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Top 11 Heavy Equipment Operator Certifications

This article provides an overview of the top certifications available for heavy equipment operators and their benefits.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 18 min read

Certifications are an important tool for heavy equipment operators to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in the job market. Certifications provide employers with proof that an operator has the necessary qualifications to safely and effectively operate heavy equipment. They also help employers assess a candidate's level of expertise, which can be especially important when hiring for specialized roles or large projects. In addition, certifications can help operators stand out from other applicants, as they show that the operator is willing to invest time and money into honing their skills.

The purpose of this article is to review some of the top certifications for Heavy Equipment Operators and explain how they can enhance a heavy equipment operator's career.

What are Heavy Equipment Operator Certifications?

Heavy equipment operator certification is a type of professional certification that demonstrates an individual’s ability to safely and effectively operate heavy machinery. Heavy equipment operators are responsible for the operation of large, industrial machines such as bulldozers, cranes, forklifts, backhoes, and excavators. Certification tests an operator’s knowledge of the correct use of these machines in accordance with safety regulations and best practices.

Having a valid heavy equipment operator certification can help operators find more job opportunities and advance their career. Employers prefer to hire certified operators because they know they have met specific standards and have proven they can safely operate the machinery. Certified operators may also be able to negotiate higher wages due to their specialized skillset. Additionally, some employers may require certification in order to be eligible for certain jobs or promotions.

In addition to providing job opportunities and higher wages, having a valid heavy equipment operator certification provides peace of mind that comes with knowing you are qualified for the job. Knowing you have been properly trained and tested on your knowledge of operating heavy machinery can help reduce accidents on the job site and make sure everyone remains safe while working around these powerful pieces of equipment.

Pro Tip: Make sure to research and understand the specific requirements for heavy equipment operator certification in your state. This will ensure you have the necessary qualifications and certifications required for the job.

Related: What does a Heavy Equipment Operator do?

Top 11 Heavy Equipment Operator Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Heavy Equipment Operators today.

1. National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO)

The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) is a non-profit organization that provides certification programs for crane operators in the United States. The NCCCO was established in 1995 to provide an independent, uniform program of assessment and certification for crane operators. The NCCCO certification program is based on industry standards and best practices, and it has been recognized by OSHA as meeting their requirements for crane operator qualification.

In order to become certified, applicants must pass both written and practical exams that cover topics such as safety regulations, operation principles, rigging techniques, signaling procedures, maintenance requirements, and emergency operations. Applicants must also have at least one year of experience operating a crane or related equipment before they can take the exams.

The process typically takes around 6-8 weeks from start to finish. To get started, applicants must first register online with the NCCCO website and pay the registration fee ($100). Then they will need to complete the application form and submit it along with any required documentation (such as proof of experience). After that, applicants will be able to schedule their tests at a local testing center. Once all tests are passed successfully, applicants will receive their official NCCCO certification card within 2-3 weeks.

The cost of getting certified varies depending on how many tests are taken. Each written exam costs $125 while each practical exam costs $200. In total, it can cost anywhere from $375-$600 depending on how many exams are taken.

2. National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)

The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) is a nonprofit organization that develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments. It was established in 1996 with the support of more than 125 construction CEOs and various association and academic leaders, who united to revolutionize training for the construction industry. NCCER’s mission is to develop standardized craft training programs with portable credentials that are recognized across the industry.

NCCER's curriculum includes over 70 different craft areas ranging from carpentry to instrumentation fitting. Each craft area has its own set of core curriculum modules, which cover topics such as safety, tools, materials, equipment operation, quality control, and environmental protection. The core modules must be completed before a student can move on to advanced modules in their chosen craft area.

It typically takes between six months and two years to complete an NCCER certification program depending on the level of certification sought. To get certified by NCCER, students must enroll in an accredited NCCER training program at a local college or technical school. Once enrolled, students will need to complete all required coursework and assessments before they can receive their NCCER certification.

The cost of an NCCER certification program varies depending on the type of program chosen and the location of the school offering it. Generally speaking, tuition costs range from $1,000-$3,000 per semester or course module depending on the institution offering it. Additional fees may also apply for books and other materials needed for completion of the program.

3. American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is a professional organization that promotes the art, science, and practice of mechanical engineering. It was founded in 1880 and has over 140,000 members in more than 150 countries. ASME provides educational opportunities, technical resources, and networking opportunities to its members.

It takes approximately 6-8 weeks to become an ASME member once you have completed the application process. The first step is to fill out the online application form on their website. Once your application is approved, you will be sent an invoice for the membership fee which must be paid before your membership can be activated. The cost of membership depends on what type of membership you are applying for but typically ranges from $50-$250 USD per year.

