Skip to main content
Construction Construction Equipment Operator
Salary Range Jobs Available
$38,200 - $86,100 49,400+

What Does a Construction Equipment Operator Do?

Construction equipment operators keep construction sites humming. 

They go by many names, including heavy equipment operator, construction machine operator, construction operator or operating engineer. They run and may maintain the machines that move dirt, construction materials and other big items needed to build roads, bridges and buildings.

No matter what you call them, they are in demand, especially in the construction industry. 

They control machines like bulldozers, front-end loaders, excavators, concrete pumps, dump trucks, graders and backhoe loaders.

Equipment operators usually specialize. For example, construction equipment operators drive excavators, the machines used to dig and lift dirt. Paving and surface equipment operators drive the machines used in road construction to spread concrete and asphalt. Pile driver operators control the equipment that hammers heavy beams called piles into the ground. 

This is a good career for those who don’t want to sit behind a desk. However, equipment operators work in almost all weather conditions, and the job can be seasonal.

The payoff for the hard work is a stable, good-paying job — not to mention the satisfaction of playing a part in creating structures that improve the community. 

Keep reading to learn more.

A construction equipment operator will manage an excavator to clear the way for a new road
Being a heavy equipment operator at a construction site requires patience and a steady hand. (Credit: Juan Enrique del Barrio/Shutterstock)


  • Operate heavy machinery to move materials at building sites
  • Maintain equipment and make basic repairs 
  • Communicate effectively 
  • Monitor machine gauges and adjust as needed
  • Follow all safety standards

How To Become a Heavy Equipment Operator: FAQs

The bottom line:

If you like working outdoors and have no interest in being behind a desk, consider this in-demand career. It’s an opportunity to literally help your community grow by building new roads and structures. Plus, it’s a satisfying career that doesn’t require a four-year degree that could leave you in debt. (Instead, you’ll be ahead of the game and earning a paycheck!) If this appeals to you, check out SkillPointe’s training links for programs near you.

Rachel Ratican, construction equipment operator

Why becoming a heavy equipment operator is worthwhile

Rachel Ratican always thought she'd go into a medical profession, but seeing the pride that her father showed every time they drove by one of the places he'd helped build changed her mind. 

"I wanted that for my children; I wanted them to see a strong woman who did her part to help the community the way my father did," she says.

A sense of pride brought her to the construction industry, but it's the good pay and teamwork that keeps her there. 

"Turns out earning a living wage and not going into debt was the best choice I’ve ever made!" 

Find out what else she has to say about becoming a heavy equipment operator

Find Construction Equipment Operator Training In Your Area

Salt Lake City

Warehouse and Lift Truck Training Certificate

When you stop and think about it, every store, company, or organization that sells a product has inventory coming and going through their warehouse or...

Heavy Equipment Operating Engineers Apprenticeship Certificate

This four-year certificate program offers qualifying applicants occupational training under the sponsorship of the local Joint Apprenticeship and...

Operating Engineer Apprentice

Want to learn to operate heavy equipment and work outdoors? This apprenticeship prepares you to operate cranes, dozers, scrapers, loaders, motor...

Heavy Equipment Operator (Operating Engineer) Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship is a method of training individuals, in a trade, using a combination of on-the-job skills development and classroom/lab related... Read More

Pile Driver Apprenticeship, A.A.

This program concentrates on training pile driver apprentices to the specific levels required for the construction industry and has been approved by... Read More

Apprenticeship–Operating Engineers, A.S.

The Associate of Science degree and Certificate of Achievement in Apprenticeship Operating Engineers Heavy Duty Repairer provide the required related... Read More

Apprenticeship–Operating Engineers Certificate Of Achievement

The Associate of Science degree and Certificate of Achievement in Apprenticeship Operating Engineers Heavy Duty Repairer provide the required related... Read More

Commercial Driver's License Program Certificate

Do you love the open road? Enroll in the joint CDL Program with Snow College and Southwest Technical College. The Professional Truck Driving Program...

Commercial Drivers License

FVCC’s Commercial Drivers License program prepares students to take the driving exams for the Montana Class “A” CDL license and the Montana Class “B”...

Heavy Equipment Operator Certificate

Heavy Equipment Operator C.T.S. Certificate Certificate In just two semesters, receive the training needed to land an entry-level position as a heavy...

Forklift Operator Training PIT

This eight-hour introductory Forklift Operator Training / Powered Industrial Truck (PIT) class provides initial and continued education training...

Heavy Equipment Management, A.A.S.

This program provides students with campus projects and employment opportunities in order to become proficient in operating machines such as a...

Heavy Equipment Operator Certificate

Various materials used in these industries and the formulas used to calculate the types and amounts needed of these items, as well as the terminology...

Heavy Equipment Operations

The Heavy Equipment Operator training program has 3 levels. Successful students have to start at Level 1 and complete all 3 levels. This program can...

Forklift Safety and Operation Training

Learn safe forklift operation using the latest OSHA regulations and requirements. Students will practice using a forklift during class time. Get your...
Not sure about this job?
Find your match with our career quiz.

Need help reaching your goals?

Explore our Financial Resources page for scholarships, FAQ answers and student support services.

Explore More