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Working As An Equipment Operator

  • Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Getting Information
  • Controlling Machines and Processes
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Repetitive

  • $26,000

    Average Salary

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.

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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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Equipment Operator Career Paths

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Average Length of Employment
Foreman/Operator 4.9 years
Equipment Operator 4.0 years
Excavator Operator 3.2 years
Loader Operator 2.9 years
Field Operator 2.9 years
Operator 2.9 years
Equipment Driver 2.8 years
Labour Operator 2.7 years
Truck Operator 2.6 years
Junior Operator 2.3 years
Top Careers Before Equipment Operator
Driver 7.7%
Operator 7.1%
Foreman 6.1%
Supervisor 4.4%
Cashier 4.3%
Welder 4.2%
Mechanic 4.1%
Technician 3.6%
Owner 3.3%
Top Careers After Equipment Operator
Driver 11.4%
Operator 7.7%
Foreman 5.9%
Supervisor 4.3%
Technician 3.9%
Owner 3.6%
Welder 3.4%
Mechanic 3.3%

Do you work as an Equipment Operator?

Average Yearly Salary
$26,000
Show Salaries
$21,000
Min 10%
$26,000
Median 50%
$26,000
Median 50%
$26,000
Median 50%
$26,000
Median 50%
$26,000
Median 50%
$26,000
Median 50%
$26,000
Median 50%
$33,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Advanced Disposal
Highest Paying City
Denver, CO
Highest Paying State
New Jersey
Avg Experience Level
3.8 years
How much does an Equipment Operator make at top companies?
The national average salary for an Equipment Operator in the United States is $26,747 per year or $13 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $21,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $33,000.

The largest raises come from changing jobs.

See what's out there.

Real Equipment Operator Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Equipment Operator Interstate Waste Services Inc. Sep 01, 2015 $74,818
Equipment Operator Interstate Waste Services Inc. May 23, 2016 $74,818
Equipment Operator Allied Painting Inc. Jul 19, 2016 $73,923
Chemical Equipment Operator and Tester Mac Hudson Industries Corp. Nov 21, 2016 $66,000 -
$70,000
Chemical Equipment Operator Optimum Polymer Technologies, Inc. Feb 16, 2016 $56,867
Equipment Operator Serra Stone Corporation Feb 12, 2016 $44,179
Equipment Operator Serra Stone Corporation Jan 11, 2016 $44,179
Excavation Equipment Operator Sun Valley Service, Inc. Jan 13, 2015 $44,013
Equipment Operator/Welder/Fabricator Blount-Sanford Contracting Company, Inc. Jul 03, 2016 $42,349 -
$60,000
Agcricultural Equipment Operators J and L Harvestings LLC Jan 12, 2015 $37,566
AG Equipment Operator Mark Peterson (Farm) Mar 01, 2015 $37,566
AG Equipment Operator Mark Peterson (Farm) Jan 03, 2016 $37,566
Equipment Operator Latzel Drilling, Inc. Aug 01, 2016 $37,378
Agricultural Equipment Operator Long Family Farms Partnership Sep 28, 2016 $37,107
Agricultural Equipment Operator Farmland Conversion Consultants, LLC Feb 20, 2016 $28,175
Agricultural Equipment Operator Farmland Conversion Consultants, LLC Jun 17, 2016 $28,175
Agricultural Equipment Operator Farmland Conversion Consultants, LLC Jun 01, 2015 $28,175
Agricultural Equipment Operator Farmland Conversion Consultants, LLC Apr 07, 2015 $28,175
Agricultural Equipment Operator Farmland Conversion Consultants, LLC Oct 01, 2015 $28,175
Agricultural Equipment Operator Et Farm & Cattle LLC Feb 01, 2015 $28,175
Equipment Operator Fehr Metal Buildings Jan 29, 2016 $28,059
Agricultural Equipment Operator Layne and Billie Joint Venture May 06, 2015 $28,059
Agricultural Equipment Operator Gary & Karen Jackson Farms Oct 18, 2016 $25,000 -
$30,000
Agricultural Equipment Operator Gary & Karen Jackson Farms Dec 22, 2016 $25,000 -
$30,000
Agricultural Equipment Operator Gary & Karen Jackson Farms Oct 31, 2016 $25,000 -
$30,000
Agricultural Equipment Operator Gary & Karen Jackson Farms Oct 27, 2016 $25,000 -
$30,000

