Are you considering changing career or starting a new one? Is being a heavy equipment operator the number one in your list? Being so is a lucrative and rewarding job to get into.
If you want to work in North Dakota, the first step to attaining your goal is to take heavy equipment training. This is surely the easiest way to learn the skills you needed for the job.
In this state, you won’t struggle to get a job as a heavy equipment operator. North Dakota is one of the states which has the lowest unemployment rate because of its economic growth.
If you want to work here, you won’t regret your decision. Big industries are waiting for someone who wants to move in this state. In fact, employers are having a hard time filling the positions making it the top reason for job seekers to find great employment opportunities.
Now that you finally made a decision, that being a heavy equipment operator is the occupation you want to pursue, we made this article to help you guide achieving your ambition.
How to Become a Heavy Equipment Operator?
To become a heavy equipment operator, there are some steps you need to accomplish so that you won’t waste your resources such as time and money. If you plan ahead and complete everything, you shorten the time it takes. Typically, here are the steps you need to do:
- Complete the requirements – knowing what it takes to be an operator can significantly shorten the time it takes to complete the initial training and attain an NCCER certification. If you want to know the necessary requirements, we mentioned them below.
- Find a training school – If you’re seeking education, there are trade schools in North Dakota that offers courses in heavy equipment operation. We listed down below. We also prepared some criteria in choosing a school to help you get your money’s worth enrolling in the program, read them below.
- Attend the class and hands-on training - the training is comprised of classroom and practical training in real-world scenario. You will learn first aid and CPR, OSHA 10 and 30 safety practices, basic equipment servicing and maintenance, walk-around pre-startup inspection, project assessment, job site evaluation, and other topics that may be deemed necessary, aside from the actual heavy equipment operations (front end loaders, bulldozers, backhoes, excavators, forklifts, etc.). Learn more about the components of the course below.
- Pass NCCER Certification – just like in any other trades, getting certified involves passing a series of tests – both written and performance evaluation. If you want to increase your employability, obtaining an NCCER certification will surely do the job. See more about NCCER certification below.
Requirements You Need
- Be at least 18 years old and above – if you’re 17, you can be accepted in the training as long as you can submit a written parent consent; while you need to wait until you turn 18 before you can get a job.
- A high school diploma - someone may have told you that there’s no specific educational requirement to become an operator, yes, it is true, but employers prefer those candidates with a high school diploma or its equivalent.
- A commercial driver’s license (CDL) if you want to work as a construction equipment operator or as a truck driver. If you want to apply for CDL in North Dakota, here are the requirements and process, see this page.
- Physical fit and in excellent health condition – Since the nature of the job is physically demanding, you need to have what it takes to perform the job. You may be required to undergo a DOT physical test to determine your physical and health conditions.
- NCCER certification – the initial training you will be taking will prepare you to pass the NCCER certification tests. Having such certification will enable you to work in construction dictating better pay.
How Much Does It Cost to Go to Heavy Equipment School?
Heavy equipment operators are trained, as their names suggest, to drive large equipment such as backhoes, excavators, loaders, bulldozers, loaders, etc. The operation poses a great risk to the operator himself and to others on-site; aside from the risk it presents of damaging the equipment as it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, thus, anyone who wants to be an operator must go to school and be properly trained first. And there’s an associated cost for taking the training.
A typical program in heavy equipment operation costs between $6,000 and $16,000, well, some factors also come into play that affects the cost. While, advanced training, intended for experienced trainees who want further training, may cost around $7,500.
Another license you may need that adds up to the cost is the commercial driver’s license (CDL). Although the employer would not require it from you, you are in better standing for getting a job if you have a CDL. Application of CDL in North Dakota cost somewhere $30 for the testing, please see DOT page here. If you are new and decided to take a CDL training prior to applying for a license, the training could cost around $2,000, depending on the school.
While going to a training school will train you to become a skilled heavy equipment operator, another option you can take is by going through an apprenticeship program that usually lasts three (3) to four (4) years to complete. Such a program is offered by a community college in your community, or by an industry association or trade union. Being an apprentice is a great way to make a living while learning the trade but there is an associated cost for applying in an apprenticeship program, the tuition fee of $1,000 depending on the sponsoring organization, the registration fee of $100, and the yearly membership of $500.
Books and teaching materials are also the costs you have to shoulder that typically amount only to $200; while, you will need to invest also in personal protective equipment (PPE) such as steel-toed shoes, hard hats, vests, and eye protection.
