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Career Profile: Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators

Operate one or several types of power construction equipment, such as motor graders, bulldozers, scrapers, compressors, pumps, derricks, shovels, tractors, or front-end loaders to excavate, move, and grade earth, erect structures, or pour concrete or other hard surface pavement. May repair and maintain equipment in addition to other duties.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 408,500 people employed as operating engineers and other construction equipment operators in the United States. The median annual salary is $49,800. Entry level employees earn approximately $32,980 per year and senior employees earn approximately $87,220 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Drive tractor-trailer trucks to move equipment from site to site.
  • Push other equipment when extra traction or assistance is required.
  • Operate road watering, oiling, or rolling equipment, or street sealing equipment, such as chip spreaders.
  • Operate compactors, scrapers, or rollers to level, compact, or cover refuse at disposal grounds.
  • Test atmosphere for adequate oxygen or explosive conditions when working in confined spaces.
  • Compile cost estimates for jobs.
  • Turn valves to control air or water output of compressors or pumps.
  • Signal operators to guide movement of tractor-drawn machines.
  • Repair and maintain equipment, making emergency adjustments or assisting with major repairs as necessary.
  • Learn and follow safety regulations.
  • Take actions to avoid potential hazards or obstructions, such as utility lines, other equipment, other workers, or falling objects.
  • Start engines, move throttles, switches, or levers, or depress pedals to operate machines, such as bulldozers, trench excavators, road graders, or backhoes.
  • Coordinate machine actions with other activities, positioning or moving loads in response to hand or audio signals from crew members.
  • Align machines, cutterheads, or depth gauge makers with reference stakes and guidelines or ground or position equipment, following hand signals of other workers.
  • Locate underground services, such as pipes or wires, prior to beginning work.
  • Load and move dirt, rocks, equipment, or other materials, using trucks, crawler tractors, power cranes, shovels, graders, or related equipment.
  • Drive and maneuver equipment equipped with blades in successive passes over working areas to remove topsoil, vegetation, or rocks or to distribute and level earth or terrain.
  • Operate tractors or bulldozers to perform such tasks as clearing land, mixing sludge, trimming backfills, or building roadways or parking lots.
  • Monitor operations to ensure that health and safety standards are met.
  • Connect hydraulic hoses, belts, mechanical linkages, or power takeoff shafts to tractors.
  • Select and fasten bulldozer blades or other attachments to tractors, using hitches.
  • Operate loaders to pull out stumps, rip asphalt or concrete, rough-grade properties, bury refuse, or perform general cleanup.
  • Operate equipment to demolish or remove debris or to remove snow from streets, roads, or parking lots.
  • Keep records of material or equipment usage or problems encountered.
  • Adjust handwheels and depress pedals to control attachments, such as blades, buckets, scrapers, or swing booms.
  • Check fuel supplies at sites to ensure adequate availability.
  • Perform specialized work, using equipment, such as pile drivers, dredging rigs, drillers, or concrete pumpers.
  • Talk to clients and study instructions, plans, or diagrams to establish work requirements.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
408,500
Annual Openings:
46,000
Increase in Openings by 2030:
5%
Annual Salary Range:
$32,980 - $87,220
Education Requirements:
High school diploma