Operating engineers

Operating engineers operate and maintain heavy construction equipment such as cranes, backhoes, loaders, scrapers and bulldozers for use in the construction of buildings, factories, roads, dams, power plants and bridges.

What an operator does

An operating engineer operates and maintains various types of power-driven construction machines, such as bulldozers, cranes, pile drivers, power shovels, derricks, earth grinders, and tractors that dig, scrape and move great amounts of earth or hoist large quantities of building supplies. Some machines require the operator to turn valves, adjust hand wheels and press pedals to drive the machines and control the attachments. Other machines, such as cranes, require the constant use of both hands and both feet. An operating engineer may also be required to service machines and move the machine from one construction site to another.

Working conditions

All the work is performed in the open, except for a few machines equipped with enclosed cabs. Earth-excavating and grading equipment operators generally work from early spring until the fall freeze and shut down only when it rains.

General qualifications

  • Age - minimum age is 18.
  • Education - minimum of two years high school.
  • Good physical condition - Must be able to perform the work of the trade.
  • American citizenship or in the process of naturalization.

Admission requirements

  • Birth certificate or other proof of age.
  • Transcripts (high school).
  • Physical examination given by applicant’s own physician.
  • Resident of program’s jurisdictional area.
  • Personal interview.
  • $25 processing fee (money order only).

Terms of apprenticeship training

  • Length of program - 4 years.
  • Related training - minimum of 144 hours of annual classroom instruction.

Recommended high school courses

  • General math.