Heavy Equipment Training Schools in North Dakota
- United Tribes Technical College
3315 University Drive, Bismarck, ND 58504
Phone: 701.255.3285; Toll Free: 888.643.8882
- North Dakota Safety Training Pros (NDSP)
- North Dakota Local Technical Assistance Program
515 1/2 E Broadway, Suite 101, Bismarck, ND 58501
701-328-9856 (O) 701-220-0101 (M)
- North Dakota State University
340 Administration Ave., Fargo, ND, 58102
Phone: (701) 231-8011
- North Dakota Safety Council
1710 Canary Avenue, Suite A, Bismarck, North Dakota 58501
Criteria in Choosing a Heavy Equipment Operator School
- Find a school with a modern training facility and equipment used in the hands-on exercises. Visit personally their campus and see what they offer. Ask permission from the school’s representative first before visiting.
- Find a school that gives tuition discounts and offers a grant to students. We all know that taking such training is expensive, would it be great if you can avail such discount or grant to pay for the tuition.
- Find a school that helps the student in terms of job placement and career preparation.
The Training Course is Split into Two Components
the classroom lectures where the students will cover the theoretical parts of the training such as job safety, equipment operation safety, equipment daily inspection, blueprint reading, and many other subjects; the topics are presented in video or PowerPoint presentation. There will be one-on-one discussions between the instructor and the students during the class so that each student will participate and share the knowledge in the class. At the end of the classroom training, the instructor will administer a test or a quiz just to gauge the understanding the students have learned from the lectures.
The second part of the course is hands-on or practical training. In this part, the students will be able to put their operating knowledge into the real application as they will operate the equipment in the field. Equipment walkaround, inspection, maintenance, actual operation, and other related topics will be thought of during this part. The students are expected to hone their skills by doing practice exercises as assigned by the instructor.
Obtaining NCCER Certification
NCCER certification is an industry-recognized credential. Obtaining this certification involves passing the written test (also known as knowledge verified) and performance assessment (performance verified) to determine your qualification being a heavy equipment operator.
If you are seeking this certification, find an NCCER assessment center near you, see this locator, find a center in North Dakota. In no particular order, you can take the written test or performance assessment. If you’ve passed both tests, you will gain the title of certified plus, you will be given a certificate and wallet card.
You have a good chance of passing the tests if you have initial or preparatory training and that’s the objective why you are completing the heavy equipment training in a vocational or trade school.
If you are applying for a job as a heavy equipment operator, you have the best opportunity to be given a better offer than other candidates if you have an NCCER certificate. The employer can also check your credentials through the online registry.
Completing a Heavy Equipment Apprenticeship Program
Being an apprentice is also a way for an aspiring individual to gain the practical experience and skills you need to get a job as a heavy equipment operator. An apprenticeship program is commonly sponsored by a union in cooperation with a company.
The program usually involves completing a 4,000-hour paid on-the-job training and an additional 300 classroom hours. You will benefit from being an apprentice as you will get a fair wage, as you gain experience and skills, the wage also increases along with other medical and insurance plans.
It is a great way to learn the practical skills needed for the job of a heavy equipment operator. You make a good wage while learning the trade.
In North Dakota, find a branch of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), they’re located at 518 Main Ave W, West Fargo, ND 58078, phone: +1 701-297-4663, make an inquiry if they have openings.
Salary of Heavy Equipment Operators in North Dakota
If you’re thinking about how much really you can make as a heavy equipment operator working in North Dakota, well, you can receive as much as $65,781 per year on average, but the salary falls between $55,007 and $74,624 depending on some factors such as experience, certifications, and additional skills applicable to the job. These figures are from the latest March 28, 2023 reports of Salary.com.
Here are the cities and towns of North Dakota that compensate well:
If you will work in South Dakota, the salary there is lower compared to North Dakota.
Expect pay increases as you gain experience during the years working. Generally, if you have a considerable amount of experience, you can be promoted to become a supervisor or manager thus dictating raise in the salary as well.
Heavy equipment operators work in many different environments. You can work in the forestry industry, agricultural field, mining, and quarrying areas; but you can mostly find work in the construction site, the sector in need of qualified people like you, excavating earth and loading cargo in and out the worksite.
Contacting the Authorities
U. S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration
521 East Main Avenue, Suite 200, Bismarck, ND 58501
North Dakota Department of Commerce
1600 E. Century Ave., Suite 2
Bismarck, ND 58503 | 701.328.5300