A heavy equipment mechanic must know how to properly maintain and repair the equipment in his employer’s shop. The specific job assignment may as a diesel engine mechanic who works on trucks and other vehicles. Or the job may a construction equipment mechanic responsible for maintaining the construction machinery's hydraulic, electrical and other operating systems.
A heavy equipment mechanic needs a good understanding of how diesel engines work. Diesel mechanics work to keep engines in top repair. A construction equipment mechanic not only works on the engines, but on the working parts of the equipment as well. This may involve working on a variety of pieces of construction equipment, such as earth movers, paving machines, bulldozers, cranes and concrete mixers. In addition to repair work, routine maintenance is part of the job.
While a heavy equipment mechanic may have the opportunity to do some of the work inside a shop, much of the work as a construction equipment mechanic involves work on the job site in all types of weather. This keeps the mechanic on his feet most of the working day. Some of the work is in cramped spots, while other work may be from ladders.
It's necessary to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times. Safety rules are in place and all employees must follow them. The heavy equipment mechanic must also follow safety rules for working on engines.
Preparation for the job begins in high school with mathematics, physics and chemistry courses and industrial technology courses. On-the-job training opportunities are available, but it's easier and faster to learn the necessary job skills by attending a vocational school or community college that offers diesel mechanic training or heavy equipment training. The two-year course of study not only offers an associate’s degree, but also provides hands-on training needed for the first job. Employers also send heavy equipment mechanics to specialized training school throughout their careers to keep them current on changes in equipment and technology.
The median hourly wage of a heavy equipment mechanic in 2008 was $20.59, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Mechanics employed by the federal government and the states usually made a higher hourly wage than those employed in the private sector.