What Is a Construction Operator?

Sep 22, 2019

Construction operation is generally learned on the job, through an apprenticeship or through a postsecondary program. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

Construction work utilizes various machinery that requires manual operation. Training is usually learned on the job, though postsecondary programs in machine operating are available and may improve job prospects.

Essential Information

Construction operators can work with a number of different types of machinery. They use the machinery, make sure it's working properly and follow safety standards. Many construction operators learn their trade through on-the-job training, though postsecondary educational programs are available.

Career Paving, Surfacing, and Tamping Equipment Operators Piledriver Operators Crane and Tower Operators
Required Education High school diploma; postsecondary training is beneficial High school diploma; postsecondary training is beneficial High school diploma; postsecondary training is beneficial
Other Requirements On-the-job training or apprenticeship On-the-job training or apprenticeship On-the-job training or apprenticeship
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% 11% 8%
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $39,780 $58,680 $54,140

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Construction operators typically specialize in a specific type of equipment. This equipment can be used to construct roads, buildings and other support structures.

Surfacing and Paving Equipment Operators

Surfacing and paving equipment operators handle machines for creating and maintaining road structures. These professionals operate asphalt spreaders, concrete pavers and tamping equipment. These particular construction operators are trained to use different attachments associated with these machines in order to make sure roads are paved evenly, are level and are filled to specification.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that paving, surfacing, and tamping equipment operators earned median salaries of $39,780 as of 2018. Between 2018 and 2028, the number of employed operators in this field was expected to increase 11%, faster than the national average for all occupations.

Piledriver Operators

Piledrivers are used to drive piles into the ground in order to support bridges and other types of building foundations. Construction operators handling piledrivers coordinate foot and hand controls in order to maintain and operate equipment. Piledriver operators may work on bridge projects, building construction sites or offshore oilrigs.

As of 2018, the BLS notes that piledriver operators earned a median annual wage of $58,680. Employment opportunities for these professionals were projected to grow 11% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than average.

Crane and Tower Operators

Many times construction sites warrant the removal or movement of large objects and heavy materials. Crane operators control the cable equipment used for the purpose of moving these heavy materials. Crane operators can be found working in shipping yards, on construction sites and within the manufacturing industry. Specific equipment crane operators include hydraulic booms, derricks and mechanical booms.

According to the BLS, the median salary for crane operators was $54,140 as of 2018. The number of operating engineers and other construction equipment operators in this field was expected to increase 10% from 2018-2028, which is faster than average.

Training Programs for Construction Operators

Technical colleges and trade schools throughout the U.S. offer training and certificate programs for heavy equipment operators and mobile crane operators. Additionally, individuals interested in becoming a construction operator may choose to receive an associate's degree or a certificate in a heavy equipment operator program offered by a 2-year technical college. The National Center for Construction Education and Research provides accreditation for programs such as these.

Programs in the area of construction equipment operating provide training in a variety of construction equipment including backhoes, wheel loaders, dump trucks and bulldozers. These programs may also offer Commercial Driver License Class A testing, which may be necessary for operating much of the heavy equipment on construction sites.

A construction operator must know how to work large, commonly hazardous machines. These skills are learned at technical or trade schools, or through on-the-job training. One can choose to operate piledrivers, cranes, or surfacing and paving equipment, among other types of machines.

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