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Become An Operator

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Working As An Operator

  • Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Handling and Moving Objects
  • Getting Information
  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • $12,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Operator Do

Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects. Some operators move construction materials around building sites or excavate earth from a mine. Others move goods around a warehouse or onto container ships.

Duties

Material moving machine operators typically do the following:

  • Set up and inspect material moving equipment
  • Control equipment with levers, wheels, or foot pedals
  • Move material according to a plan or schedule
  • Keep a record of the material they move and where they move it
  • Make minor repairs to their equipment

In warehouses, most material moving machine operators use forklifts and conveyor belts. Wireless sensors and tags are increasingly used to keep track of merchandise, allowing operators to locate them faster. Some operators also check goods for damage. These operators usually work closely with hand laborers and material movers.

Many operators work for underground and surface mining companies. They help to dig or expose the mine, remove the earth and rock, and extract coal, ore, and other mined materials.

In construction, material moving machine operators remove earth to clear space for buildings. Some work on a building site for the entire length of the construction project. For example, certain material moving machine operators help to construct highrise buildings by transporting materials to workers far above ground level.

All material moving machine operators are responsible for the safe operation of their equipment or vehicle.

Conveyor operators and tenders control conveyor systems that move materials on an automatic belt. They move materials to and from places such as storage areas, vehicles, and building sites. They monitor sensors on the conveyor to regulate the speed with which the conveyor belt moves. Operators may determine the route materials take along a conveyor based on shipping orders.

Crane and tower operators use tower and cable equipment to lift and move materials, machinery, or other heavy objects. From a control station, operators can extend and retract horizontal booms, rotate the superstructure, and lower and raise hooks attached to cables at the end of their crane or tower. Operators are usually guided by other workers on the ground using hand signals or voice signals through a radio. Most crane and tower operators work at construction sites or major ports, where they load and unload cargo. Some operators work in iron and steel mills. 

Dredge operators excavate waterways. They operate equipment on the water to remove sand, gravel, or rock from harbors or lakes. Removing these materials helps to prevent erosion and maintain navigable waterways, and allows larger ships to use more ports. Dredging is also used to help restore wetlands and maintain beaches.

Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators use machines equipped with scoops or shovels. They dig sand, earth, or other materials and load them onto conveyors or into trucks for transport elsewhere. They may also move material within a confined area, such as a construction site. Operators typically receive instructions from workers on the ground through hand signals or radios. Most of these operators work in construction or mining industries.

Hoist and winch operators, also called derrick operators, control the movement of platforms, cables, and cages that transport workers or materials for industrial operations, such as constructing a highrise building. Many of these operators raise platforms far above the ground. Operators regulate the speed of the equipment based on the needs of the workers. Many work in manufacturing, mining, and quarrying industries.

Industrial truck and tractor operators drive trucks and tractors that move materials around warehouses, storage yards, or worksites. These trucks, often called forklifts, have a lifting mechanism and forks, which make them useful for moving heavy and large objects. Some industrial truck and tractor operators drive tractors that pull trailers loaded with material around factories or storage areas.

Underground mining loading machine operators load coal, ore, and other rocks onto shuttles, mine cars, or conveyors for transport from a mine to the surface. They may use power shovels, hoisting engines equipped with scrapers or scoops, and automatic gathering arms that move materials onto a conveyor. Operators also drive their machines farther into the mine in order to gather more material.

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How To Become An Operator

Education and training requirements vary by the occupation. Crane operators and excavating machine operators usually have several years of experience in related occupations, such as construction equipment operators or hoist or winch operators.

Education

Although no formal education is usually required, some companies prefer material moving machine operators to have a high school diploma. For crane operators, excavating machine operators, and dredge operators, however, a high school diploma or equivalent is typically required.

Training

Most material moving machine operators are trained on the job in less than a month. Some machines are more complex than others, such as cranes as compared with industrial trucks such as forklifts. Therefore, the amount of time spent in training will vary with the type of machine the operator is using. Learning to operate a forklift or an industrial truck in warehouses, for example, may take only a few days. Training to operate a crane for port operations may take several months. Most workers are trained by a supervisor or another experienced employee.

