Excavator Operator

Run earth-moving machines that dig holes of all sizes and depths.
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Quick Stats


Salary Range
$26,000 – $71,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Excavator Operators do?

Excavators move earth, either a few grains or a few yards at time, depending on their size. These commercial-sized marvels of engineering can dig holes of any size. Whether you want a small hole to plant a tree, or a three-story hole to search for gold, an excavator will serve you well. As an Excavator Operator, you’re in charge of maneuvering the machine in a way that gets the job done—whatever that job might be.

In order to safely operate the machines, an Excavator Operator has to know about them. As a novice Excavator Operator, you typically start with smaller versions and work your way up. A backyard excavator, for example, might be used to dig small holes for landscaping, while a slightly larger version creates trenches for pipes or cables. Another type, called a suction excavator, works as a large vacuum to suck out loose debris from a hole.

As you progress through the ranks, you’ll learn about the weight and balance capabilities of the equipment you’re handling. Most excavators run on tracks, like a tank, but can tip over if stressed or weighted too heavily.

You’ll also learn to control depth and to remove materials properly. Say, for example, you’re working on an archeological job site. You would need to gently peel away small portions of the land to carefully unveil each layer. Other jobs, such as gold mining, require quick digging and transfer of the material into the next stage of the panning process.

Should I be an Excavator Operator?

You should have a high school degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.
  • Ready for a Challenge: You jump into new projects with initiative and drive.
  • Trustworthy: You are known for your personal integrity and honesty.

  • Also known as: Excavating Machine Operator

    How to become an Excavator Operator

    Most Excavator Operators have no higher education and get on-the-job training. Think about earning a Certificate to increase your competitiveness in the field. Chart?chd=s:95aaaa&chl=no+college+%2852%25%29|certificate+%2848%25%29||||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,52,52
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