How to Get an Excavator LicenseIf you are interested in becoming an excavator operator, the first thing that may come to your mind is how to get an excavator license as this is the most important requirement that you need to have.

In order to get the license, also known as certification, you need to have the training first in order to be prepared to pass the written and practical tests.

The training can be taken from a trade school while the certification can be acquired by passing the industry certification such as NCCER.

Now is the time to prepare and get into this career as this is going to be in demand in the foreseeable future.

If you want to know more about details related to completing a training course and getting certified, we made this article for you to help you start.

Here’s what you need to know before becoming an excavator operator. Read on...

How to Take the Excavator Operator Training

  1. Find a training school where you can enroll in the program. There are several heavy equipment operator schools in every state, find one here nearest to you. See below for some tips on how to choose the best training school.

  2. After finding a training school, choose a training program that suits your skill level. You might find a school that has several courses depending on the level of the students. If you are an absolute beginner, an entry-level operator program is a course you need. On the other hand, if you have adequate experience, more advanced training is the program to choose.

  3. Once you’re enrolled, you will undergo classroom training. One of the components of the course. In this part, you learn the subjects and theories related to the operation of the excavator. Subjects to be taught include health and safety, preventive maintenance, daily equipment inspection, safe operation, site layout, and other topics that may be deemed necessary. Topics will be delivered through multi-media and/or computer lectures.

  4. A written test may be administered to measure the knowledge of the students gained from the classroom training. Every student must pass the written test. In the event the student failed, the instructor might give a retest.

  5. Once you finished the classroom training, the next step is to take hands-on training. This is where you get your hands dirty. You will be operating the equipment under the keen eye of the instructor. This is the most important part of the course as this is where you gain the practical experience needed to perform a job in the actual work environment.

  6. The last stage is the performance assessment. This is where the instructor gives a set of instructions for students to do. Make the instructor happy about your performance, you’ll receive your certification of training completion.

Some Tips for choosing a training school:

  • Find a small-size class. The ideal number of students per class is not more than 6. Small-size class is important so that every student get the focus and attention to absorb the knowledge.

  • Find a school that has modern type of excavator equipment. Visit the school premises and see what equipment they use in the training.

  • Is your chosen school reputable? It is easy to spot the reputable one, they’re popular in the industry and had produced successful graduates. You can ask your colleagues and friends if they have something in mind to recommend.

  • Find a school that has a curriculum that is in line with the NCCER certification exams for excavators. This helps you acquaint and pass the certification exams.

What are the Requirements to Become an Excavator Operator?

  • Have completed a training program. You are in better standing if you’ve completed a training program in a school because of the practical skills you learned.

  • It would be handy to have a valid driver’s license

  • A commercial driver’s license (CDL) would be a great necessity to get better prospects as employers prefer to hire those candidates with CDL. This CDL allows you to drive dump trucks, tractor-trailer, and other heavy vehicles, and technically, a CDL is not required if you want to be an excavator operator. However, employers favor those who have this. If you want to get a CDL, requirements vary by state, so better check in your state’s DMV office.

  • If you have certification related to the heavy equipment you will operate, then that would be a great advantage to be selected for the job.

  • Practical experience is an absolute requirement if you really want to receive competitive pay.

How do I become a certified and Licensed?

The first thing to do is to complete a training program. We mentioned above that steps you need to take in order to complete the training. The training helps you earn not only the theoretical knowledge but also more importantly the practical skills needed to perform the job as an excavator operator.

Once you finished taking the training program and you have the skills needed, the next step to do in order to get certified is to pass the NCCER certification exams.

Getting certified involves passing the written assessment and performance verification. If you just passed the written assessment also known as “Knowledge Verified,” you’ll receive your receive a transcript, certificate and an initial wallet card.

On the other hand, if you just completed the performance verification (and not the written assessment), also known as performance verified, you will receive your transcript and wallet card.

If you both passed the written assessment and performance verification, you will receive a certified certificate and certified wallet card.

CONGRATULATIONS, you are now a fully certified excavator operator!

The certificate and the wallet-size card you earned from NCCER after passing the excavator certification test is what they referred to as the operator license.

You and your employer can use the NCCER’s Registry System in order to verify the credentials. This is very ideal if you’re applying for a job and want to show proof of your qualifications. The employer has the same advantage, they can check the credentials of the applicants before hiring them. 

How Much Does It Cost to Get a License?

If you would like to be specialized as an excavator operator, all it takes is getting into a training program offered by a trade school and getting certified by NCCER. These are the two aspects you have to focus on.

Enrolling in the course does take some amount of money and since the pricing varies from school to school, we cannot give you an exact cost and besides the tuition cost also depends on the skill level you have and the length of the course.

If you have a plan to enroll, do check with the training school about the financing options you can be qualified for. You could be qualified for a federal grant or military benefit; while if you’re short of money, you can avail the student loan and scholarship. Now, if you have the money, paying the tuition in full will entitle you to a discount.


The second aspect to spend on is getting certified by NCCER. The amount of taking the written assessment and performance verification in order to get certified is minimal. For more information about taking the excavator operator assessment, see this page. 

Salary of Excavator Operator

Now, let’s talk about money. According to the latest October 28, 2020 report of Salary.Com, the average salary of an excavator operator in the US is $48,074 but it ranges from $42,535 - $55,212 depending on some factors and the most important of them are experience and credential.

The job prospect of excavator operators is good especially if you will work in the construction industry. If you’re a beginner aiming to improve skills and acquire experience, the construction is you can find an entry-level job. The mining and logging industries are also in need of talents like you.

To Make a Conclusion

Becoming an excavator operator does take some preparation and investment. If you’re really serious about pursuing this job, all it takes is an initiative – take action now, go take the training. It only lasts a couple of weeks if not days to complete the training course.

After that, you’re ready to get certified by NCCER. The certificate and wallet card you will be given is what they referred to as the excavator license. You can show that to your prospective employer when applying for a job.

We wish you good luck on your journey ahead!