Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators
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Speciality
Overview
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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.
Titles for this career often contain these words
OperatorEngineerGraderMachineEquipmentRoadOperatingShovelHeavyRollerRunnerSteamHoeBulldozerLoaderDriverDitchingDozerBladeScraperConstructionCraneSupervisorLaborerFieldForemanLandfillSlabPowerStabilizerAngleBackBackhoeCompactorBushHogCableCarCarrierCatshovelClamshellDerrickDiggingDirtDitcherDraglineDumpAttendantElevatingEngineeringExcavatingExcavatorMechanicSiteLeadForkliftFormGangMowerGradallPatrolGradingHeaterPlanerPaverMachineryHoistingHydraulicHammerLandLevelerLiftGroundLeaderLoadingLocomotiveMaintainerMaintenanceMotorMuckMuckerMuckingApprenticeTruckAssistantHoggermanRooterRotarySoilSanderSanitaryScarifierScrapDropLiftingStreetTrackUtilityTractor
Education
Only 3% of construction equipment operators have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by construction equipment operators
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
Fewer construction equipment operators have bachelor's degrees than 97% of other careeers.
Employment
Workforce size
Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators, with 402,400 workers, form a larger workforce than 87% of careers.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators are expected to grow by 10%, and should have about 52,500 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators are more likely to be automated than 86% of other careers.
Salaries
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators compare to other jobs' salaries?
Distribution: What salary can you expect?
See what most operating engineers and other construction equipment operators earn.
$49K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Gender
Women account for 2% of construction equipment operators -- that's a smaller percentage than 94% of other jobs.
Gender of construction equipment operators
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For construction equipment operators, the median men's salary was 10% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 11% of construction equipment operators are minority, and 12% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of construction equipment operators
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (12%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. Blue indicates low density, with lighter shades moving to yellow indicating higher numbers working in this profession.
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Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of operating engineers and other construction equipment operators who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (86%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment (85%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (80%)
  • Exposed to Whole Body Vibration (80%)
  • Consequence of Error (72%)
  • Time Pressure (53%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (36%)
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings (32%)
SOURCES:
Salary and diversity
What do construction equipment operators earn?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides company-reported job titles and corresonding salaries at the specialty level (operating engineers and other construction equipment operators). This data excludes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators (BLS Salary Data)
$49K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$49K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
The American Community Survey (ACS) asks individuals to report their occupation and salary, and as such includes self-employed workers. This view of salaries is only available for all construction equipment operators.
Distribution: Salaries for construction equipment operators (ACS Salary Data)
$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Construction equipment operators: Inflation-adjusted salary trend
This job's median $47KAll jobs' median $45K$38K$44K070809101112131415161718$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire operating engineers and other construction equipment operators.
Employers of Construction equipment operators (ACS)
Private for-profit (75.7%)
Private not-for-profit (1.5%)
Local government (13.1%)
State government (3.7%)
Federal government (1.4%)
Self-employed incorporated (1.9%)
Self-employed not incorporated (2.6%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of construction equipment operators by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses. These salaries were reported for the larger career group of construction equipment operators, which combines the 3 specialties for this career.
$46K$48K$42K$42K$52K$41K$37K$54K$41K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000Working without paySelf-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of operating engineers and other construction equipment operators by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS. Remember that the BLS salaries are for the specialty operating engineers and other construction equipment operators, and may differ signficantly from the ACS salary estimates which combine several career specialties.
$49K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000All

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Salary growth for construction equipment operators

Is this a job that rewards experience, or is this job most likely a part of a career ladder? The higher a job's experience quotient, the more experience is rewarded with pay increases. Jobs in the green range have the best rewards with experience.

Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?

Salary distribution
$48K$50K$50K$51K$49K$50K$42K$33K$41K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
Number employed
010K20K30K40K50K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Construction equipment operators and gender

With 2% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 94% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
2%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Construction equipment operators
Men (98%)
Women (2%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

The median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%. The situation is a little better for construction equipment operators, with the median salary for men 10% higher than the median salary for women.

$42K$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary for all but about 20 jobs in which women typically earn more than men. Construction equipment operators have one of the smaller inequity calculations, with the increase for men's median salary over women's median salary in this job lower than that for 70% of other jobs.

10%0%20%40%60%80%100%

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Race and origin of construction equipment operators

Here we check out the diversity of origin in this career. There is a smaller percentage of minority construction equipment operators than for 91% of other careers. The percentage of foreign-born workers in this career is near the middle of all careers.

