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

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