How Can I Find Excavating Jobs?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in excavation. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Excavator?

Excavators specialize in using machines that move sand, gravel, dirt and rocks, in order to prepare job sites for construction. In this article, you will learn about two excavating jobs: backhoe operators and drilling machine operators. In addition to operating their respective machines, backhoe operators and drilling machine operators keep records of their work. They also perform routine maintenance checks and make minor repairs when necessary.

The table below lists some of the key facts about these two job possibilities.

Backhoe Operators Drilling Machine Operators
Education Required High school diploma at minimum; formal training programs available High school diploma at minimum; formal training programs available
Licensure Class A Commercial Driver's License N/A
Key Responsibilities Operate and maintain excavating equipment Operate and maintain drilling and blasting equipment
Job growth (2018-2028) 7% for all excavating, loading machine and dragline operators 7% for all excavating, loading machine and dragline operators
Median Salary (2018) $44,270 for all excavating, loading machine and dragline operators $44,270 for all excavating, loading machine and dragline operators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Understand the Fields That Involve Excavation

Excavation is a big part of the construction industry. After all, sites must often be prepared before the land is built up. Excavation usually involves large pieces of equipment, like backhoes and drills, and that equipment must have a qualified operator. Jobs in excavation include backhoe, drill and other heavy equipment operators.

Understand the Duties of an Excavating Equipment Operator

These professionals are often categorized within the broader category of heavy equipment, excavator or construction equipment operators. The Occupational Information Network (O*Net Online) notes that related titles for excavation careers include dragline operators, backhoe operators and drilling machine operators ( The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that an excavating machine operator - like a backhoe operator - is responsible for operating machinery with scoops, buckets and shovels to excavate materials ( As a backhoe operator, you must have a Class A Commercial Driver's License, according to March 2011 job listings from

O*Net Online notes that drilling machine operators use a variety of drills and blasting equipment in mining, construction and mineral exploration. You'd be responsible for controlling the speed of drilling, ensuring that equipment is stable enough for use and positioned properly, and verifying the correct measurements during the drilling process. You may also be required to perform maintenance on the equipment you drive.

Complete a Training Program

Although the BLS notes that heavy equipment operators generally need nothing more than a high school diploma, the site also notes that employers may seek individuals who have training in heavy equipment operation. These training programs are available at community colleges, workers' unions and private entities. In these programs, you'll learn to operate several types of heavy equipment. Classes cover operation of equipment with rubber tires, track-type tractors and bulldozers. You may be required to complete an internship or learn an additional skill, such as welding, in these programs.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of specializing in the use of excavating equipment, you might be interested in operating a different type of heavy equipment, such as cranes. Cranes use tower and cable technologies to transport materials and machines around construction sites, or to load and unload cargo from carrier ships at ports. Another possibility is to get a job operating surfacing or tamping equipment, where you would work on road construction projects. For any of these equipment operator jobs, you need to have at least a high school diploma.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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