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Paving Machine Operator Careers

What Does a Paving Machine 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 a Paving Machine 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
$33,251
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
10%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
17,569
Job Openings

Average Salary for a Paving Machine Operator

Paving Machine Operators in America make an average salary of $33,251 per year or $16 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $45,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $24,000 per year.
Average Salary
$33,251
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How much should you be earning as an Architect? Use Zippia's Salary Calculator to get an estimation of how much you should be earning.

Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
Marietta, GA
Salary Range29k - 44k$36k$36,005
$29k
$44k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Paving Operator
Paving Operator
Aerotek
Aerotek
07/08/2020
07/08/2020
$45,91407/08/2020
$45,914
Paving Surfacing and Tamping Operator
Paving Surfacing and Tamping Operator
de Mich Concrete Co
de Mich Concrete Co
07/05/2018
07/05/2018
$91,00007/05/2018
$91,000
Paving Machine Operator
Paving Machine Operator
Driveway Specialists, Inc.
Driveway Specialists, Inc.
07/27/2016
07/27/2016
$49,21307/27/2016
$49,213
Paving Machine Operator
Paving Machine Operator
John Scott Paving
John Scott Paving
09/19/2014
09/19/2014
$49,00509/19/2014
$49,005
Paving Machine Operator
Paving Machine Operator
Thomas J. O'Beirne & Co., Inc.
Thomas J. O'Beirne & Co., Inc.
09/12/2014
09/12/2014
$58,71809/12/2014
$58,718
See More Recent Salaries

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Paving Machine Operator Demographics

Gender

male

79.6 %

unknown

14.3 %

female

6.1 %

Ethnicity

White

78.8 %

Hispanic or Latino

11.4 %

Black or African American

5.7 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

66.7 %

French

33.3 %
See More Demographics

Paving Machine Operator Education

Majors

Degrees

High School Diploma

46.2 %

Certificate

30.8 %

Diploma

7.7 %
See More Education Info

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This course provides an introduction to road safety, impacts caused by injuries and deaths, global data on mobility, and the global plan of action for safety improvement. A considerable part of the course is spent on understanding the importance of road infrastructure, implementing the Safe System Approach with global instances cited, and managing additional aspects such as police enforcement. It also looks at methods of safety implementation and examples of worldwide successful case studies...

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Top Skills For a Paving Machine 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, 49.3% of paving machine operators listed hand tools on their resume, but soft skills such as unafraid of heights and mechanical skills are important as well.

Best States For a Paving Machine Operator

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a paving machine operator. The best states for people in this position are Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware. Paving machine operators make the most in Rhode Island with an average salary of $55,588. Whereas in Connecticut and Massachusetts, they would average $55,150 and $54,203, respectively. While paving machine operators would only make an average of $53,368 in Delaware, 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. Rhode Island

Total Paving Machine Operator Jobs:
142
Highest 10% Earn:
$89,000
Location Quotient:
3.13
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. Massachusetts

Total Paving Machine Operator Jobs:
1,222
Highest 10% Earn:
$85,000
Location Quotient:
3.56
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. New Hampshire

Total Paving Machine Operator Jobs:
136
Highest 10% Earn:
$79,000
Location Quotient:
2.08
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 Paving Machine Operator Employers

1. C&S Companies
3.4
Avg. Salary: 
$33,251
Paving Machine Operators Hired: 
6+
2. Driveway
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$41,362
Paving Machine Operators Hired: 
1+
3. McCarthy Holdings
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$35,231
Paving Machine Operators Hired: 
1+
4. AWP
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$38,037
Paving Machine Operators Hired: 
1+
5. Aerotek
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$38,974
Paving Machine Operators Hired: 
1+
6. Pike Industries
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$38,360
Paving Machine Operators Hired: 
1+
Updated October 2, 2020