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Majors and Bachelor’s Degrees for Aspiring Grading Contractors

Higher Education Articles August 17, 2014

Receive information about majors and bachelor’s degree programs for aspiring grading contractors and their coursework, continuing education choices, job and wage outlook, and career choices.

Important Information

Schools don’t offer any bachelor’s degrees specifically tailored to suit the needs of grading contractors. Grading operators use numerous kinds of equipment in paving, surfacing, pile driving, excavating, loading and moving material. These professionals may rely on, on the job training, in associate degree and certificate programs offered at community colleges, heavy equipment training schools, or company or union apprenticeships. In order to advance in their career beyond the grading contractor level, interested individuals can earn a related bachelor’s degree.

Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree programs in Heavy Equipment Operation imparts hands-on experience in operating backhoes, wheel loaders, dump trucks, bulldozers, equipment transports, skid steers, motor graders, tractors, rollers, loaders, water tankers, and track excavators.

Skills are acquired by students in equipment maintenance, safety procedures, engineering stake interpretation, laser level operation, and grade reading. The program also incorporates class ‘A’ Commercial Driver License testing and training. Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma.

Students would benefit from selecting a program that carries the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)’s accreditation, which enjoys recognition by professionals industry-wide. There will be an insurance of a national portability of skills, and objective quality appraisal is provided to students, in respect to the programs considered by them.

Certifications and credentials are also offered by NCCER via its own training programs to interested individuals who could benefit by advancing their career and employment prospects.


Those who complete an AAS program can expect to become adept at operating heavy equipment, working safely in a construction setting, maintaining heavy equipment, reading and interpreting grades, surveying markings and stakes, applying critical thinking skills, and evaluating and solving problems.

Students can prepare for a 4-year program by earning general education credits in areas such as arts and humanities, sociology and communications. Apart from the work experience component, core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Geology and soil science
•Heavy equipment operations
•First Aid, health and workplace behaviors
•Preventative maintenance, reconditioning and welding
•Basic grade staking and surveying
•Trade math and communications
•Diesel service and repair
•Management and career advancement

Continuing Education Choices

Graduates from the bachelor’s degree program can seek continued education by earning one of many certificates available to heavy equipment operators, offered at numerous machine manufacturer sites, training facilities, 2-year colleges, and vocational schools. Some certification is equipment-specific and could relate to the motor grader, hydraulic excavator, backhoe-loader combination, front-end loader, or crawler tractor. Other credentials are earned from manufacturers by repair people and technicians by attending training programs.

Job and Wage Outlook

A combination of related construction experience and a bachelor’s degree in construction management should boost career prospects of construction managers over the 2010 – 2020 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). A bachelor’s degree can be earned through part-time or full-time study at a four-year institution, by heavy equipment operators who hold an associate degree.

For instance, skills relating to diagnosing, repairing and rebuilding machinery are imparted to those who attend a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Heavy Equipment Service Engineering Technology (HSET) – they would find it hard to obtain these skills outside a degree program. The Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) in Technology Management is also offered, aimed at developing the skills necessary to run small-to-medium sized businesses or managing and supervising divisions or departments.

Career Choices

Numerous industries, such as mining, construction, logging, state highway departments, counties and cities, can use the skills of heavy equipment operators. Experienced workers can obtain an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree and enhance their chances of gaining a managerial or supervisory job, overseeing construction projects.

Grading operators can advance to the position of operating engineer on other construction equipment, a job that would require them to pave, surface and tamp or pile drive. The amount of work available may vary according to conditions of economy, season, weather and cyclical periods of activity. However, construction managers, as well as construction equipment technicians and workers, can expect continual work owing to the shortage of well-trained, qualified candidates.

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