According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of equipment operators is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
This employment growth is expected as spending on infrastructure is expected to increase. Many roads, bridges, and water and sewer systems will be in need of repair. And, the growing population will require new infrastructure projects, such as roads and sewer lines. All of these factors are expected to create more jobs for equipment operators.
Job prospects will be best for equipment operators who have the ability to operate multiple types of equipment. Finally, as with many other types of construction jobs, employment of equipment operators is sensitive to fluctuations of the economy.
To become an equipment operator, you will need to earn a high school diploma or equivalent. Vocational training and math courses are useful, and a course in auto mechanics can be helpful because workers often perform maintenance on their equipment. Some vocational schools may specialize in a particular brand or type of construction equipment, which is beneficial to finding a job. What is more, is that vocational schools may incorporate sophisticated simulator training into their courses. This allows beginners to familiarize themselves with the equipment in a virtual environment, before operating real machines.
Equipment operators may also choose the apprenticeship career path. This takes 3 or 4 years. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. On the job, apprentices learn to maintain equipment, operate machinery, and use technology, such as Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. In the classroom, apprentices learn operating procedures for equipment, safety practices, and first aid, as well as how to read grading plans. After completing an apprenticeship program, apprentices are considered journey workers and perform tasks with less guidance.
Some construction equipment with computerized controls requires greater skill to operate. Operators of such equipment may need more training and some understanding of electronics.
To become an equipment operator, you will need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to haul their equipment to various jobsites. A few states have special licenses for operators of backhoes, loaders, and bulldozers. Currently, 17 states require pile-driver operators to have a crane license because similar operational concerns apply to both pile-drivers and cranes. In addition, the cities of Chicago, Cincinnati, New Orleans, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC require special crane licensure.