How Do I Become an Excavator Operator?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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A person who wants to become an excavator operator may want to consider training at a technical school, apprenticing or learning on a job site, or obtaining a community college degree in heavy equipment operation. Each career path has advantages and disadvantages that can be weighed. For someone who is not sure about the best way to become an excavator operator, one option is to look at job listings to determine what kinds of requirements the employers in a given region expect of job applicants. This can help someone decide how to get his or her training.

One way to become an excavator operator is through a program at a technical school. The length of heavy equipment operator programs can vary and might include classroom and field experience. Students have a chance to learn about health and safety regulations and how excavators work. In the field, they can practice with different models. The instructor might also provide information about maintenance and repair so that operators can manage the basic care needs of their equipment.


Community colleges also offer training programs. The training at a community college can be similar to that found at a technical school. Instructors might start students with a basic overview of light and heavy equipment, then provide the students with practical experience. Some community colleges might connect students with internship opportunities in this field and can offer job placement in some regions to graduates who excel at their work. The school might refer the top students in the class to a local employer who has an interest in the college's graduates.

Another option is through apprenticeship on the job, a very traditional approach to training. Apprentices start out in entry-level positions under the supervision of an experienced excavator operator. An apprentice might start with light equipment until he or she is competent, then the apprentice can begin training to become an excavator operator. First, the apprentice will work only under the eyes of monitors, and later, more autonomy and independence are granted, until the apprentice completes training and can work without supervision.

Some workplaces might accept high school graduates who don't have any formal training and send them to a trade school to become excavator operators. This is a faster track than an apprenticeship and might allow workers to draw pay while training, unlike a technical school or community college program. Employers also can send their workers to safety training courses and might offer more compensation to people who are certified as safety officers and who can monitor conditions on work sites.


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