In addition to providing access to educational resources and networking opportunities, ASME also offers certifications such as the Professional Engineer (PE) certification or the Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE) certification. These certifications require additional fees and exams that must be completed in order to obtain them.

4. International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE)

The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) is a labor union representing operating engineers and other workers in the construction industry. IUOE has over 400,000 members in the United States and Canada and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

It typically takes between two to four weeks to become an IUOE member. In order to join, you must be employed by a signatory employer that has an agreement with IUOE or be sponsored by an IUOE local union. The cost of joining varies depending on the type of membership you choose; however, most members pay dues of approximately $50 per month.

In addition to paying dues, members are required to complete a membership application form and provide proof of employment or sponsorship from their local union. Once accepted into the union, members are entitled to access a variety of benefits including collective bargaining rights, health care coverage, pension plans, job security protections, educational opportunities, legal representation and more.

5. Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP)

The Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) is an international organization that provides professional development, certification and networking opportunities for equipment management professionals. The AEMP is dedicated to advancing the profession through education, training and certification.

It takes approximately 18-24 months to complete the AEMP Certification program. The program consists of four courses: Introduction to Equipment Management, Advanced Equipment Management, Leadership in Equipment Management and Professional Development in Equipment Management. Each course must be completed with a passing grade before you can move onto the next one.

To get certified by AEMP you must first become a member of the association. Membership costs $150 per year and includes access to exclusive content, discounts on events and products, as well as access to the online community. After becoming a member you can then register for the certification program which costs $1,000 for all four courses.

Once you have completed all four courses and passed each exam with a score of 70% or higher, you will receive your AEMP Certification. This will demonstrate that you have achieved a high level of knowledge and expertise in equipment management and are qualified to work in this field.

6. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor that was created to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. OSHA's mission is to "assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance."

It typically takes about two weeks to get OSHA certification. To obtain an OSHA certification you must complete a 10-hour or 30-hour safety course. The cost of the course varies depending on the provider but typically ranges from $50-$300. After completing the course you will receive a certificate of completion which can be used as proof of your OSHA certification.

7. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Labor that was created to protect miners from health and safety hazards associated with mining operations. MSHA develops and enforces safety standards, provides training and education, inspects mines, investigates accidents, and issues citations when violations are found.

It typically takes about two weeks to get an MSHA certification after completing all the required paperwork. To get an MSHA certification, you must first submit an application to the nearest MSHA office or online at www.msha.gov. The application must include proof of experience in mining operations, such as a resume or letter of recommendation from a previous employer in the industry; proof of completion of a mine safety training program; and payment for the applicable fees.

The cost for an MSHA certification varies depending on the type of certification being sought, but generally ranges from $50-$500 per person.

8. National Association of Heavy Equipment Training Schools (NAHETS)

The National Association of Heavy Equipment Training Schools (NAHETS) is a professional organization dedicated to providing quality heavy equipment training and certification. NAHETS provides nationally recognized certifications for operators of heavy equipment, including bulldozers, backhoes, excavators, cranes, forklifts, and more.

It typically takes around 160 hours of classroom instruction and hands-on training to complete the program. Courses are offered at NAHETS member schools located throughout the United States. The cost of the program varies depending on the school and the type of certification being sought. Generally speaking, it costs around $2,000 to become certified in one type of heavy equipment operation.

To get certified through NAHETS, students must first find a member school that offers courses in their area. Once they have found a school they can contact them directly to inquire about enrollment requirements and course fees. After completing the coursework and passing all exams with a minimum score of 70%, students will receive their NAHETS certification card which is valid for four years from the date of issue.

9. American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is an international standards organization that develops and publishes technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services. ASTM standards are voluntary consensus standards that are developed by committees of experts from industry, government, academia, and other stakeholders. The standards cover a broad range of topics such as metals, construction materials, petroleum products, textiles, electronics, medical devices, consumer products, environmental protection technologies and many more.

The process of creating an ASTM standard typically takes several years to complete. It begins with the formation of a committee which reviews existing literature on the subject matter as well as soliciting input from experts in the field. This committee then drafts a proposed standard which is circulated among members for comment before being voted on by the full membership. If approved by two-thirds or more of the voting members it becomes an official ASTM standard.

To obtain ASTM standards you can purchase them directly from the ASTM website or through one of their authorized distributors. Prices vary depending on the type of standard but typically range from $20 to $50 per copy.

