Is Heavy Equipment Operator a Good Career Path?

by Usama Chaudry on April 22, 2022

Unsure if a heavy equipment operator career is suitable for you?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Heavy equipment operators are responsible for running heavy machinery that is used in the building and maintenance of structures such as:

  • Flyovers
  • Roads
  • Airports
  • Underpasses
  • Oil and gas pipelines

Some industries that require heavy equipment operators are construction, mining, forestry, and farming. These industries need workers who are able to operate various types of heavy machinery in order to complete tasks such as excavating, grading, and transporting materials.

This article will discuss why becoming a heavy equipment operator can be a good career path, the average pay, and the job responsibilities of heavy equipment operators. Moreover, we will also tell you about the skills, competencies, and educational requirements necessary to get your foot into the industry.

Let’s get started.

Reasons Why Being a Heavy Equipment Operator Is Good for Your Career

Following are some reasons highlighting why a heavy equipment operator career is suitable for you:

Reason #1: High Demand

As a heavy equipment operator, you can always expect a high demand for your services. According to JobBank.ca, 26,400 new job vacancies for heavy equipment operators (excluding cranes) were predicted between 2019 and 2028. 28,100 potential employees are expected to fill these positions.

Reason #2: Diverse Career Paths

The career path for heavy equipment operators is full of possibilities. You can either opt to continue the work by pursuing construction and road building trends or take a more personalized path by laboring in the mining industry. Apart from that, you can even start your own business.

Reason #3: Higher Income

Heavy equipment operators also have wages that are on the level with or higher than those earned by their college-educated counterparts when they initially enter the profession.

Heavy Equipment Operator Duties and Responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities of a heavy-duty equipment operator typically include:

  • Complying with the company’s operating safety regulations and methods when running heavy equipment.
  • Contributing ideas for maintaining and boosting environmental performance.
  • Putting up and taking down materials and equipment from vehicles and containers.
  • Guaranteeing that corporate equipment, resources, and the workplace are serviced, cleaned, and preserved safely.
  • Gathering and discarding scrap, unwanted resources, and garbage.
  • Monitoring paving material distribution to modify machine settings or material flow and pointing out low sections for personnel to add stuff.
  • Preparing necessary paperwork, reports, and other documents.
  • Reading and understanding blueprints and computing the loads and resources needed for particular designs.

Average Salary of Heavy Equipment Operator

The wages for heavy equipment operators mentioned below are calculated using the per-hour rates multiplied by the 40-hour workweek, excluding the overtime. It is important to note that wages can differ according to a variety of factors, such as: 

  • Type of company
  • Contract
  • Location
  • Any applicable collective agreements
  • State of the regional and national economy

The average heavy equipment operator salary is CAD 52,478 per year in Canada, which translates to CAD 26.91 per hour. 

Entry-level heavy equipment operator job positions have a starting salary of CAD 42,900 per year or CAD 22 per hour. The most experienced heavy equipment operators earn up to CAD 64,228 per year or CAD 32.94 per hour.

Following are the average annual salaries of heavy equipment operators in different provinces of Canada:

Name of Province: Yukon 

Average Annual Salary: CAD 65,442

Name of Province: British Columbia 

Average Annual Salary: CAD 64,350

Name of Province: Alberta 

Average Annual Salary: CAD 60,450

Name of Province: Quebec 

Average Annual Salary: CAD 54,600

Name of Province: Saskatchewan 

Average Annual Salary: CAD 51,188

Name of Province: Ontario 

Average Annual Salary: CAD 51,071

Name of Province: Manitoba 

Average Annual Salary: CAD 46,800

Name of Province: Nova Scotia 

Average Annual Salary: CAD 40,463

Name of Province: New Brunswick 

Average Annual Salary: CAD 39,449

Educational Requirements for Heavy Equipment Operator

Following are the educational requirements that are essential and will be beneficial in the career path for heavy equipment operators:

Acquiring a High School Diploma or GED 

First and foremost, heavy equipment operators must earn a high school diploma or GED, which is necessary for starting an internship, college, or technical education. Aside from that, they are required to take high school-level courses that develop in them the skills necessary to begin their heavy equipment operator career. Automobile technology and mathematics are among the subjects covered in these courses.

Attaining Licensure or Certification 

Based on the type of job and company, working as a heavy-duty equipment operator may necessitate obtaining licensure or certification. For example, a crane operator who wishes to operate a mobile or tower crane must obtain a provincial crane operator certification from accredited organizations for crane safety. 

Moreover, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) may be necessary for employees operating heavy machines, such as those who have jobs in the construction industry.

The licensure or certification can be earned by clearing skills and knowledge assessments and meeting additional criteria.