Race/origin of construction equipment operators
White (84% )
Black (6% )
Other (4% )
American Indian (2% )
Multiracial (2% )
Hispanic (1% )
Asian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
11%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
12%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for construction equipment operators by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$37K$42K$42K$43K$45K$47K$49K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KBlackOtherAmerican IndianMultiracialHispanicWhiteAsian
Distribution: Salaries for construction equipment operators by nativity
$43K$47K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Construction equipment operators and Part-time/Full-time employment

We've found that somes jobs hava a huge number of part-time workers, and that typically most who are working part-time are doing so because they cannot find full-time work or the job they have cannot provide full-time hours. With 4% part-time workers, this occupation has a lower percentage of part-time workers than 83% of careers.

Context: Part-time workers in the workforce
4%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Why workers are part-time
Full-Time is less than 35 hours a week
Retired/Social Security limit on earnings
Could not find full-time work
Seasonal work
Slack work/business conditions
School/training
Health/medical limitations
Child care problems
Other family/personal obligations
Other reasons
Distribution: Salaries by part-time/full-time status

The salary distributions for full-time and part-time construction equipment operators is shown following.

$16K$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KPart-time workersFull-time workers
Pathways to this career
Education attained by operating engineers and other construction equipment operators

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), operating engineers and other construction equipment operators typically hold a high school diploma or equivalent.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as construction equipment operators as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.

Details: Education and training recommended for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators

A high school diploma or equivalent is required for most jobs. Vocational training and math courses are useful, and a course in auto mechanics can be helpful because workers often perform maintenance on their equipment.

Learning at vocational schools may be beneficial in finding a job. Schools may specialize in a particular brand or type of construction equipment.

Some schools incorporate sophisticated simulator training into their courses, allowing beginners to familiarize themselves with the equipment in a virtual environment before operating real machines.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators

Construction equipment operators often need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to haul their equipment to various jobsites. State laws governing CDLs vary.

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.

Education attained by construction equipment operators
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for construction equipment operators? Below we see the distribution of construction equipment operators salaries based on the education attained.

$41K$47K$50K$51K$53K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KNone (20%)High School (53%)Some College (20%)Associate's/Cert. (5%)Bachelor's Degree (3%)

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

The Department of Education recommends the following college degree programs as preparation for this career. You can click the program row to learn more about the program and explore a list of schools that offer the program.

Number of degrees awarded in 2017
Education
Education level of awarded degrees
Associate's degree or certificate
Bachelor's
Graduate
Gender
Gender of graduates
Men
Women
Race/Origin
Race/origin of graduates
White
Minority
International
Switching Careers
The most common next careers for construction equipment operators

What jobs will most construction equipment operators hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of construction equipment operators reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Construction equipment operatorsConstruction LaborersntsAcsOcc_6320Driver/sales workers and truck driversHighway Maintenance WorkersLaborers and Freight, Stock, and By-Hand Material MoversSpecialized Assemblers and FabricatorsFirst-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction WorkersPipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfittersCivil EngineersSpecialized electrical and electronic equipment mechanics, installers, andrepairersPainting workersCarpentersConstruction ManagersComputer and Information Systems ManagersOffice and administrative support workers, all otherSpecialized Installation, Maintenance, and Repair WorkersChief executives and legislators
Lateral job transitions for construction equipment operators

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 8 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as construction equipment operators as well as 1% of respondents after working as construction equipment operators. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Employed
How many people have this job?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
No degree
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Men
Women
Prior and next careers for construction equipment operators: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as construction equipment operators? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of construction equipment operators surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Variation by state
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most operating engineers and other construction equipment operators? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as operating engineers and other construction equipment operators. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

One important factor in the differences between ACS and BLS data is that the ACS numbers are for all construction equipment operators, comprised of all specialities listed in the menu bar, and you can choose to view the BLS at the specialty or full career level.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Number of Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.05.010.015.0
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where operating engineers and other construction equipment operators earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for construction equipment operators compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for construction equipment operators.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information. The ACS salaries are for all construction equipment operators, which combines the specialities from which you can choose at the top of the page.

Choose the metric to review
Location-adjusted median salary
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Location-adjusted median salary for Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators (BLS for this specialty)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which operating engineers and other construction equipment operators earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
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$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the tabs and education selector to find other careers that might be a good fit for you.

How should the career similarity be computed?

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?