The International Union of Operating Engineers offers apprenticeship programs for heavy equipment operators, such as excavating machine operators or crane operators. Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job training with technical instruction.

During their training, material moving machine operators learn a number of safety rules, many of which are standardized through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Employers must certify that each operator has received the proper training. Operators who work with hazardous materials receive further specialized training.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

A number of states and several cities require crane operators to be licensed. To get a license, operators typically must complete a skills test in which they show that they can control a crane. They also must pass a written exam that tests their knowledge of safety rules and procedures. Some crane operators and industrial truck and tractor operators may obtain certification, which includes passing a written exam.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Crane operators and excavating machine operators usually have several years of experience working as construction equipment operators or hoist and winch operators. 

Important Qualities

Alertness. Material moving machine operators must be aware of their surroundings while operating machinery.

Hand–eye–foot coordination. Material moving machine operators should have steady hands and feet to guide and control heavy machinery precisely. They use hand controls to maneuver their machines through tight spaces, around large objects, and on uneven surfaces.

Mechanical skills. Material moving machine operators make minor adjustments to their machines and perform basic maintenance.

Visual ability. Material moving machine operators must be able to clearly see where they are driving or what they are moving. They must also watch for nearby workers, who may unknowingly be in their path.

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Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

64.2%

Female

25.9%

Unknown

9.9%
Ethnicity

White

61.3%

Hispanic or Latino

17.6%

Black or African American

11.6%

Asian

6.4%

Unknown

3.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

66.5%

French

6.7%

German

2.6%

Chinese

2.5%

Arabic

2.4%

Mandarin

2.3%

Russian

2.0%

Japanese

1.9%

Portuguese

1.8%

Italian

1.5%

Carrier

1.4%

Polish

1.3%

Vietnamese

1.2%

Dakota

1.1%

Cantonese

1.0%

Korean

1.0%

Tagalog

0.9%

Hmong

0.8%

Hindi

0.5%

Thai

0.4%
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Operator Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

27.4%

The Academy

10.0%

Kaplan University

6.0%

Ashford University

5.5%

Strayer University

3.7%

Houston Community College

3.6%

A-Technical College

3.6%

Liberty University

3.5%

Baker College

3.5%

Full Sail University

3.4%

Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana

3.4%

Central Texas College

3.3%

Vincennes University

3.2%

American InterContinental University

3.2%

Texas A&M University

3.0%

Universal Technical Institute

3.0%

Murray State University

2.9%

Community College of the Air Force

2.6%

Lee College

2.6%

Remington College

2.5%
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Majors

Business

23.8%

Criminal Justice

8.2%

General Studies

7.6%

Computer Science

5.0%

Health Care Administration

4.7%

Accounting

4.4%

Automotive Technology

4.1%

Nursing

4.1%

Psychology

4.0%

Electrical Engineering

3.9%

Medical Assisting Services

3.8%

Communication

3.4%

Education

3.3%

Precision Metal Working

3.3%

Electrical Engineering Technology

3.2%

Management

3.1%

Graphic Design

2.7%

Information Technology

2.6%

Industrial Technology

2.5%

Liberal Arts

2.4%
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Degrees

Other

42.0%

Bachelors

23.9%

Associate

17.9%

Certificate

7.7%

Masters

4.1%

Diploma

3.5%

License

0.6%

Doctorate

0.4%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$12,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$11,000
Min 10%
$12,000
Median 50%
$12,000
Median 50%
$12,000
Median 50%
$12,000
Median 50%
$12,000
Median 50%
$12,000
Median 50%
$12,000
Median 50%
$14,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Oberg Industries
Highest Paying City
Beaverton, OR
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
2.9 years
How much does an Operator make at top companies?
The national average salary for an Operator in the United States is $12,693 per year or $6 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $11,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $14,000.

