Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane)

Occupation:Heavy Equipment Operators (except Crane)
Category:Trades and Transportation

About the job

Nature of work:

Heavy equipment operators operate heavy equipment used in the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, airports, gas and oil pipelines, tunnels, buildings and other structures; in surface mining and quarrying activities; and in material handling work. They are employed by construction companies, heavy equipment contractors, public works departments and pipeline, logging, cargo-handling and other companies.

Job duties:
such as backhoes, bulldozers, loaders and graders to excavate, move, load and grade earth, rock, gravel or other materials during construction and related activities.
  • Operate bulldozers or other heavy equipment to clear brush and stumps prior to logging activities and to build roads at logging and surface mining sites.
  • Operate heavy equipment with pile driver head to drive piling into earth to provide support for buildings, bridges or other structures.
  • Operate heavy dredging equipment to deepen waterways or reclaim earth fill.
  • Operate heavy paving and surfacing equipment to lay, spread or compact concrete, asphalt and other surface materials during highway and road construction.
  • Operate power shovels to excavate rock, ore or other materials from open-pit mines, strip mines, quarries or construction pits.
  • Operate heavy equipment to move, load and unload cargo.
  • Conduct pre-operational checks on equipment and clean, lubricate and refill equipment.
Sample job titles:
  • asphalt-paving machine operator
  • backhoe operator
  • construction equipment operator
  • dozer operator
  • excavator operator
  • heavy equipment operator
  • heavy-duty equipment operator
  • road grader operator

To work in these jobs, you should have good health, physical stamina, and strength. Agility, coordination, and a mechanical aptitude would be helpful. You must also be able to take direction and carry out instructions given by supervisors.

Job requirements:
  • Some secondary school education is required.
  • Completion of a one- to two-year apprenticeship program or some high school, college or industry courses in heavy equipment operating combined with on-the-job training are required.
  • Internal company certification may be required by some employers.
  • Red Seal Endorsement (RSE) is also available to qualified Heavy Equipment Operators (Dozer, Excavator and Tractor-Loader-Backhoe) upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination.
Other considerations:

Work in these jobs tends to be seasonal, with employment usually peaking in the summer months and declining during the winter months. Progression to supervisory positions is possible with experience.

Labour Market Information

Work Prospects:Fair

The employment outlook over the next few years for this occupational group is “average”, which indicates the chances of a qualified individual finding work is comparable to the average for all occupations in Nova Scotia. This is a fairly large occupation in Nova Scotia so job opportunities occur fairly regularly. The number employed in this occupation is expected to decline moderately over the next few years, which will likely limit the number of new opportunities available. With a large percent of workers being 55 years of age and older, retirements are expected to be a key contributor to employment opportunities over the coming years. Heavy Equipment Operators (except Crane) most commonly work full-time hours. Furthermore, the jobs may either be permanent or temporary positions, as both are common. With employment conditions being seasonal in nature, periods of downtime or layoff throughout the year are fairly common. Also, a fair portion of the workforce is self-employed, so having the option to "work for yourself" may appeal to some individuals’ interests/motivations.

The median employment income for 42% of Heavy Equipment Operators (except Crane) who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $53,931. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, 59% of those who worked full-time year round had a median employment income of $43,600.
(Source: 2016 Census)

OccupationEstimated employment in 2018Estimated change in employment between 2017 and 2019Estimated openings due to growth and retirements, 2017-2019Estimated rate of unemployment in 2018 Estimated hourly earnings in 2015 (learn more)Estimated annual earnings in 2015
Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane)2,345decline80Moderate
Minimum: $16.00
Median: $21.88
Maximum: $25.22
Minimum: $12,360
Median: $44,588
Maximum: $86,172
Occupations in Trades and Transportation57,925Decline slightly3,400High
Minimum: $13.00
Median: $20.35
Maximum: $34.00
Minimum: $7,580
Median: $37,269
Maximum: $79,787
Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane)Compared to: Occupations in Trades and Transportation
Percent employed full-time94%89%
Percent self-employed19%13%
Where will I likely work?
Area of EmploymentHeavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane)Compared to: All NS Occupations
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Cape Breton23%$41,03113%$32,974
Annapolis Valley19%$36,97013%$32,958
What are the workers like?
AgeHeavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane)Compared to: All Trades and Transportation
% Employed% Employed
Median Age4747
GenderHeavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane)Compared to: Occupations in Trades and Transportation
% Employed% Employed
EducationHeavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane)Compared to: All Trades and Transportation
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Less than high school28.6%$38,78218.2%$25,753
High school29.7%$45,78025.5%$28,089
Trades certificate24.3%$46,23329.4%$40,890
College certificate or diploma15.9%$45,82622.6%$39,023
University certificate or diploma1.0%$47,9201.0%$35,969
Bachelor's degree0.5%x2.7%$36,972
University advanced certificate or diplomaxx0.2%$41,705
Master's degreexx0.3%x
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary, optometryxx0.0%$3,714
Wage Disclaimer

Hourly earnings data are from the Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada. Data are not available for all occupations. Hourly earnings are calculated based on usual hours worked per week. This is how an annual salary, for instance, gets converted to an hourly rate. The data include full and part-time workers along with new and experienced workers. Self-employed workers are excluded.

