How Can I Learn to Operate a Bulldozer?

Research what it takes to become a bulldozer operator. Learn about job duties, training requirements, salary and job outlook information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Bulldozer Operator?

A bulldozer operator is a heavy equipment operator who specializes in using bulldozers. They typically work at construction sites, where they use bulldozers to clear away land and debris in order to provide a level surface. In some cases, they also use bulldozers to transfer materials, such as petroleum, between containers. Alongside their operational duties, bulldozer operators are responsible for performing routine maintenance tasks, and they are responsible for informing supervisors when significant repairs are required. In addition, bulldozer operators must be sure to follow all safety protocols.

The table below provides detailed information for this career:

Education Required Heavy equipment operator program
Training Required Experience operating lighter equipment, on-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Safely operate machinery, clear sections of land, move physical obstacles, follow specific job plans
Licensure Commercial driver's license, state specific operator's license
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% (for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)
Median Salary (2015)* $44,600 (for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Training Programs For Bulldozer Operators Are Available?

Bulldozer operators have traditionally learned by first operating lighter equipment under supervision, demonstrating competence and then working up to heavier equipment. However, community colleges and private vocational schools offer heavy equipment operator programs that can advance the process. In addition to bulldozers, these programs will also teach you to operate forklifts, backhoes, skid steers and graders. Courses cover basic controls, setup, loading and unloading, safe operation and basic maintenance. Content is presented through a mix of classroom study and hands-on practice.

Where Will I Work?

Figures for bulldozer operators weren't available, but approximately 355,140 people worked as operating engineers and other construction equipment operators as of 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The industries with the highest levels of employment were for specialty trade contractors and in local government.

Employment is projected to increase by 10% to 400,600 from 2014 to 2024. The BLS noted that construction equipment operators, including bulldozer operators, will have a better chance of finding employment or staying employed if they learn to use multiple pieces of equipment.

What Duties Will I Have?

Whether you're in construction, demolition or some other application, your main duty will be to safely clear a section of land by moving earth, vegetation or other materials from one location to another. Prior to starting up you may have to consult with your immediate superior about the needs of a given job, changes to the plan or complications at a particular site. Other tasks include training novice drivers and performing lubrication and light maintenance on the equipment.

On a construction site, you might push aside trees and boulders to create space for a road, building or other structure. You might also remove dirt in successive passes to lower the terrain or pile dirt up to raise it. In a strip mining operation, you remove surface dirt to access coal, metal ores or minerals.

What Could I Earn?

Most bulldozer operators earned a total pay of between $26,670 and $67,311, according to PayScale.com, as of January 2017. According to the BLS, in May of 2015, the median annual salary for operators of construction equipment, including bulldozers, was $44,600.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of operating a bulldozer, you could consider specializing in the use of a different type of heavy construction equipment, such as paving equipment, surfacing equipment or pile-drivers. Like a job as a bulldozer operator, you need to have a high school diploma and be trained to use these machines. Alternatively, you could get a job as a heavy truck driver. Heavy truck drivers operate trucks over 26,000 pounds that carry commercial goods between destinations. You need to have a high school diploma and complete a professional training program to get this job.

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