10. National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET)

The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) is an independent, non-profit organization that provides certification programs for engineering technicians. NICET certifications are recognized by employers and regulatory agencies as a measure of competency in specific areas of engineering technology.

NICET certifications are available in a variety of engineering disciplines, including electrical, mechanical, civil/structural, fire protection, and water resources. Each certification requires applicants to demonstrate knowledge and experience in the field through a combination of written examinations and work experience. The amount of time it takes to complete the certification process varies depending on the level of certification sought and the number of exams required.

To obtain a NICET certification, applicants must first submit an application form along with their transcripts and other required documents. Once accepted into the program, applicants must then pass all applicable written examinations before they can be awarded a certificate. Depending on the level of certification sought, this process can take anywhere from several months to several years to complete.

The cost to apply for a NICET certification varies depending on the level of certification sought and the number of exams required. Generally speaking, applicants should expect to pay between $200-$500 for each exam they take plus any associated administrative fees or materials costs.

11. International Powered Access Federation (IPAF).

The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) is a global non-profit organization that promotes the safe and effective use of powered access equipment. IPAF works to raise standards in the powered access industry by providing training, certification, and guidance on best practices. The organization also works to ensure that all operators of powered access equipment are properly trained and certified.

In order to become certified with IPAF, an individual must complete a training course and pass an assessment. Training courses can be completed online or in person at an approved training center. The course typically takes between one and two days depending on the level of certification being sought. Once the course is completed, the operator must pass a practical assessment before being awarded their certification card.

The cost of IPAF certification varies depending on the type of certification being sought and whether an online or in-person course is taken. Generally speaking, it costs around £150 for a standard one-day course, although prices may vary from country to country.

Overall, obtaining IPAF certification provides operators with the knowledge and skills necessary to safely operate powered access equipment in accordance with industry standards and regulations. It also serves as proof that they have been properly trained in the use of such equipment.

Do You Really Need a Heavy Equipment Operator Certificate?

Whether or not you need a heavy equipment operator certificate depends on the job you are seeking. Some employers may require certification, while others may not. The best way to determine if certification is necessary for a particular job is to read through the job description and contact the employer directly for clarification.

In general, a heavy equipment operator certificate can be beneficial in many ways. Those who hold such certifications may have an advantage over those without one when it comes to getting hired. Having a certification shows employers that you have taken the time to learn and practice safe and efficient operating procedures, which can make you more desirable as an employee. Furthermore, having a certificate demonstrates your commitment to safety and your willingness to go above and beyond what is expected of you as an employee.

Having a heavy equipment operator certificate can also open up more job opportunities in the industry. Employers often look favorably upon certified operators when hiring new employees, as they know that these individuals have been trained in the proper techniques for operating heavy machinery safely and efficiently. Additionally, it can give you access to higher-paying jobs than those available to non-certified operators.

Overall, whether or not you need a heavy equipment operator certificate depends on what kind of job you are looking for and what qualifications are required by employers in your area. If certification is necessary for a particular job, then it would definitely be beneficial to get one so that you can increase your chances of landing the position and making more money within the industry.

Related: Heavy Equipment Operator Resume Examples

FAQs About Heavy Equipment Operator Certifications

1. How do I become a certified heavy equipment operator?

Answer: To become a certified heavy equipment operator, you will need to complete both classroom and hands-on training at an accredited program. You will also need to pass an industry certification exam in order to receive your certification.

2. What types of certifications are available for heavy equipment operators?

Answer: There are several different types of certifications available for heavy equipment operators, such as crane and hoisting, aerial lift, and forklift certifications. Each type of certification may require different levels of experience and training.

3. How long does it take to become a certified heavy equipment operator?

Answer: The amount of time it takes to become a certified heavy equipment operator depends on the type of certification you are pursuing and the level of experience you have with operating the specific type of machinery. Generally speaking, most programs take anywhere from 3 months to 1 year to complete.

4. Are there any special requirements for becoming a certified heavy equipment operator?

Answer: Yes, depending on what type of certification you are pursuing there may be certain prerequisites that must be met before enrolling in a certification program or taking the final exam. These prerequisites could include having prior experience with operating specific types of machinery or passing other tests related to safety protocols and procedures associated with operating the machinery in question.

5. What is the cost associated with becoming a certified heavy equipment operator?

Answer: The cost associated with becoming a certified heavy equipment operator varies depending on the type of certification being pursued as well as which program or institution you choose to enroll in for your training and education requirements. Generally speaking, most programs range from $500 - $2500 USD depending on the specifics involved in your particular situation.