Agricultural equipment operators work with farm machinery to perform the operations needed on a farm. These positions often have no education requirements, but a high school diploma may be beneficial. There are programs available leading to a certificate or a degree.
Agricultural equipment operators work with many different types of farm machinery that are used to help with soil preparation, crop planting, harvesting and crop processing. Mechanical skills and aptitude are needed to drive hay balers, rake operators, tractors, cutters and other farm equipment. A high school diploma may be helpful for prospective agricultural equipment operators, and they may also wish to receive 4-H certification or complete a college certificate program.
|Required Education||High school diploma may be beneficial; optional completion of a college certificate program in agricultural equipment operation|
|Certification||Certification through 4-H|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||5%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$27,840 annually|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Agriculture equipment operators are involved in farming processes such as tilling, planting seeds, fertilizing plants and harvesting crops. These seasonal workers drive or operate machines such as raking equipment, threshers, combines, tractors, loading machines, dryers and balers. Operators can also be in charge of maintenance and repair of the machinery they operate. Most of these equipment operators are employed by farming operations. Other employers may include manufacturers of pesticides and fertilizers, scientific organizations and government agencies.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for operators should increase by five percent between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This is slower-than-average growth, but turnover rates are relatively high in this occupation, so there are frequent job openings within the industry.
The BLS also reported that the median hourly pay of agriculture equipment operators in May 2015 was $13.38 per hour, or $27,840 annually. Operators employed by farms involved in sugar and confectionary product manufacturing earned the most, averaging $20.85 per hour. The highest paying state for agriculture equipment operators was Maryland, with an average hourly wage of $18.40 per hour in May 2015, according to the BLS.
To work as an agriculture equipment operator requires physical coordination, decision-making ability, mechanical aptitude and driving skills. Although not always required, a high school diploma may help find employment. High school instruction in science, machine shop, agriculture, mathematics and driver education helps develop skills needed for this job, along with participation in high school development organizations such as the Future Farmers of America (FFA) or 4-H. In some states, 4-H offers the Tractor and Farm Machinery Operator Certification (www.4-h.org).
Some colleges offer certificate programs in agriculture equipment operation. These programs may include equipment maintenance in addition to operations training. Certificate programs take about a year to complete, and include courses in subjects such as hydraulics, mathematics, welding, construction technology, diesel mechanics and equipment operations. These certificate programs often combine classroom instruction and hands-on experience in equipment operation and maintenance.
Farm equipment operators require little education, but must be mechanically inclined as well as have good physical coordination. The annual median salary for this profession is about $28,000. Their job growth outlook is average for the economy.