Annual employment income data reported in the Work Prospects section, are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. Much of the data (around 70%) came directly from tax records. The data relates to the year 2010 and includes total wages and salaries and net income from self-employment.


Employment Requirements & Contacts

Heavy Equipment Operators
Certificate of Qualification (Voluntary):This job is a designated trade in Nova Scotia. Employers may require certification, however, a certificate is not needed to legally work in this job.
Regulating body:
Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency
2021 Brunswick Street, PO Box 578
Halifax, NS B3J 2S9
(800) 494-5651
(902) 424-0717
Useful contacts:
BuildForce Canada
220 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 1150
Ottawa, ON K1P 5Z9
Tel: (613) 569-5552
Fax: (613) 569-1220
Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council
10 Ragged Lake Blvd. Unit 1
Halifax, NS B3S 1C2
Tel: (902) 832-4761
Fax: (902) 832-4763
Red Seal
c/o Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency PO Box 578
Halifax, B3J 2S9
Tel: (902) 424-5651
Fax: (902) 424-0717

Training Paths & Education

Program Name:Adult high school/secondary diploma programs
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the high school level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that defines the prescribed requirements, specified by the appropriate jurisdiction, for the completion of and graduation from a secondary school program of academic subject matter offered for adult learners outside of the regular secondary school program. This does not include adult compensatory education programs resulting in completion of a high school equivalency certificate or diploma.
See all institutions providing this program+
Universite Sainte-Anne
Siège Social: 1695, Route 1
Pointe-de-l'Église, NS B0W 1M0
(902) 769-2114
Nova Scotia Community College - Annapolis Valley Campus
50 Elliott Road
Lawrencetown, NS B0S 1M0
(902) 825-3491
Nova Scotia Community College - Cumberland Campus
PO Box 550, 1 Main Street
Springhill, NS B0M 1X0
(902) 597-3737
Nova Scotia Community College - Akerley Campus
21 Woodlawn Road
Dartmouth, NS B2W 2R7
(902) 491-4900
Nova Scotia Community College - Burridge Campus
372 Pleasant Street
Yarmouth, NS B5A 2L2
(902) 742-3501
Nova Scotia Community College - Kingstec Campus
236 Belcher Street
Kentville, NS B4N 0A6
(902) 678-7341
Nova Scotia Community College - Lunenburg Campus
75 High Street
Bridgewater, NS B4V 1V8
(902) 543-4608
Nova Scotia Community College - Institute of Technology Campus
5685 Leeds Street
Halifax, NS B3K 2T3
(902) 491-6722
Nova Scotia Community College - Pictou Campus & School of Fisheries
PO Box 820, 39 Acadia Avenue
Stellarton, NS B0K 1S0
(902) 752-2002
Nova Scotia Community College - Shelburne Campus
PO Box 760, 1575 Lake Road
Shelburne, NS B0T 1W0
(902) 875-8640
Nova Scotia Community College - Strait Area Campus & Nautical Institute
226 Reeves Street
Port Hawkesbury, NS B9A 2A2
(902) 625-2380
Nova Scotia Community College - Marconi Campus
PO Box 1042, 1240 Grand Lake Road
Sydney, NS B1P 6J7
(902) 563-2450
Nova Scotia Community College - Truro Campus
36 Arthur Street
Truro, NS B2N 1X5
(902) 893-5385
Program Name:Construction/heavy equipment/earthmoving equipment operation
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the trades/college level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that prepares individuals to apply technical knowledge and skills to operate and maintain a variety of heavy equipment, such as crawler tractors, motor graders and scrapers, shovels, rigging devices, hoists, and jacks. These programs include courses in digging, ditching, sloping, stripping, grading, and backfilling, clearing and excavating.
See all institutions providing this program+
McKenzie College
74 Townsend Street
Sydney, NS B1P 5C8
(902) 562-8549
Maritime Environmental Training Institute
301 Alexandra Street
Sydney, NS B1S 2E8
(902) 539-9766
Commercial Safety College
Highway #2, Masstown PO Box 848
Truro, NS B2N 5G6
(902) 662-2190
Nova Scotia Community College - Strait Area Campus & Nautical Institute
226 Reeves Street
Port Hawkesbury, NS B9A 2A2
(902) 625-2380
Apprenticeship Training
Department of Labour and Advanced Education 2021 Brunswick Street, PO Box 578
Halifax, NS B3J 2S9
(800) 494-5651
Operating Engineers Investment Limited
251 Brownlow Avenue
Dartmouth, NS B3B 2A9
(902) 865-8844
South Shore Training Centre
320 Logan Road
Bridgewater, NS B4V 5J8
(902) 521-2443
Dexter Institute
927 Rocky Lake Dr, Po Box 48100
Bedford, NS B4A 3Z2
(902) 832-6391
Additional resources: