just a job’, it has rapidly become one of the most sought-after and well-paying careers in the country. Indeed, job growth in this category is seeing a year-on-year growth of 10%.

Trained heavy equipment operators are required for building roads and highways, constructing buildings and bridges, building new airports and repairing runways, constructing new housing and for projects such as gas and oil pipelining, mining, damming and wall building. Operators work with machinery like backhoes, bulldozers, road graders, wheel-loaders, among many others.

Heavy equipment operation is a skilled vocation that requires proper education, real-world hands-on training, and a safety-minded, task completion oriented personality. For this reason, there are numerous heavy equipment operator schools out there providing a range of skills and opportunities. It is in the aspiring student’s best interest to identify the best and work his/her way toward a fulfilling and rewarding career in the industry.

Below, let’s look at answers to 7 key questions that students ask before applying to heavy equipment operator school

1. What do I need to know about this career before applying?

Prior to sending an application to a heavy equipment operator school of your choice, it is important to do some self-assessment and understand if this career choice is truly something in your interest.

Firstly, you must be comfortable working outdoors. Nearly all the work involved in heavy equipment operating involves working outdoors, in the heat, snow, and rain. While machines may be air-conditioned or insulated, that may not always be the case, hence there needs to be a high degree of comfort in braving conditions and working through them.

Secondly, your timing needs to be flexible. Chances are that these jobs could keep you away from home on occasion and working irregular hours.

Thirdly, you must be willing to work your way up the ranks and accept and encourage feedback. Starting from the ground up is always extremely beneficial, extremely in an industry where skills are paramount, and operating heavy machinery requires that level of diligence. Accepting feedback and on-the-job training is important as well, as operating heavy machinery is a responsible job, that requires continuous learning and experience.

In addition, you must have good hand-eye coordination, reasonable physical strength, and not suffer from an illness that can cause disorientation or loss of consciousness.

Top heavy equipment operator schools like West Coast Training help in this pre-enrollment assessment by assigning a dedicated Student Recruiter capable of helping you make an informed career decision.

2. What qualifications do I need?

Heavy equipment operating could also involve transportation of machinery, hence a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is a plus. CDL requirements are set by the state and require a medical examination. While a CDL is a good thing for an operator to hold, it is not always required for employment.

Nearly all heavy equipment operating companies require a high school diploma at the minimum. Regardless of whether a student has gone through some level of schooling recently or not, the best schools will be able to present possible avenues and the best courses to train in.

3. Can I get financial assistance for the course?

The best schools, like West Coast Training, provide a range of financial assistance options for their courses. A few of these include student tuition loans, Worker Retraining Funds (L&I), Veteran’s Benefits, Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Funds, Workforce Investment Act Funds, Tribal Funds, and Trade Act Funds.

The importance of correctly investing in a quality training course, which will further enhance your opportunities in the industries, cannot be understated. As is usually the case, cheap or gimmicky courses often give you an equivalent poor return. Quality training can be gained at schools that provide actual hands-on training; where students operate real equipment and do not share a single machine between several students. Time in the seat is critical.

4. What does my course entail?

The courses you will undertake at heavy equipment operator schools will be training and certification programs. Students enrolled typically complete 4 to 8 weeks of academic classes, interspersed with real-world hands-on practical training to enable the correct understanding of the skills required.

Individual courses can cover the use of dozers, backhoes, excavators, and other earthmoving machinery. Other courses can include comprehensive training in mobile crane operation, tower cranes, rigging loads, signaling, and advanced lifting tasks. Schools can also offer the CDL A training courses to operate Class A trucks within their training programs.

At good heavy equipment operator schools, along with classroom instruction and theory, there is a significant focus on field training and handling of machinery. The best schools provide dedicated machines per student as opposed to on a ‘turn-by-turn’ basis, allowing a real feel and experience of handling real-time situations and tasks. A smaller classroom means a more dedicated and focused approach to developing the best heavy machinery operators.

5. How much will I earn?

Heavy equipment operators in the U.S. can eventually earn anywhere between $30,000 and $70,000 per year as per latest BLS statistics, with the median pay lying around $46,000. However, this figure can vary according to state, employers, and the level of experience and skill.

This is where training really makes the difference. If you have formal equipment operator training from one of the best schools, you can expect to reach a higher wage, and a committed, professional and long-term approach can result in future wage increases and professional growth.

6. What should I expect post-graduation?

With the requisite skills and hands-on experience imbibed, you’re almost ready to go. At this point, your heavy equipment operator school should assist by giving you leads for work opportunities and help guide job-seeking graduates to the best available opportunities. In addition, preparation of a resume and polishing interview skills are some of the highlights of the post-graduation assistance that the best schools offer.

In terms of a job, a heavy equipment operator can find work in public works, in mining and damming projects, in a private company working in housing and building construction, in government roles, or you could decide to take the plunge and start your very own company.

7. How should I apply for a course in a heavy equipment operator school?

The first step would be to contact your desired heavy equipment operator school and provide an honest assessment of your capabilities and desired career direction. An admissions representative can then guide you to the best course for your training and certification needs and the enrollment procedures to follow.

A career as a heavy equipment operator can be a rich and fulfilling one provided you are ready to maximize your potential by completing quality training and maintaining good work habits.