California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators in California

May also be called: Backhoe Operators; Excavator Operators; Grader Operators; Heavy Equipment Operators; Loader Operators; Motor Grader Operators; and Track Hoe Operators

What Would I Do?

Operating Engineers use different types of heavy equipment at construction sites to move earth and large objects around. They use machines such as bulldozers, backhoes, graders, trench diggers, excavators, loaders, and tractors. These machines dig, scrape, cut, and move dirt, rocks, boulders, and other materials.

The work performed by Operating Engineers is physically demanding and is usually performed outdoors in almost all weather conditions. They usually work a 40-hour week. However, due to the seasonal nature of the job, they may work fewer hours in the winter and frequent overtime in the summer.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Operating Engineer will appeal to those who enjoy being outdoors and work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The median wage in 2017 for Operating Engineers in California was $67,894 annually, or $32.64 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2017Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2017 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Operating Engineers covered by union contracts and those working for government agencies generally receive medical, dental, and vision insurance, as well as vacation, holiday, and retirement benefits. Self-employed Operators must provide their own benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

The need for Operating Engineers and Other Construction Operators will come from the necessity to build and repair roads, bridges, and levees (infrastructure).

How Do I Qualify?

Employers generally prefer to hire workers who have a high school diploma or equivalent. Operating Engineers usually learn their skills on the job, but formal apprenticeship or vocational programs provide more comprehensive training.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Newspaper classified ads and Internet job listings may also provide helpful local job leads. Operating Engineers who belong to a union can also find work through their local union hall. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Learn More About Operating Engineers