What Is the Average Pay for Heavy Equipment Construction Workers?

Explore the career requirements for heavy equipment construction workers. Get the facts about education requirements, salary and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Construction Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Heavy Equipment Construction Worker?

Heavy equipment construction workers operate paving equipment, pile drivers and other equipment used on construction sites. Pile-driver operators hammer long, heavy beams of concrete, steel or wood into the earth. They can be used for building foundations, piers, or retaining walls. Paving and surfacing equipment operators may spread asphalt over an area of road, spread concrete or compact earth. Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators may operate bulldozers, excavators, road graders, forklifts and other equipment that can be used for moving dirt, leveling road surfaces, lifting items and other tasks necessary on a construction site. Heavy equipment construction workers need good hand-eye coordination, and since they may need to perform minor repairs on their equipment and maintain the equipment they need some mechanical skills.

Paving, Surfacing and Tamping Equipment Operators Pile Driver Operators Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators
Degree Required High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Training Required On-the-job training or training from a heavy equipment operator program On-the-job training or training from a heavy equipment operator program On-the-job training or training from a heavy equipment operator program
Key Responsibilities Operating, prepping, inspecting, maintaining and repairing equipment like stone spreaders, tampers and pavers Operating, prepping, inspecting, maintaining and repairing pile drivers Operating, prepping, inspecting, maintaining and repairing equipment like bulldozers, front-end loaders and tractors
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% 17% 10%
Median Salary (2015)* $38,270 $49,430 $44,600

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of Heavy Equipment Construction Workers?

Your job as a heavy equipment construction worker is to operate heavy machinery to move materials, clear areas, prepare land, dig trenches, hoist materials and spread materials. Other tasks may include setting up, inspecting, maintaining and repairing equipment. Heavy equipment you may work with includes:

  • Cranes
  • Loaders
  • Bulldozers
  • Industrial trucks
  • Forklifts
  • Graders
  • Pavers
  • Pile drivers

How Can I Pursue This Position?

Some employers may hire you with only a GED or high school diploma and provide training on-the-job to teach you how to operate equipment and other skills needed for the position. Alternatively, some employers prefer you to have training prior to being hired such as a heavy equipment operator certificate or degree.

In a heavy equipment operator program, you may get classroom training combined with hands-on training. A program may help you to develop the skills to operate heavy machinery safely and cover topics including preventative maintenance, equipment identification, blueprint reading and soil testing. Most programs require you to meet proficiency standards in math, reading and English.

Jobs for heavy equipment construction workers are available through construction companies, oil drilling companies, government agencies and the military. Employers may require you to take and pass a physical, drug screen or background check. In some areas, construction jobs are seasonal and you work mainly in the warmer months of the year. Working conditions may involve extreme temperatures, overtime hours or working weekends.

What Could I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), earnings for heavy equipment operator workers are based upon the type of equipment being operated (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, paving, surfacing and tamping equipment operators earned a median annual wage of $38,270, while pile driver operators earned a median annual wage of $49,430, according to the BLS. Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators earned a median annual wage of $44,600 in the same year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Material moving machine operators and heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers perform some duties that have some similarities to the work that heavy equipment construction workers do. Material moving machine operators use machinery to move objects. An example is someone using an excavator to remove dirt from a mine. No formal training is required, although many employers prefer to hire those with a high school diploma. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport cargo over long distances. They need a CDL license.

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