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Equipment Operator Careers

As more baby boomers retire, more equipment operator jobs are opening up. In fact, 25% of the industry will be opened up with the boomers' retirement. That means lots of job openings and plenty of job opportunities for you to take advantage of. If there was ever a right time for you to become an equipment operator, now is that time.

Another bonus of being an equipment operator is that you don't need extra education or experience to get in the drivers seat. In fact, most employers only require you to take a three-week training course before setting you loose on the job. That means in three weeks, you'll be sitting behind the wheel of that heavy-duty equipment. And with today's technology, it's basically as easy as driving a car.

Sounds like an easy enough job, right? But it's not too easy that it's boring. Every day is going to present a new challenge to you. You'll come into work each day not knowing exactly what to expect. And that's because of the variety of heavy equipment that you'll be operating and the different jobs each equipment performs. This is one job that'll make your kids proud.

What Does an Equipment Operator Do

Construction equipment operators drive, maneuver, or control the heavy machinery used to construct roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures.

Duties

Construction equipment operators typically do the following:

  • Clean and maintain equipment, making basic repairs as necessary
  • Report malfunctioning equipment to supervisors
  • Move levers, push pedals, or turn valves to control equipment
  • Drive and maneuver equipment
  • Coordinate machine actions with crew members using hand or audio signals
  • Ensure that safety standards are met

Construction equipment operators use machinery to move construction materials, earth, and other heavy materials at construction sites and mines. They operate equipment that clears and grades land to prepare it for the construction of roads, bridges, and buildings, as well as runways, power generation facilities, dams, levees, and other structures.

Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators work with one or several types of power construction equipment. They may operate excavation and loading machines equipped with scoops, shovels, or buckets that dig sand, gravel, earth, or similar materials. In addition to operating bulldozers, they operate trench excavators, road graders, and similar equipment. Sometimes, they may drive and control industrial trucks or tractors equipped with forklifts or booms for lifting materials. They may also operate and maintain air compressors, pumps, and other power equipment at construction sites.

Paving and surfacing equipment operators control the machines that spread and level asphalt or spread and smooth concrete for roadways or other structures.

  • Asphalt spreader operators turn valves to regulate the temperature and flow of asphalt being applied to the roadbed. They must ensure a constant flow of asphalt into the hopper and that the machine distributes the paving material evenly.
  • Concrete paving machine operators control levers and turn handwheels to move attachments that spread, vibrate, and level wet concrete. They must watch the surface of the concrete carefully to identify low spots that need additional concrete.
  • Tamping equipment operators use machines that compact earth and other fill materials for roadbeds, railroads, or other construction sites. They may also operate machines with interchangeable hammers to cut or break up old pavement and drive guardrail posts into the ground.

Pile-driver operators use large machines mounted on skids, barges, or cranes to hammer piles into the ground. Piles are long, heavy beams of concrete, wood, or steel driven into the ground to support retaining walls, bridges, piers, or building foundations. Some pile-driver operators work on offshore oil rigs.

How To Become an Equipment Operator

Many workers learn equipment operation on the job after earning a high school diploma or equivalent, while others learn through an apprenticeship or by attending vocational schools.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is required for most jobs. Vocational training and math courses are useful, and a course in auto mechanics can be helpful because workers often perform maintenance on their equipment. 

Education at a private vocational school may be beneficial in finding a job, and the variety of construction equipment that is taught varies from school to school. However, people considering this kind of training should check the school’s reputation among employers in the area and find out if the school offers the opportunity to train on actual machines in realistic situations.

Many training facilities incorporate sophisticated simulators into their training, allowing beginners to familiarize themselves with the equipment in a virtual environment before operating real machines.

Training

Many workers learn their jobs by operating light equipment under the guidance of an experienced operator. Later, they may operate heavier equipment, such as bulldozers. Technologically advanced construction equipment with computerized controls requires greater skill to operate. Operators of such equipment may need more training and some understanding of electronics.

Other workers learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. On the job, apprentices learn to maintain equipment, operate machinery, and use special technology, such as a Global Positioning System (GPS). In the classroom, apprentices learn operating procedures for special equipment, safety practices, and first aid, as well as how to read grading plans. Because apprentices learn to operate a wider variety of machines than do other beginners, they usually have better job opportunities.

A few groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Some apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Physically able to do the work
  • Valid driver’s license

After completing an apprenticeship program, apprentices are considered journey workers and perform tasks with less guidance.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Construction equipment operators often need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to haul their equipment to various jobsites. State laws governing CDLs vary.

