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Pile Driver Operator Careers

What Does a Pile Driver 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 Pile Driver 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
$27,640
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
10%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
16,392
Job Openings

Pile Driver Operator Career Paths

Top Careers Before Pile Driver Operator

Driver
19.0 %

Top Careers After Pile Driver Operator

Driver
19.1 %

Pile Driver Operator Jobs You Might Like

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Average Salary for a Pile Driver Operator

Pile Driver Operators in America make an average salary of $27,640 per year or $13 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $32,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $23,000 per year.
Average Salary
$27,640
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Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Pile Driver Operator
Pile Driver Operator
Sweeping Corporation of America
Sweeping Corporation of America
09/17/2019
09/17/2019
$28,17509/17/2019
$28,175
Pile Driver Operator
Pile Driver Operator
Sweeping Corporation of America
Sweeping Corporation of America
08/20/2019
08/20/2019
$28,17508/20/2019
$28,175
Driver Operator
Driver Operator
Estate Concrete LLC
Estate Concrete LLC
08/16/2019
08/16/2019
$76,41908/16/2019
$76,419
Pile Driver Operator
Pile Driver Operator
Sweeping Corporation of America
Sweeping Corporation of America
06/05/2019
06/05/2019
$28,17506/05/2019
$28,175
Pile Driver Operator
Pile Driver Operator
Sweeping Corporation of America
Sweeping Corporation of America
05/24/2019
05/24/2019
$25,04405/24/2019
$25,044

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Pile Driver Operator Demographics

Gender

male

88.0 %

female

6.2 %

unknown

5.8 %

Ethnicity

White

71.8 %

Hispanic or Latino

17.2 %

Black or African American

7.0 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

71.4 %

Arabic

14.3 %

French

14.3 %
See More Demographics

Pile Driver Operator Education

Majors

Business
12.5 %

Degrees

Certificate

43.2 %

High School Diploma

27.7 %

Associate

14.2 %
See More Education Info

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Top Skills For a Pile Driver 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, 26.2% of pile driver operators listed heavy equipment on their resume, but soft skills such as physical strength and unafraid of heights are important as well.

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Top Pile Driver Operator Employers

1. Moss & Associates
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$26,873
Pile Driver Operators Hired: 
3+
2. Mason Construction
3.5
Avg. Salary: 
$31,304
Pile Driver Operators Hired: 
2+
3. Blattner Energy
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$29,425
Pile Driver Operators Hired: 
2+
4. McLean Contracting
3.3
Avg. Salary: 
$30,098
Pile Driver Operators Hired: 
2+
5. Michigan Sugar Company
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$26,919
Pile Driver Operators Hired: 
2+
6. Johnson Brothers
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$27,249
Pile Driver Operators Hired: 
1+
Updated October 2, 2020