The answer is a definite yes. If you’re thinking about becoming a heavy equipment operator, you’re definitely on the right track.

So what does a heavy equipment operator do? Let’s start with a definition from job board giant Indeed:

 A heavy equipment operator works in the construction industry to transport earth or other materials or to erect and install construction materials. Heavy equipment operators may lay down roadbeds and work with paving materials or they may prepare sites for construction. Operators know how to calculate appropriate loads and can read and follow blueprints and designs. They typically learn to maintain and ensure the proper use of machinery.

Heavy equipment operators may use various types of heavy machinery, including:

  • Bulldozers
  • Cranes
  • Excavators
  • Forklifts
  • Loaders
  • Backhoe
  • Tractors 

That’s a good high-level description. We need to go a bit deeper though, and talk about what a day in the life of a heavy equipment operator looks like. Are there opportunities for advancement, what are the salary ranges, and what is the current and future outlook for the industry?

As a leading automotive and manufacturing recruitment agency in the Greater Toronto Area and Southwestern Ontario, HCR Personnel Solutions is a valued resource for employers and workers. You benefit from our proven experience with organizations of all sizes. Our people, programs, and processes reflect our knowledge and commitment to job seekers of all types. HCR is proudly affiliated with ACSESS – Association of Canadian Search, Employment, and Staffing Services.

We want to hear your story. Call one of our recruiting professionals at 416-622-1427, or get in touch online today!

We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get started. In this post, you’ll learn these critical aspects of a career as a heavy equipment operator

  • What Does a Day in the Life of a Heavy Equipment Operator Look Like? 
  • What Types of Equipment Are Included in Heavy Machinery?  
  • What is the Average Salary of a Heavy Machine Operator? 
  • What Are the Education Requirements?  
  • Is Vocational Training Available?
  • Are Apprenticeship Programs Available?
  • What Certifications Are Required? 
  • What Are the Necessary Personal Skills and Traits?  
  • Which Geographic Areas Have the Highest Earning Potential for this Line of Work? 

So What Does a Day in the Life of a Heavy Equipment Operator Look Like?

The machinery you’ll be operating, along with your individual responsibilities, will vary with the job sites that you’ll be working on. These range from mining sites, to pipelines, to large urban building construction sites and everything in between.  

Responsibilities will also vary, but there are some commonalities. As the name implies, heavy equipment operators will normally operate large pieces of equipment that perform a variety of functions. These functions include digging, grading, lifting, and handling materials of all kinds.   

From Ontario based 5th Wheel Training Institute:

General equipment operators will work with excavation type machinery—such as excavators and loading machinery with scoops or buckets. These machines are used to dig up earth, sand, and gravel, and then load it into another vehicle that’s used for transportation.   

Most general operators will also be familiar with the basic vehicles used on a standard construction site. This includes things like backhoe-loaders, bulldozers, excavators, motor graders and skid-steers. There may be jobs where you only man one vehicle for the entire project or others where you’re expected to work several in order to keep things on schedule.

It’s a good idea to get started with the basics and then move to get additional certifications for more advanced types of equipment. 

So What Types of Equipment Are Included in Heavy Machinery? 

Typical types of heavy machinery equipment that you’ll initially be operating include:

  • Bulldozers
  • Cranes
  • Excavators
  • Loaders
  • Backhoe
  • Tractors 
  • Skid Steers

As your career advances, you may decide to move on to get certified with additional pieces of complex equipment like pavers, articulated trucks, excavators, drill rigs, track loaders, and other types of specialized mining and industrial equipment.

You’ll probably be getting started as a general equipment operator on the smaller pieces of equipment. But you’ll have fun learning, and there’s plenty of opportunity for career advancement!

What is the Average Salary of a Heavy Machine Operator? 

Compensation and benefits are excellent for heavy equipment operators. According to Glassdoor.ca salaries range from $46,000-$150,000, with a national average of around $75,000. 

Compensation and benefits packages are definitely competitive. 

Are you interested in finding out how to get started in your career as a heavy machinery operator? Call us today at 416-622-1427, or get in touch online. Our recruiters are waiting to hear from you!

What Are the Educational Requirements? 

Training and certifications are required for this highly competitive and rewarding field. Training is available from colleges and community agencies throughout Ontario. 

The basic prerequisites to becoming a heavy machinery operator are a high-school diploma and a valid driver’s license, although there are programs for non- high-school-graduates available as well. You may end up getting your full AZ truck license and/or your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), but these are not prerequisites  

If you have on-the-job experience as a heavy equipment operator, you may be able to get credits toward certification. 

The vast majority of new trainees will have to go through a training program at a vocational and trade school, or a college like Ontario Colleges

The program costs typically range from $10,000 – $15,000 per certification, depending on the college or vocational school you attend. Financial aid and college loans may be available, depending on your circumstances. Prospective employers may also be willing to pick up some or all of the education tab, so make sure you thoroughly check all options. 

The certifications you will obtain through these programs are typically granted for specific pieces of heavy equipment. 

For example, a basic certificate for a tractor-loader-backhoe certification, or TLB, will take approximately 9-12 months. There are separate certificates for dozers, excavators, etc. Programs are also available from vocational schools, such as 5th Wheel Training Institute, that offer multiple equipment certifications in the same course.

Your training will also involve “seat-time,” where you will actually operate the piece of equipment that you’re being trained on.

Apprenticeship programs are also available. 

These certification programs are typically offered by an employer that you are currently working for, as an incentive to move up in the organization. Apprenticeships can be good opportunities, especially since the costs are borne by your employer, but they usually take about three years to complete.    

What are Some of the Necessary Personal Skills and Traits?  

Heavy equipment operators engage in physically and mentally demanding work. You have to be mentally sharp and in good physical condition to work in the heavy equipment trades. Most of the jobs will be outdoors, so bear that in mind. You may or may not be in a fully enclosed cab all of the time. 

You will probably work on many different job sites throughout your career, since most heavy machinery jobs are in the construction industry. This is great if you like to travel! You may even live away from your home for extended periods of time, depending on the duration of the project you’re working on.

If you like flexible shifts, you may have the opportunity to work different shifts from time to time as well. 

A career in heavy equipment operation can be lasting and rewarding, but it will take some personal investment on your part.   

Which Geographic Areas Have the Highest Earning Potential for this Line of Work?

There are currently heavy equipment jobs all over Ontario and throughout Canada. 

There are heavy machinery operator positions available in the Ontario region right now. That perfect job, with flexible work and shift options, personal satisfaction, and a great career path just might be right around the corner for you. 

HCR specializes in temporary, direct-hire, and custom solutions in general labour staffing, automotive assembly, production, heavy machine operation, and forklift throughout Ontario.  We are experts in the industries we serve, and with deep roots in the region, we understand the challenges facing both employers and job seekers. 

Whether you are searching for reliable and skilled workers or looking for new job opportunities, HCR has the solution. We match great people with great career opportunities every day.

Why settle for just any job when you can choose an opportunity that is uniquely suited to you? 

At HCR, we are anything but a typical recruitment firm, and you will notice that difference immediately. Your recruiter will get to know you beyond your resume to learn who you are as a person, and what you’re looking for in a job opportunity. 

At HCR Personnel, you’ll be treated as an individual, not just a number. HCR recruiters have decades of experience and far-reaching connections in the manufacturing, engineering, and industrial sectors. We know which employers are looking for great employees with your skills, experience, and goals.  

Get in touch with us online today, or call one of our recruiters at 416-622-1427. You’ll be glad you did!



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