Career profile: Heavy Equipment Operator

Career profile: Heavy Equipment Operator

by Susan Huebert
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

Every building or road has materials like concrete, stone, asphalt, or other materials. People who work as heavy equipment operators use machines to put these materials in place on roads, pipelines, mines, and wherever they are needed. If you become a heavy equipment operator, you will have an important role in helping to keep people safe and the structures sturdy and reliable.

Heavy equipment operators drive trucks, cranes, excavators, and other large machines used for surface mining, installing or maintaining oil and gas pipelines, and more. They can work in quarries, bridge building, or anywhere else related to construction. Most of the work is full time, but some part time jobs are also available, depending on the location and the economy at the time. In Ontario, for example, about 95% of all people in this field worked full time. In that province, job prospects were fair but not good in 2020.

Working with heavy equipment requires basic driving abilities but also a particular set of skills. Certification is required in Quebec and is optional in the Northwest Territories and in Newfoundland and Labrador. Elsewhere, people can either take courses if they are available or learn on the job.

Although the job of heavy equipment operator does not generally require much physical strength, people in this field need to have good hand and foot coordination. People need to be able to guide the machinery precisely to the right spot, often in very tight spaces. Otherwise, the whole project could be delayed, or parts of the structure could be destroyed. For example, if a machine drops a heavy pipe onto the corner of a building, it could damage the structure or the equipment.

One of the issues for people in this field is hearing damage. Working around loud machines can be hard on the ears, and heavy equipment operators should be sure to wear protective gear. Even then, they may be unable to avoid some hearing loss from the job.

Like most jobs related to construction, the job of heavy equipment operator is often seasonal. In much of Canada, the winter is too cold and snowy for much construction to happen, but the time between spring after the snow melts and fall when the snow comes can be very busy.

Still, repairs need to be done all throughout the year, and work is likely to be available even in winter. Job prospects tend to be better in the cities, where more people have projects that need to be done, but workers in this job can choose to work in highway building and repair or related tasks in rural areas. Depending on their location and experience, heavy equipment operators can earn between $22,000 and $77,000 per year.

Working as a heavy equipment operator is not an easy job, but it can be rewarding. If you are good with your hands and feet, and you can work with all of the gauges and dials on machines, and you can work with other people, you might want to consider this career.


The Balance Careers. “What Does a Heavy Equipment Operator Do?” https://www.thebalancecareers.com/heavy-equipment-operator-job-description-4157613.

Best Sample Resumes. “Heavy Equipment Operator Job Description.” https://www.bestsampleresume.com/job-descriptions/labor/heavy-equipment-operator.html.

Careers in Construction. “Heavy Equipment Operator.” https://www.careersinconstruction.ca/en/career/heavy-equipment-operator.

Government of Canada. “Heavy Equipment Operator in Canada.” https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/outlook-occupation/15029/ca.

Job Bank. “Heavy Equipment Operator in Ontario.” https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/outlook-occupation/15029/ON;jsessionid=3E289D0DBFCA2232227EDB1553D6DA26.jobsearch74.

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