Heavy Equipment Operators (except Crane)

(NOC 7521)

in All Trades and Transportation

Heavy equipment operators use heavy equipment to construct and maintain roads, bridges, airports, gas and oil pipelines, tunnels, buildings, and other structures, in surface mining and quarrying activities, and in material handling work. They work for construction companies, heavy equipment contractors, public works departments and pipeline, logging, cargo-handling and other companies.

Job Outlook

Average

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  • Estimate Decline employment change, 2019-2021
  • Estimate 80 openings due to growth and retirements, 2018-2020
  • Estimate Moderate rate of unemployment in 2019

Compared to: All Trades and Transportation

  • Estimate 205 employment change, 2019-2021
  • Estimate 4385 openings due to growth and retirements, 2018-2020
  • Estimate rate of unemployment not available for these occupation.

Many heavy equipment operators were unemployed in April, indicating that widespread temporary layoffs occurred in the wake of the Health Protection Act Order. By June, however, many of these workers were back on the job.

Several major construction projects have increased the demand for heavy equipment operators. These include four 100-series highway expansion projects (twinning and new construction) and the redevelopment of health-care facilities in Halifax and Cape Breton. Additionally, there are several smaller hospital and school construction projects underway throughout the province as well as multi-unit residential and non-residential private structures in Halifax. Employment prospects in this occupation—which are already good—are expected to improve even further as demand continues to increase in 2021. Jobseekers with less experience stand to benefit as employers may need to compete for labour amid shortage conditions.

The median employment income for the 41% of Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane) who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $53,931. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, the 59% of those who worked full-time, year-round had a median employment income of $43,600. (Source: 2016 Census)

Hourly Pay

$17.00

Minimum

$21.67

Median

$32.00

Maximum

Annual Pay

$12,360

Minimum

$44,588

Median

$86,172

Maximum

Compared to: All Trades and Transportation

Hourly Pay

$13.50

Minimum

$27.25

Median

$35.50

Maximum

Annual Pay

$7,580

Minimum

$37,269

Median

$79,787

Maximum

About the job

Nature of work

Heavy equipment operators use heavy equipment to construct and maintain roads, bridges, airports, gas and oil pipelines, tunnels, buildings, and other structures, in surface mining and quarrying activities, and in material handling work. They work for construction companies, heavy equipment contractors, public works departments and pipeline, logging, cargo-handling and other companies.

Job duties

Heavy equipment operators:

  • Use heavy equipment like backhoes, bulldozers, loaders, and graders to excavate, move, load and grade earth, rock, gravel or other materials during construction and related activities.
  • Use bulldozers or other heavy equipment to clear brush and stumps prior to logging activities and to build roads at logging and surface mining sites.
  • Use heavy equipment with pile driver head to drive piling into earth to provide support for buildings, bridges, or other structures.
  • Use heavy dredging equipment to deepen waterways or reclaim earth fill.
  • Use heavy paving and surfacing equipment to lay, spread or compact concrete, asphalt and other surface materials during highway and road construction.
  • Use power shovels to excavate rock, ore or other materials from open-pit mines, strip mines, quarries, or construction pits.
  • Use heavy equipment to move, load and unload cargo.
  • Complete 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

Skills

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 high school education is required.
  • 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.

By the numbers

Quick look

3,205

employed in 2016

92.0%

employed full-time

6.9%

self employed

2.2%
Icons/female Created with Sketch.
97.8%
Icons/male Created with Sketch.
47.2

median age

Compared to: All Trades and Transportation

57,925

employed in 2016

85.9%

employed full-time

11.8%

self employed

5.3%
Icons/female Created with Sketch.
94.7%
Icons/male Created with Sketch.
46.8

median age

Where will I likely work?

22.8%

North Shore

22.8%

Cape Breton

19.4%

Annapolis Valley

18.8%

Halifax

16.3%

Southern

Compared to: All NS Occupations

47.0%

Halifax

15.6%

North Shore

12.9%

Annapolis Valley

12.7%

Cape Breton

11.8%

Southern

Top Industries of Employment

59.2%

Construction

10.3%

Public administration

6.9%

Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction

5.6%

Manufacturing

4.7%

Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services

What is the age of Employment?

26.0%

45-54

20.0%

55-64

19.0%

35-44

17.0%

25-34

9.0%

65+

8.0%

15-24

Compared to: All Trades and Transportation

24.4%

45-54

22.1%

55-64

17.7%

35-44

17.7%

25-34

10.9%

15-24

Top levels of education

29.5%

High school

$47,739 median annual income
28.8%

Less than high school

$39,682 median annual income
24.4%

Trade Certification

$47,244 median annual income
16.1%

College Diploma

$46,187 median annual income
0.9%

Diploma Below Bachelor

$47,920 median annual income

Compared to: All Trades and Transportation

29.2%

Trade Certification

$46,494 median annual income
25.5%

High school

$31,260 median annual income
22.3%

College Diploma

$42,050 median annual income
18.7%

Less than high school

$28,319 median annual income
2.8%

Bachelor

$30,527 median annual income

Education & training

Adult High School Diploma or Equivalent

High School Program

The Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning (NSSAL) administers, coordinates, and supports the development and delivery of adult education programs through learning partners in Nova Scotia. Our learning partners include the Nova Scotia Community College, Adult High Schools, Université Sainte-Anne, and community-based learning organizations that offer tuition-free programming across the province. NSSAL offers clear, accessible pathways from adult basic education to a high school credential or GED, empowering Nova Scotians to achieve their learning and employment goals.

Institutions providing this program

Universite Sainte-Anne

Pointe-de-l'Église, NS

Nova Scotia Community College - Adult Learning

Various, NS

Adult High Schools

Various, NS

Community Learning Organizations

Various, NS

Construction/Heavy Equipment/Earthmoving Equipment Operation

College or Trades Program

These programs prepare students to apply technical knowledge and skills to operate and maintain a variety of heavy equipment like crawler tractors, motor graders and scrapers, shovels, rigging devices, hoists, and jacks. They include courses in digging, ditching, sloping, stripping, grading, and backfilling, clearing and excavating.

Institutions providing this program

Maritime Environmental Training Institute

Sydney, NS

Commercial Safety College

Truro, NS

Nova Scotia Community College - Strait Area Campus & Nautical Institute

Port Hawkesbury, NS

Apprenticeship Training

Halifax, NS

Operating Engineers Training Institute of Nova Scotia

Falmouth, NS

Dexter Institute

Bedford, NS

Employment requirements & contacts

Regulations

Heavy Equipment Operators

Certificate of Qualification (Voluntary): This is a designated trade in Nova Scotia. Employers may require certification, but a certificate is not needed to legally do this work.

Regulating body:
Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency
1256 Barrington Street, 3rd Fl, Box 578
Halifax, NS B3J 2S9
(800) 494-5651

Contacts

BuildForce Canada
Ottawa, ON
Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council
Halifax, NS

Additional resources

There are no additional resources for this occupation.