Become an Excavator Operator: Education and Career Roadmap

Jul 13, 2018

Learn more about the training and experience necessary to become an excavator operator. With a high school diploma and some additional training, you could be on your way to a new career.

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  • 0:03 Should I Become an…
  • 1:07 Earn a High School Diploma
  • 1:23 Obtain Credentials or Licenses
  • 1:41 Complete a Training Program
  • 2:20 Get Construction Work…

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Should I Become an Excavator Op?

An excavator operator controls heavy machinery used to dig holes and trenches and to transport industrial or raw materials. They must be in good physical shape and have mechanical aptitude and excellent vision. Excavator operators may also be required to perform routine maintenance on the vehicles they operate. In order to be more marketable to employers in the construction industry, excavator operators should also be able to safely operate other construction vehicles, such as bulldozers or forklifts.

Career Requirements

Education Required High school diploma or GED
Experience Entry-level work under an experienced excavator
Licensure and Certification Driver's license and/or commercial driver's license (CDL) may be required; industry certification may be preferred by employers
Salary (2015) $49,110 per year (median salary for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earn a High School Diploma

Most employers require that heavy machinery construction operators have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Excavator operators may begin their education by taking courses at the high school level, including auto shop, mechanics, computer science, or science.

Obtain Credentials or Licenses

A driver's license is required for excavator operator positions, and some employers require a commercial driver's license (CDL). Requirements for a CDL vary by state. Employers may also prefer that workers hold industry certification related to the equipment they operate.

Complete a Training Program

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some employers may hire applicants who have little or no formal training; however, construction equipment operators who undergo formal training have better job prospects due to the skills that are learned in school (according to Workers may be trained on the job through a traditional course or under the supervision of a qualified worker. Some course topics in a construction-equipment operating program may include vehicle safety, traffic control, trenching, and backfilling. Students use heavy equipment simulators to learn how to operate construction vehicles.

Get Construction Work Experience

The BLS reports that construction workers often begin their careers at the entry level and work under a more experienced coworker until they have proven their skills. They may start by operating smaller vehicles and then progress to large industrial vehicles.

The best job prospects are expected to be reserved for individuals who can operate more than one type of equipment. Excavator operators might consider learning how to work with such equipment as asphalt spreaders, graders, or concrete paving machines.

Excavators must have a high school diploma or equivalent, obtain credentials or licenses, complete training, and gain work experience.

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