Heavy Equipment Operator Career Path

Are you interested in becoming a heavy equipment operator, but overwhelmed by the abundance of outdated information? Look no further! Check out the details below to learn more about heavy equipment operators and their potential career paths. 

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mid-level salary for construction equipment operators
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projected job growth for construction equipment operators over the next 10 years
employed construction equipment operators in the US as of 2021

Required Skills for A Heavy Equipment Operator

You’ll be a great candidate for a career in construction work if you've mastered the skills below. If you haven't yet, that’s okay! We’ll tell you how to get there.

Problem-solving skills

You'll encounter various challenges on the job site, such as unexpected soil conditions or machinery breakdowns. A successful heavy machine operator should be able to solve problems quickly and effectively to minimize delays and keep the project on track.

Communication is key

It's crucial to communicate effectively with your team, whether it's contractors or colleagues, to ensure safe and efficient work. You should be able to give clear instructions and practice active listening to best understand the needs of others.

Safety First, Last, and Always

When it comes to working with heavy machinery, safety should always be your number one priority. You'll need to know safety regulations inside and out and make sure everyone on the job site follows them. If there's a potential hazard, you'll be the one to spot it and take action to prevent accidents and injuries.

Heavy Equipment Operator Job Overview

The Heavy Machine Operator Title is Very Broad… So, What Can You Do Within It?

If you’re looking for a career that offers rewarding challenges, opportunities for growth, and a chance to work on exciting construction projects, becoming a heavy machine operator may be the perfect fit for you. Discover more about the heavy equipment operator career path and the typical roles that fall underneath this job category. 

Types of Heavy Equipment Operators: 

  • Excavator operators – utilize excavators to dig trenches, foundations, and holes for structures. Clear and grade land. 
  • Bulldozer operators – use bulldozers to move and level dirt, gravel, and other materials. They also clear land for construction projects. 
  • Crane operators – handle crane equipment to lift and move heavy objects such as construction materials and shipping containers usually at higher altitudes. 
  • Backhoe operators – drive backhoe loaders that dig trenches, foundations, and large holes for structures. They also use backhoes to move dirt and debris. 
  • Loader operators – responsible for using loaders to move and transport heavy materials such as dirt, gravel, and debris. They also use them to clear land and level surfaces. 
  • Grader operators – maneuver graders to level and smooth surfaces, such as roads, highways, and runways. 
  • Paver operators – lay asphalt and concrete for roads, highways, and other structures. 

How to Become a heavy Equipment Operator

Schooling Requirements
Get Licensed and Certified
Gain Experience
Apply for Jobs

Heavy Equipment Operator Education

Obtain a high school diploma or GED certificate and consider enrolling in a heavy equipment operator program at a technical school or community college. These programs will cover topics like heavy equipment safety, operation, and maintenance. By investing in a specialized program, you can demonstrate your commitment to the profession and increase your chances of securing a job in the industry.

Heavy Equipment Operator Certification

Depending on the type of equipment you will operate, you may need a Certified Driver’s License (CDL), which involves passing a written test and driving test. Additionally, some states and employers require certification for heavy equipment operators such as NCCER, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or a manufacturer’s certification for specific machinery. These programs typically involve classroom and hands-on training.

Hands-On Training Opportunities

To stand out amongst other candidates, you'll want to gain hands-on experience through an apprenticeship or entry-level position. Starting as a construction laborer or apprentice can be a great way to work up to heavy equipment operator. Getting machine-specific heavy equipment operator training may also give you an edge!

How to Get Hired as a Heavy Equipment Operator

Once you have the necessary education, training, and experience, you can start applying for heavy equipment operator jobs. You may need to start in an entry-level position and work your way up to more advanced roles. Keep in mind that heavy equipment operation can be a demanding job that requires physical stamina, attention to detail, and the ability to work under pressure.

Here are some trends we’ve noticed in the Construction industry:

The construction industry landscape has changed a lot over the years, but the needs are ever-increasing. Look at some insights that we found.  


Heavy Equipment Operator Job Trends

  • Advancements in technology are changing the way heavy equipment is operated. New equipment is being developed that allows operators to remotely control machines, making the job safer and more efficient. 
  • There is currently a shortage of skilled heavy equipment operators. This has created a competitive job market, leading to more benefits and higher salaries for employees.


Hiring Trends in the Construction Industry

The construction sector has experienced a surge in job openings across various roles and industries. As technology continues to advance and new construction techniques emerge, construction companies are increasingly seeking employees with specialized skills and expertise, such as those related to sustainability, energy efficiency, and GPS technology.  


Related jobs

There are too many construction industry roles to name them all here, but take a look at these other positions related to heavy equipment operation: 

  • Heavy Equipment Operator vs Crane Operator 
  • Heavy Equipment Operator vs Construction Laborer 
  • Heavy Equipment Operator vs Excavator Operator 
  • Heavy Equipment Operator vs Truck Driver 

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So, how much can you earn?

Heavy Equipment Operator Salary

Not only do heavy equipment operators get to work on exciting new projects, but they also get compensated quite nicely for their efforts. Heavy equipment operator salary depends on factors such as experience, location, and equipment type. 

Here’s the breakdown: 

Entry-level avg. salary: $39,045 

Mid-level avg. salary: $52,850 

Senior level avg. salary: $67,662 

These five cities have the highest mid-level Heavy Equipment Operator salaries: 

1. Trenton, NJ – $65,145 

2. Worcester, MA – $54,745 

3. Reno, NV – $51,751 

4. Portland, OR – $50,979 

5. Minneapolis, MN – $50,177 

Looking to become a Heavy Equipment operator?

We're Here to Help!

NCW Electrician on the job

NCW Will Help Your in Your Job Search

Whether you have experience operating bulldozers, excavators, cranes, or other heavy machinery, we’re here to assist you in finding your next role in the field. 

Our team of recruiters has years of experience working with skilled heavy equipment operators like you. We would love to get to know you, understand your career aspirations, discuss your past experiences, and connect you with a job that aligns with your goals and preferences. 

So, if you’re seeking new opportunities in the heavy equipment operation field, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Whether you specialize in a specific type of machinery or have a range of skills, we’re here to help you find the right fit for your career. 

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