Real Operator Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Hydromill Operator Layne Christensen Frisco, TX Aug 03, 2016 $82,992
Milis Operator Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation Jacksonville, FL Apr 01, 2013 $77,730 -
$97,686
Giken Silent Piler Operator Blue Iron Los Angeles, CA Feb 24, 2010 $73,045 -
$79,306
Unix Operator Thomson Reuters (Markets) LLC New York, NY Jan 14, 2011 $60,944
Unix Operator Thomson Reuters (Markets) LLC Piscataway, NJ Oct 01, 2010 $56,245 -
$33
Ocean Import Operator Us Group Consolidator, Inc. Inglewood, CA Jun 01, 2015 $53,949
Unix/Linux Operator Mindspark Interactive Network, Inc. White Plains, NY Oct 01, 2011 $52,175
Operator Columbine Hills Concrete Inc. Silverthorne, CO Feb 29, 2008 $49,045
MS4 Operator City of Valparaiso Valparaiso, IN Jan 01, 2011 $48,606
Unix/Linux Operator Mindspark Interactive Network, Inc. White Plains, NY Sep 15, 2010 $45,914
Eqipment Operator Strata Corporation Williston, ND Sep 01, 2011 $41,740
Hydrostaticmachinary Operator Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures Haines, AK Feb 14, 2015 $37,566 -
$58,436
Fellerbuncher Operator YPC Forest Enterprise Inc. ME Feb 11, 2016 $34,436
Fellerbuncher Operator Edmond Roy & Sons Inc. ME Aug 29, 2016 $34,436
Fellerbuncher Operator Pepin Lumber Inc. ME Jun 06, 2016 $34,436
Evacuating Operator Hoff, Inc. Boonton, NJ May 30, 2008 $33,809
Fellerbuncher Operator YPC Forest Enterprise Inc. ME Jul 24, 2015 $33,392
Loan Operator The Korea Development Bank New York, NY Jul 08, 2013 $31,931
Delimber Operator Louis Lessard Inc. ME May 06, 2016 $31,305
Operator Columbine Hills Concrete Inc. Silverthorne, CO Jan 28, 2008 $29,740
Vineyard Operator Flight Rail Corp. DBA River Bend Vineyards Ukiah, CA Mar 15, 2016 $29,640
Delimber Operator Pepin Lumber Inc. ME Jun 01, 2015 $29,218
Delimber Operator Louis Lessard Inc. ME Jun 08, 2014 $29,218
Delimber Operator Pepin Lumber Inc. ME Jun 02, 2014 $29,218
Delimber Operator Francois Lessard ME Jun 01, 2014 $29,218
Construction Operator Cameron Drilling Co. Inc. Alexandria, VA Aug 12, 2008 $28,655
AG Operator Lynn Arnold Esmond, ND Mar 16, 2015 $28,362
Agriculture Equipemnt Operator Mike Brosnan Woonsocket, SD Mar 16, 2015 $28,362
Agriculture Equipemnt Operator James Arnold Esmond, ND Sep 18, 2015 $28,362

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Top Skills for An Operator

  1. Safety Procedures
  2. Customer Service
  3. Heavy Equipment
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Followed food and safety procedures according to company policies and health and sanitation regulations.
  • Assisted customers in person Managed wide variety of customer service and administrative tasks to resolve customer issues quickly and efficiently.
  • Operated heavy equipment on location for relocating drilling rigs.
  • Worked with a Semi-Normalized Oracle based database in daily operations
  • Serve as primary contact via police communications network for field officers needing assistance and information during both routine and emergency situations.

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Top 10 Best States for Operators

  1. Wyoming
  2. Kentucky
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Kansas
  5. Pennsylvania
  6. Minnesota
  7. Idaho
  8. Nebraska
  9. Ohio
  10. Missouri
  • (238 jobs)
  • (918 jobs)
  • (1,363 jobs)
  • (509 jobs)
  • (2,375 jobs)
  • (1,242 jobs)
  • (202 jobs)
  • (350 jobs)
  • (2,555 jobs)
  • (1,042 jobs)

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