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Career as a Heavy Equipment Operator


Name: Shawn Robison
Job Title: Heavy Equipment Operator
Where: Louisville, KY
Employer: Flynn Brothers Contracting
Years of Experience: 18
Education: High School Diploma
Salary of Heavy Equipment Operator: See the PayScale Research Center for the median Pay Scale for Heavy Equipment Operators.

Career as a Heavy Equipment Operator

For readers who like to work outdoors, it might be worthwhile to look into a career as a Heavy Equipment Operator. In this Salary Story, we spoke to Heavy Equipment Operator Shawn Robison. He told us about the factors that affect the pay scale for Heavy Equipment Operators and Heavy Equipment Operator job opportunities. If you’ve been wondering about attending Heavy Equipment Operator schools verses learning on the job, don’t miss this interview with a seasoned professional. Shawn shared great info with us on working conditions, what to expect on a job site, and what skills may improve the salary of Heavy Equipment Operator professionals.

If you want to know what it’s like to have a career as a Heavy Equipment Operator, how to find those Heavy Equipment Operator jobs, and the standard salary of a Heavy Equipment Operator, this interview is groundbreaking!

Heavy Equipment Operator Job Description:

For the last few years I have operated mostly excavators. My duties include loading mass dirt and rock onto 30-ton articulated dumptrucks and over the road tri-axle dumptrucks. We usually work 9-10 hours a day, rain or shine, and average around 200 loads a day. I routinely operate track-hoes, back-hoes, large and small dozers, highlifts, wheel-loaders, scrapers, and articulated off-road trucks.

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Can you describe your career as a Heavy Equipment Operator?

Well, I guess I came into it the easy way: I was aborn into it. My grandfather owned his own construction company, which my dad worked for. I began tagging along whenever I could, at a very early age. I was always fascinated by the big equipment and the way they sculpted the earth, and always just knew that was what I wanted to do with myself.

Do you recall any humorous moments from your career as a Heavy Equipment Operator?

We usually have to keep it pretty serious at the risk of someone being injured, but we do try to lighten the mood at times. It’s always funny to have a truck driver nod off and fall asleep while waiting to get loaded, then see them take off (with truck still empty), after I have blown my horn at them to back up to me. Every day’s interesting, that’s for sure.

Any advice for those seeking a career as a Heavy Equipment Operator?

Start out at the bottom, learn to check grade for operators and laboring. Watch closely what the veteran operators do, I learned most of what I know just from watching. Be prepared for long hours, long periods of isolation from others, extreme heat and dust in the summers and the joy of zero degree temperatures in the winter; it is definitely not for everyone.

Anyone wanting to get a job in the construction field needs to stop by a construction site and ask to speak with the site foreman, or call the contractor (of their choosing) to set up an interview. Most times you will get hired on the spot, due to the recent lack of good help. Some guys I know have enrolled in Heavy Equipment Operator schools, but I personally don’t recommend this. Heavy Equipment Operator schools are VERY expensive, and just from what I have seen, they don’t teach you much. You’d be better off hiring on somewhere as the “low man on the totem pole” and getting paid while you learn.

Do Heavy Equipment Operators really whistle at pretty girls, or is that a stereotype?

Oh, it’s not just a stereotype! Any pretty girl who comes by one of our jobsites is sure to be whistled and hollered at, much to the displeasure of our boss. I think much of it has to do with us having nothing to look at all day but each other, and dirt, and as a general rule we are not much to look at. Any pretty girl is a welcome change of scenery for us and we like to make the most of it.

What is the outlook on Heavy Equipment Operator job opportunities?

Around here, Heavy Equipment Operator job opportunities are very good. I’ve never saw so much work going on, the demand for heavy equipment operators at this time seems to be at a high point. Everywhere I look, a new road, building or parking lot is being built. Around here, most of the jobs are for private companies. Most people (that I know) who look to take up a job in construction watch the local newspaper ads, they are usually full of construction job openings on every level, from laborers to truck drivers to Heavy Equipment Operators.

One other piece of advice: sometimes the smaller companies will treat you much better than the large mega companies, where things are a lot less personal. Also, try to hire on in the spring when things are getting busy. Fall or winter is never good, things slow down due to bad weather, and the need for more workers is not so great.

What factors affect the pay scale for Heavy Equipment Operators?

Skill level more than anything. A guy who is very good on many different pieces of equipment will make more than someone who only knows how to run one thing. That has more to do with salary than, say, seniority. Most Heavy Equipment Operators are paid by the hour. Only foremen are paid by salary, and I know of no one who gets paid by “the job.”

How does your salary compare to the pay scale for Heavy Equipment Operators? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. But when you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale’s full salary survey.

Matt Schneider
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Very eager to learn this hands on course,can i get a registered school in Dubai?


My cousin owns a company and said the same thing to me about school. He’s training me on the job right now. I’m basically just checking his grade right now and doing a few loads of dirt with a skid steer here and there. Where I live (Ontario) schooling is roughly 12,000 dollars for 12 weeks of training which really doesn’t even get you any special qualifications. My cousin is also owns a quarry and is going to be letting… Read more »

dwayne dixon
dwayne dixon

what schools are located near york pa.

Nwaelu Pius
Nwaelu Pius

I need the real details of how to be heavy equipment operator, I seriously need and am planning to attend the school training, so please help me.


According to the above link, Wyoming, West Virginia and Alaska have the greatest demand, as of May 2012.

Jim Cosimeno
Jim Cosimeno

I am a Heavy Equipment operator and live in upstate NY..the work here is terrible thinking of relocating my family. I have been out of work about 20 months in the last 24…I want to know where in this country is the past place to find work being a Heavy equipment operator. I just need 12 months of steady work…Thanks Jim

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