How to Become an Excavator Operator?

by Usama Chaudry on June 27, 2022

Are you someone who loves working outdoors and is looking for a challenging career? If so, then an excavator operator might be the perfect job for you! Excavator operators play an important role in the construction industry by helping to build roads, bridges, and other structures. Read on to learn more about how to become an excavator operator.

What Is the Role of an Excavator Operator?

There are various duties that an excavator operator has to perform as a part of the job. We, for your convenience, have described the duties and operations of an excavator operator below:

  • Adjusting manual and hydraulic controls to regulate force, tempo, and flow while operating machines safely.
  • To excavate, move, and load earth, rubble, soil, and other materials, select, fit, and remove attachments such as buckets, scoops, blades, and rock-breaking hammers.
  • To properly execute a job, you’ll need to consult and collaborate with other construction, building, and industry professionals.

Steps to Become an Excavator Operator

Operating an excavator can be a rewarding and challenging career. If you’re interested in becoming an excavator operator, there are a few steps you’ll need to take.

  1. Earn a diploma from a high school
  2. Obtain driver’s license
  3. Complete a training program
  4. Work in the construction industry for experience

1. Earn a Diploma From a High School

To enter an apprenticeship or technical school, heavy equipment operators must have a high school diploma or GED. The following high school subjects may be beneficial to future heavy machinery operators: Mathematics, Shop, and Auto technology.

2. Obtain Driver’s License

It is a must for a heavy equipment operator or excavator operator to get a driver’s license. Since they have to load heavy equipment from one site to another, they need a commercial driving excavator license. There are some requirements you have to meet before getting this license.

The requirements and apprenticeships may vary regarding the country where you live. But in Canada, the applicant should be 18 years old. The applier should hold a valid Ontario license that is other than G1, G2, M1, and M2. Furthermore, candidates must pass a vision test.

To be a Class A driver, it is necessary to have a valid medical report and pass a knowledge test regarding large vehicles like tractors trailers, or trucks. You also need an appropriate license for your province’s roads – this means passing both the written exam as well as road tests on whatever type of vehicle you will use while working!

3. Complete a Training Program

Traditionally, there are three routes to obtain a heavy machinery operator’s education. The first two options entail enrolling in a union or state apprenticeship and receiving extensive on-the-job training with the possibility of employment at the end of the program. College or a technical institution that offers training and licensure preparation is the third option.

Vocational schools and training institutes are the greatest places to get an education. These are businesses that specialize in teaching people how to use the materials and equipment that will help them become effective operators.

Getting your training at an institute can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on how you want to be trained.

All in all, these training courses cover all the necessary skills an excavator operator needs to learn.

4. Work in the Construction Industry for Experience

Operating an excavator can be a physically demanding job, so it’s important to have some experience in the construction industry before attempting to operate one. Excavators are typically used to excavate foundations for buildings or to dig trenches for pipes and other utility lines.

Since the excavator operator has to do various duties, it is important to experience them before you get hired. Every company requires hiring an experienced operator. At the construction site, you can experience grade checking, flagging, land clearing, worksite inspection, and many more essential operations.

Duties and Responsibilities of an Excavator Operator

Excavator operators are responsible for a wide range of tasks, including:

  • Operating excavation machinery such as bulldozers, cranes, forklifts, backhoes, and other equipment.
  • Inspection of equipment to ensure that it is in good working order and is performing as it should.
  • Using heavy machines to transport soil, rock, and other materials in order to build roads, bridges, dams, and other huge projects.
  • Clearing debris from building sites or excavating dirt for foundation construction with construction equipment.
  • Using shovels, pickaxes, bulldozers, and backhoes to install pipelines, wires, and other subterranean infrastructure.
  • Digging trenches, hauling soil, and pouring concrete are examples of manual labor duties.
  • Keeping track of the progress of other workers on the job.
  • To ensure compliance with rules, keep track of the time spent working, materials utilized, and equipment maintenance issues.

Educational Requirements for Excavator Operators

Heavy machinery construction operators are typically required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent by most workplaces. Excavator operators can begin their schooling by completing courses in an auto shop, mechanics, computer science, or science in high school.

The table below provides an overview of how to enter this field.

Education RequiredHigh school diploma or GED
ExperienceHave experience working as a junior excavator under the supervision of a senior excavator.
Licensure and CertificationEmployers may prefer industry certification over a driver’s license and/or commercial driver’s license (CDL).

How Much Do Excavator Operators Make?

Since the excavator operator’s job is among the highest paying jobs in Canada, the pay scale is quite high.

In Canada, the average salary of an excavator operator is around $54,000 per year. They are paid almost $28 per hour. At entry-level, companies mostly give $44,000 per year to these excavator operators. But, experienced operators can earn more than $70,000 per year in Canada.


If you’re interested in becoming an excavator operator, start by doing some research on the different types of machines and their capabilities. Get certified in excavation safety and first aid. Apply for jobs at construction companies or engineering firms. Be prepared to work long hours and be physically fit. The best way to become an excavator operator is to start from the bottom and work your way up. Do you have what it takes?

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.