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heavy equipment operator credentials

Learn about the requirements needed, depending on the equipment, to begin pursuing employment.

Though sometimes used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between heavy equipment operator credentials and certification. This can be an area of confusion for students learning to operate such equipment, whether that be cranes or the assorted bulldozers, excavators, and more on a construction site.

Let’s say you’ve decided to begin training to learn how to operate heavy equipment. The course is nearing completion and you’re wondering what’s next. Do you need to become accredited or certified? Do you need both to begin exploring professional prospects once your education and training are complete?

Since our inception, Performance Training Solutions has served hundreds of students, men and women, from ages ranging from 17 to 72. Whether you’re recently unemployed, a recent high school graduate, a veteran, or disabled, PTS takes pride in helping you adjust to a career change and engineer an opportunity to do so. We even work with you to help secure funding solutions that can help pay for the training.

Today we’ll discuss that credentials or certification question. Let’s lay out what you need to know when it comes to heavy equipment operator credentials.

Ready to take the next step? Schedule a free tour of our training facility and earn a tuition reduction in the process.

Which Form of Proof Do I Need?

The question of whether you need a credential or certification to begin professional employment after your training comes down to the type of equipment you’ve learned to operate. At PTS, our core training programs are divided into two broad types — heavy equipment (two different courses) and cranes (Mobile Hydraulic Telescopic Boom Swing-Cab and Fixed-Cab).


According to regulations set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), anyone seeking to operate a crane that weighs 2,000 pounds or more must first be CERTIFIED by an accredited crane operator testing organization or qualified through an audited employer program.

For the vast majority of future crane operators, this means achieving certification through the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). At PTS, once you complete your crane operator program you will face NCCCO examinations. Once those exams are passed, you will receive formal certification. You can continue to pursue additional training (on other crane types for instance) but there is no other next step needed in order to find employment.

If you’re seeking NCCCO Crane Certification for the first time, you should be aware of the specifics of the exam and the training provided by PTS will ensure you’re prepared. Certification is only valid for five years, and when seeking to extend that certification candidates must complete all of their requirements (including the exam) in the 12-month window prior to the certification expiration date. PTS also offers a Prep & Test program for those seeking a fast track toward recertification.

Heavy Equipment

When learning to operate wheel loaders, backhoes, bulldozers, excavators, and more, however, students will NOT receive certification (or the opportunity to test for it) at the end of their training. Instead, when the training is complete students will receive a CREDENTIAL from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).

This credential is the most important part of the requirements to become a heavy equipment operator. By becoming accredited with NCCER, students have demonstrated they completed an NCCER-sanctioned curriculum. It shows they have the knowledge and have shown proficiency in how to operate various pieces of equipment safely on a job site.

Once training is completed and the credential secured, students can immediately go out and seek employment. There is no other step or additional training required. They’re free to begin work as a credentialed heavy equipment operator.

Ready to grow with heavy equipment operator training? Plan with the right course.

PTS Provides Heavy Equipment Operator Credentials and Crane Operator Certification

The training courses at PTS are designed with the student in mind. The goal is to provide a high-quality training experience to offer the fundamental knowledge and skills needed for entry-level employment in the field, in addition to credentials and/or certifications.

PTS offers instruction that engages students with plenty of in-the-seat training, helps them meet requirements quickly, and empowers them in a new career. As mentioned earlier, we offer two three-week, 120-hour courses in heavy equipment operations and a third training course covering cranes.

Here’s a quick look at each of the three main courses offered at PTS.

  • Heavy Equipment Operator 1 is an entry-level course and covers the knowledge and skills required to obtain employment as a skid steer, wheel loader, compactor, backhoe, or articulated off-road dump truck operator. Individuals also receive information on heavy equipment safety, basic operational techniques, and an introduction to earthmoving and soils.
  • Heavy Equipment Operator 2 follows up on the initial training of HE Operator 1 and adds the layer of training needed for operating bulldozers, scrapers, excavators, and motor graders. During this second course, students also learn about site work, excavation math, the interpretation of civil drawings, and finishing and grading.
  • Mobile Crane Operations gives you the background needed to obtain entry-level employment as an NCCCO-certified crane operator. Our program includes both Mobile Hydraulic Telescopic Boom Swing-Cab and Telescopic Boom Fixed-Cab cranes. Topics covered include basic crane principles, wire rope and basic rigging practices, crane safety, and more.

Connect with PTS today to learn more, schedule a free tour for a tuition discount, or sign up for a spot in the next course offering.

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