Operating Engineer Certification

Operating engineers run a variety of large machinery, from bulldozers to cranes.
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A large bulldozer ambles across a construction site, moving the earth from point A to point B. An excavator digs deep into the ground. While large machinery and the operating engineers who run them is not an unusual site at a construction site, women working at those sites is uncommon. In 2012, women made up only 1.3 percent of all operating engineers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Whether male or female, certification for operating engineers gives them legitimacy in the field.

Choose Your Certification

    Currently, the International Union of Operating Engineers offers the only operating engineer certifications. The IUOE, a trade union representing operating engineers, as well as stationary engineers, mechanics and surveyors, sponsors five designations through the Operating Engineers Certification Program. The IUOE's certification programs includes boom truck, lattice boom, overhead, telescopic boom and tower crane certifications. Applicants can choose to obtain certification in all five types or choose to specialize in one or two.

Meet the Requirements

    After deciding on what types of certification best fits her needs, the operating engineer must meet certain qualifications. Candidates for an IUOE certification must be a dues-paying member of that union and agree to abide by the organization’s substance abuse policies and not operate machinery under the influence of drugs, alcohol or medication that impairs judgement. An applicant must have a U.S. Department of Transportation or a state-issued Department of Motor Vehicles medical card. Additionally, the candidate must prove she has sufficient training and experience and submit proof of at least 1,000 hours of professional work experience or educational experience in the last five years.

Hit the Books

    Once a candidate meets all the eligibility requirements, she starts studying and preparing for the certification exams. The IUOE requires test-takers to take a written exam first and if they pass that test, they are eligible for the practical exam. A third-party examiner proctors the written tests, which consist of 75 multiple-choice questions, at locations throughout the country. Once she passes the written test, the candidate has 12 months to schedule and take the practical exam, also proctored by a neutral examiner. To help a test-taker prepare for the exams, the IUOE offers study guides, including practice tests, sample questions and reading lists.

Maintain Your Card

    Operating engineers must stay up-to-date with their certification by renewing with the IUOE every five years. Recertification comes with many of the same requirements as initial certification, including IUOE membership, DOT or DMV medical card and an application process. Certification holders must also take and pass a 50 multiple-choice recertification exam, as well as a practical exam. Engineers with at least 1,000 hours of experience in the past five years may waive the practical exam for recertification. IUOE allows certification holders to start applying for recertification one year prior to their certification’s expiration date.

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