Skills & Competencies of Heavy Equipment Operator

Here is a list of the skills and competencies required for a successful heavy equipment operator career:

Physical fitness

A significant level of physical strength is required to run heavy machines. So heavy equipment operators must be physically fit to perform these duties.

Technical skills

Heavy-duty equipment operators are responsible for running a wide range of mechanical and electric machinery. So to enhance their technical skills, it is crucial for them to stay up with the latest technological developments.

Communication skills

The majority of construction sites include a large number of personnel who are all working on different aspects of a project simultaneously. Therefore, heavy equipment operators need to possess exceptional communication skills so that they can convey important details and information to their coworkers and supervisors swiftly and effectively.

Mathematical Knowledge 

The majority of the activities performed by heavy-duty equipment operators necessitate the use of computations. That’s why you need to have a tremendous mathematical understanding which will assist you in reading blueprints, maintaining records, and examining materials inventory.

Critical thinking

Heavy equipment operators must have excellent spatial awareness and the ability to interpret situations and implement theoretical knowledge to real-world problems.

Types of Heavy Equipment Operator

Following are the four main types of heavy equipment operators:

1. Bulldozer Operators

Bulldozer operators run crawler-tractors equipped with enormous blades across the front that are used to clear impediments from the way. They also operate bulldozers, which are used to assist in the clearing and smoothing of ground. Furthermore, they may push other equipment to offer traction and support and flatten land irregularities to complete the work on a work site.

2. Front-End Loader Operators

Front-end loader operators are responsible for operating machines with buckets on the front that lift heavy loads and throw them to different locations. Earth, rock, sand, gravel, and snow are examples of loads picked up by front-end loader operators.

3. Backhoe Operators

Backhoe operators employ a range of tools attached to their backhoes. These tools can assist in digging holes, carrying heavy loads, crumbling stone or concrete, backfilling excavations, and gathering and discarding materials.

4. Grader Operators

Grader operators adjust the angle and height of grader blades, which can disperse and level surfaces such as sand, rock, gravel, and earth. Their tasks also include:

  • Plowing snow.
  • Grading the working area repeatedly.
  • Utilizing machine-mounted level gauges to ensure proper leveling.

In-Demand Cities for Heavy Equipment Operators in Canada

The following cities offer the most heavy equipment operator jobs in Canada:

  • Fort McMurray, AB.
  • La Ronge, SK
  • Tumbler Ridge, BC.
  • Blenheim, ON
  • Grande Prairie, AB. 
  • Fort Hills, AB. 
  • Ottawa, ON
  • Greater Toronto Area (GTA), ON
  • Red Deer, AB. 
  • Chetwynd, BC
  • Edmonton, AB
  • Pinehouse, SK
  • Port Au Port, NL

How to Get a Job as Heavy Equipment Operator in Canada

To get a heavy machine operator job, you must earn a high school diploma or equivalent qualification. You can also obtain certificates or associate degrees in heavy machine operation, however, these are entirely optional. 

Generally, you’ll be required to complete on-the-job training (heavy equipment operator training) or a three- four-year internship program to begin your heavy equipment operator career

Moreover, most states demand a commercial driver’s license (CDL), whereas, in some states, a specialty license may be necessary.

Lastly, some certifications, such as trade certification, can be obtained voluntarily in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nunavut.

In case you’re actively looking for heavy equipment operator jobs in Canada, you can check our job listings. We are a leading employment agency in Canada, providing a multitude of jobs in different industries.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1- Which heavy equipment operators make the most money?

Crane operators have the highest pay in Canada compared to other heavy equipment operators. Their average annual salary is CAD 52,803 or CAD 27.08 per hour.

Entry-level crane operator positions begin from CAD 39,899 per year, while the most experienced crane operators earn around CAD 79,999 per year.

2- How in demand are heavy equipment operators?

According to stats, 26,400 new job vacancies for heavy-duty equipment operators (excluding cranes) were predicted between 2019 and 2028. 28,100 potential employees are expected to fill these positions.

3- What are the benefits of being a heavy equipment operator?

The benefits of being a heavy equipment operator include:

  • Competitive pay
  • Diverse career paths
  • Increased demand
  • Travel opportunities

Conclusion:

Whether it be higher salary, numerous employment opportunities, increased career demand, or diverse career paths, heavy equipment operator jobs have a ton of benefits to offer.

We hope this article helped you decide if a heavy equipment operator career is a good fit for you. If you are still not clear, kindly let us know in the comments section. We’ll be more than happy to assist you.


Usama ChaudryUsama is a professional engineer and graduated from the University of Alberta. Computations of electrical and thermal characteristics are among his research interests. Usama's hobbies outside of professional work include reading, playing tennis, and trekking.

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