How To Become a Heavy Equipment Operator in 2022?

by Usama Chaudry on July 24, 2022

Do you dream of running heavy machinery? Do you like the idea of functioning outdoors? Are your reflexes and eyesight sharp enough to remain alert while performing repetitive duties? Do you have great physical strength and stamina and phenomenal hand-to-eye coordination?

If so, then you should consider pursuing a profession as a heavy equipment operator.

Heavy machine operators construct buildings, streets, and other transportation-related facilities. They may be employed by the government or private corporations and typically work in the farming, forestry, mining, and construction sectors. Experienced operators are professionally trained in the use and maintenance of machinery and adhere strictly to safety regulations.

In this article, we will be discussing how to become a heavy equipment operator, the average income, and the job responsibilities of heavy-duty equipment operators. Furthermore, we will also tell you about the skills, competencies, and educational requirements essential to secure a heavy equipment operator job.

Let’s dive right in.

Steps to Become a Heavy Equipment Operator

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become a heavy equipment operator:

  1. Obtain an Education
  2. Get Your Certifications and License
  3. Update your resume
  4. Find Work

1. Obtain an Education

To become a heavy equipment operator, you must first obtain a high school diploma or GED, which is required to enroll in a college or pursue technical education or an apprenticeship. In addition, you must also engage in high school-level courses that will provide you with the expertise you need to land a heavy equipment operator job. These courses typically include topics like mathematics and automotive technology.

2. Get Your Certifications and License

Secondly, becoming a heavy-duty equipment operator may require you to attain a heavy equipment operator license or certification, depending on the firm and the nature of employment.

For instance:

A crane operator must acquire a provincial crane operator certification from credible corporations for crane protection to run a mobile or tower crane.


A commercial driver’s license (CDL) may also be required for workers running heavy machinery or driving trucks to haul materials, including those who have jobs in the construction sector.

To obtain the heavy equipment operator license or certification, you must pass competency and expertise examinations and fulfill additional specifications.

3. Update your Resume

After earning relevant education, licenses, and certificates, the next step you must take to become a heavy-duty equipment operator is to update your resume.

It’s a crucial step, so remember to revise your professional goals or overview of credentials when you update your CV with your expertise and experience. Your resume should inform potential employers about your motives for operating heavy machinery and your objectives.

4. Find Work

Lastly, start searching for vacancies in the trade, government, and construction sectors. You can look for a heavy equipment operator job that permits you to operate specific heavy machinery, like dump truck operators, excavator operators, or pile drivers. You may also set up your own business if you acquire more training and experience.

Duties and Responsibilities of Heavy Equipment Operator

The duties and responsibilities of heavy equipment operators differ depending on who they work for; however, they typically include the following:

  • Assuring the safe maintenance, cleaning, and preservation of worksite amenities and supplies.
  • Following the organization’s operating safety guidelines and procedures when operating heavy machinery.
  • Collecting and disposing of debris, waste, and junk.
  • Giving suggestions for improving and sustaining environmental performance.
  • Observing the paving materials’ distribution to tweak machine configurations or material flow and highlighting low areas for staff to add materials.
  • Compiling the essential reports, records, and other information.
  • Cleaning, greasing, replenishing, and examining equipment.
  • Interpreting blueprints and estimating the loads and materials required for specific designs.
  • Loading and offloading goods and machinery from vehicles and containers.

Educational Requirements for Heavy Equipment Operator

Following are the educational requirements that are vital and will be beneficial in becoming a heavy equipment operator in Canada:

  • Earning a High School Diploma or GED
  • Completing high school-level courses like maths and automotive technology.
  • Passing written and practical examinations to attain relevant certifications from national organizations.

Essential Skills and Competencies for a Heavy Equipment Operator

You need a range of abilities to excel in this profession. We’ll now go over some of the crucial competencies required to thrive when performing duties in the heavy equipment operator job:

  • Communication skills to effectively discuss information with their teammates and managers.
  • Mathematical comprehension to interpret blueprints and keep track of materials inventory.
  • Critical thinking to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios.
  • Physical fitness and stamina to run heavy machinery.
  • Technical knowledge to remain updated with the latest technological innovations.
  • Attention to detail to keep an eye on the heavy equipment, work progress, and employees for effective operation.

How to Enroll in and Complete a Heavy Machinery Training?

You can participate in and complete heavy equipment operator training in the following ways:

  1. Attend colleges or technical schools
  2. Attend your on-the-job training
  3. Participate in classroom instruction
  4. Take part in state apprenticeship programs and union memberships

1. Attend colleges or technical schools

Attending colleges or technical schools can help you gain knowledge of soil science, gear regulation and protection, equipment servicing, and upkeep, which can take about one to two years. However, these institutions might not be able to provide the same level of practical training as an internship. Moreover, some colleges may train you about simulators before giving training on the actual machine. These institutions may also provide specialized training for machineries like drilling equipment or cranes.