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Top Skills for An Equipment Operator

  1. Heavy Equipment
  2. Safety Meetings
  3. Dozer
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Conducted safety and mishap prevention training and tests to heavy equipment and materials handling equipment operators.
  • Attend daily safety meetings and follow job safety analysis requirements for wearing personal protective equipment and observation of dangerous red zones.
  • Operated bulldozer and excavator to perform jobs
  • Operate heavy equipment; blade, loader, backhoe, steel and rubber tire rollers, and snow removal equipment.
  • Operate Bobcat S- 630, forklift, front end loader, and other heavy equipment to load/unload trucks and move materials.

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Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Equipment Operators

  1. Wyoming
  2. North Dakota
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Alaska
  5. Indiana
  6. Michigan
  7. Minnesota
  8. Iowa
  9. Montana
  10. South Dakota
  • (84 jobs)
  • (102 jobs)
  • (250 jobs)
  • (31 jobs)
  • (525 jobs)
  • (496 jobs)
  • (249 jobs)
  • (397 jobs)
  • (151 jobs)
  • (69 jobs)

Equipment Operator Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 55,062 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.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Equipment Operator Resume

View Resume Examples

Equipment Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

88.6%

Female

8.3%

Unknown

3.1%
Ethnicity

White

62.7%

Hispanic or Latino

16.7%

Black or African American

11.4%

Asian

5.9%

Unknown

3.3%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

73.8%

Carrier

3.9%

French

3.7%

German

3.4%

Dakota

2.6%

Russian

1.8%

Tagalog

1.3%

Portuguese

1.3%

Korean

1.0%

Thai

1.0%

Japanese

1.0%

Polish

1.0%

Arabic

1.0%

Vietnamese

0.5%

Dutch

0.5%

Zulu

0.5%

Filipino

0.5%

Swedish

0.3%

Cherokee

0.3%

Romanian

0.3%
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Equipment Operator Education

Schools

Universal Technical Institute

10.8%

Central Texas College

7.2%

Community College of the Air Force

6.7%

Del Mar College

5.7%

A-Technical College

5.7%

Tyler Junior College

5.6%

Texas A&M University

5.4%

Kaplan University

5.2%

Kilgore College

5.2%

Ashford University

4.4%

University of Louisiana at Lafayette

4.4%

Houston Community College

3.9%

Pennsylvania State University

3.9%

Remington College

3.8%

Strayer University

3.8%

Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana

3.8%

Bossier Parish Community College

3.8%

Utah State University

3.6%

Liberty University

3.6%

Pennsylvania College of Technology

3.6%
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Majors

Business

19.9%

General Studies

10.0%

Automotive Technology

9.7%

Criminal Justice

9.1%

Precision Metal Working

6.2%

Electrical Engineering Technology

4.8%

Electrical Engineering

4.6%

Heavy/Industrial Equipment Maintenance Technologies

4.6%

Computer Science

3.8%

Management

3.1%

Industrial Technology

2.7%

Education

2.7%

Accounting

2.6%

Communication

2.5%

Heating And Air Conditioning

2.4%

Graphic Design

2.4%

Construction Management

2.3%

Information Technology

2.2%

General Education, Specific Areas

2.2%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

2.2%
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Degrees

High School Diploma

52.5%

Associate

14.7%

Bachelors

12.1%

Certificate

9.9%

Diploma

8.6%

Masters

1.2%

License

0.8%

Doctorate

0.1%
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Updated May 18, 2020