A few states have special licenses for operators of backhoes, loaders, and bulldozers.

Currently, 17 states require pile-driver operators to have a crane license because similar operational concerns apply to both pile-drivers and cranes. In addition, the cities of Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC require special crane licensure.

Important Qualities

Hand–eye–foot coordination. Construction equipment operators should have steady hands and feet to guide and control heavy machinery precisely, sometimes in tight spaces.

Mechanical skills. Construction equipment operators often perform basic maintenance on the equipment they operate. As a result, they should be familiar with hand and power tools and standard equipment care.

Physical strength. Construction equipment operators may be required to lift more than 50 pounds as part of their duties.

Unafraid of heights. Construction equipment operators may work at great heights. For example, pile-driver operators may need to service the pulleys located at the top of the pile-driver’s tower, which may be several stories tall.

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Average Salary
$27,639
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
10%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
22,308
Job Openings

Equipment Operator Career Paths

Top Careers Before Equipment Operator

Driver
8.6 %

Top Careers After Equipment Operator

Driver
12.6 %

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Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for an Equipment Operator

Equipment Operators in America make an average salary of $27,639 per year or $13 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $33,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $22,000 per year.
Average Salary
$27,639

Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
Denver, CO
Salary Range27k - 35k$31k$31,285
Garden City, KS
Salary Range20k - 25k$23k$22,797
Buckeye, AZ
Salary Range18k - 27k$23k$22,698
New Iberia, LA
Salary Range20k - 24k$22k$22,239
Houston, TX
Salary Range19k - 23k$21k$21,320
$18k
$35k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Equipment Operator
Equipment Operator
Sanmar
Sanmar
03/31/2021
03/31/2021
$33,39203/31/2021
$33,392
Warehouse Power Equipment Operator
Warehouse Power Equipment Operator
Walmart
Walmart
03/31/2021
03/31/2021
$34,43603/31/2021
$34,436
Warehouse Equipment Operators (Cherry Picker)
Warehouse Equipment Operators (Cherry Picker)
Wayfair
Wayfair
03/31/2021
03/31/2021
$37,56603/31/2021
$37,566
Golf Equipment Operator
Golf Equipment Operator
City of Owasso
City of Owasso
03/31/2021
03/31/2021
$18,78303/31/2021
$18,783
Wayfair
Warehouse Equipment Operator
Warehouse Equipment Operator
Wayfair
Wayfair
03/31/2021
03/31/2021
$37,56603/31/2021
$37,566
See More Recent Salaries

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Equipment Operator Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming an Equipment Operator. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write an Equipment Operator Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Equipment Operator resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Equipment Operator Demographics

Gender

male

88.6 %

female

8.3 %

unknown

3.1 %

Ethnicity

White

71.9 %

Hispanic or Latino

17.1 %

Black or African American

6.9 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

73.8 %

Carrier

3.9 %

French

3.7 %
See More Demographics

Equipment Operator Education

Majors

Business
19.6 %

Degrees

Certificate

33.1 %

High School Diploma

32.3 %

Associate

13.3 %
See More Education Info
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For an Equipment Operator

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 13.6% of equipment operators listed heavy equipment on their resume, but soft skills such as physical strength and unafraid of heights are important as well.

Best States For an Equipment Operator

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an equipment operator. The best states for people in this position are Alaska, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. Equipment operators make the most in Alaska with an average salary of $46,283. Whereas in Connecticut and New Hampshire, they would average $45,008 and $44,408, respectively. While equipment operators would only make an average of $43,933 in New Jersey, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Alaska

Total Equipment Operator Jobs:
130
Highest 10% Earn:
$57,000
Location Quotient:
2.99
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. New Jersey

Total Equipment Operator Jobs:
969
Highest 10% Earn:
$75,000
Location Quotient:
2.34
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Wyoming

Total Equipment Operator Jobs:
39
Highest 10% Earn:
$41,000
Location Quotient:
1.25
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Equipment Operator Employers

1. Schlumberger
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$27,730
Equipment Operators Hired: 
1,367+
2. Baker Hughes, a GE company
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$29,266
Equipment Operators Hired: 
817+
3. United States Army
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$29,386
Equipment Operators Hired: 
576+
4. United States Navy
3.8
Avg. Salary: 
$30,779
Equipment Operators Hired: 
567+
5. Halliburton
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$29,369
Equipment Operators Hired: 
519+
6. BJ Services
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$28,891
Equipment Operators Hired: 
416+

Equipment Operator Videos

Updated October 2, 2020