2. Attend your on-the-job training

Attending on-the-job training will help you learn how to operate heavy machinery to earn operating experience. Furthermore, it will also teach you how to landscape, grade, and excavate along with methodologies like trenching, scraping, flagging, etc.

3. Participate in classroom instruction

By participating in classroom training, you will comprehend the safety standards and methodologies per the Occupational Health and Safety Administration specifications. Besides that, you will also learn about employing and conducting precautionary safety gear and pre-operational methods.

The courses that you’ll be taught in classroom training may involve education on toxic waste disposal. Alongside learning how to utilize instruments like a soldering iron or welding torch, you will also learn about maintaining and mending machinery.

4. Take part in state apprenticeship programs and union memberships

What’s excellent about state apprenticeship programs or union memberships is that even if you don’t have enough experience, you can still apply for them. Operator registration may be mandated by the state, though the requirements may differ for each state.

In contrast to schools, apprenticeships provide more thorough training and allow students to run a diverse set of machinery. On average, you will have to invest three to four years in completing an apprenticeship, comprising both in-class and on-the-job training. With an internship, you will even get the opportunity to be paid at the journey level.

Types of Heavy Equipment Operators

Following are the different types of heavy-duty equipment operators:

  • Crane Operator
  • Yard Manager
  • Bulldozer Operator
  • Backhoe Operator
  • Excavator Operator
  • Rigger
  • Grader Operator
  • Front-End Loader Operator
  • Equipment Operator
  • Dump Truck Operator
  • Yard Driver
  • Forklift Operator
  • Yard Worker

How Much Does a Heavy Equipment Operator Make in Canada?

The heavy equipment operator is a good career path in terms of salary, and it is one of the primary reasons to become one as they earn a competitive income.

The median heavy equipment operator salary in Canada is CAD 52,414 per year, which translates to CAD 26.88 per hour.

Entry-level heavy equipment operator jobs have a starting salary of CAD 42,900 per year or CAD 22 per hour.

On the other hand:

The most experienced heavy machine operators earn around CAD 64,350 per year or CAD 33 per hour.

Which Heavy Equipment Operators Make the Most Money?

Here’s a table highlighting the highest-paid heavy equipment operators in Canada:

Crane OperatorCAD 69,362
Yard ManagerCAD 70,032
Bulldozer OperatorCAD 75,737
Backhoe OperatorCAD 69,560
Excavator OperatorCAD 71,029
RiggerCAD 80,144
Grader OperatorCAD 54,598
Front-End Loader OperatorCAD 44,575
Equipment OperatorCAD 70,476
Dump Truck OperatorCAD 59,565
Yard DriverCAD 46,476
Forklift OperatorCAD 46,035
Yard WorkerCAD 57,160

Best Way to Find a Job as a Heavy Equipment Operator in Canada

The best way to find a heavy equipment operator job in Canada is to acquire a high school diploma or an equivalent credential. Although these are optional, you can also earn certificates or associate degrees in heavy machine operation to increase your chances of landing a heavy equipment operator job.

Apart from that, you can also complete heavy equipment operator training or an apprenticeship program of three to four years to boost your employment prospects.

Furthermore, obtaining a heavy equipment operator license can benefit you in some states. In contrast, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) can help you secure a heavy machine operator position in the rest of the states.

Ultimately, earning some specific credentials in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut voluntarily, like trade certificates, is also a great way to kickstart your heavy equipment operator career.

You can browse our job postings if you’re actively seeking heavy equipment operator jobs in Canada. We are a top employment agency in Canada, offering various opportunities across several industries.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1- What is the demand for heavy equipment operators?

You can always count on high demand for your expertise as a heavy-duty equipment operator. According to industry estimates, there will be 26,400 fresh openings for heavy equipment operators (not including cranes) from 2019 to 2028. Furthermore, these heavy equipment operator job posts are predicted to be packed by 28,100 potential candidates.

2- How much do heavy equipment operators make in Alberta?

The average heavy equipment operator salary is CAD 120,500 annually in Alberta, Canada.

Entry-level heavy equipment operator jobs have a starting salary of CAD 51,000 per year, while Alberta’s most experienced heavy-duty equipment operators make up around CAD 206,000 per year.


Heavy machine operators set up and operate machinery and keep an eye on it while it’s running. Modifying machine configurations, conducting maintenance work, and making sure that machines adhere to numerous safety regulations are some of their work responsibilities. The physical demands of a heavy equipment operator job might be high; thus, heavy machine operators must take safety measures to avoid accidents.

We hope this article provided sufficient information about how to become a heavy equipment operator. If you want to read more informative articles like this, we recommend you go through our blog section.

Usama ChaudryUsama has a Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering 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.


The Primus Workforce team is proudly built on hands-on industry knowledge and experience.