Operating Engineers


Employment Prospects


Construction equipment operators and other construction equipment operators hold approximately 405,750 jobs in the United States. They work for contractors who build highways, dams, airports, skyscrapers, buildings, and other large-scale projects. They also are employed by utility companies, manufacturers, factories, mines, steel mills, and other firms that do their own construction work. Many work for state and local public works and highway departments.

Operating engineers are found in all parts of the United States where new construction projects are underway. States with the highest number of jobs in this occupation, in descending order of employment, are Texas, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. States with the greatest concentration of operating engineers within a given location compared to the national average are Wyoming, West Virginia, Alaska, North Dakota, and Montana. The metropolitan areas with the greatest number of employed operating engineers include Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas; New York-Jersey City-White Plains, New York-New Jersey; Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas; Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Georgia; and Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota-Wisconsin.

Starting Out

Once apprentices complete their training, their names are put on a list; as positions open up, they are filled in order from the list of available workers. People who do not complete an apprenticeship program may apply directly to manufacturers, utilities, or contractors who employ operating engineers for entry-level jobs as machine operator's helpers.

Advancement Prospects

Some operating engineers (generally those with above-average ability and interest, as well as good working habits) advance to job supervisor and occasionally construction supervisor or manager. Some are able to qualify for higher pay by training themselves to operate more complicated machines.

Tips for Entry

In high school, consider taking a course in auto mechanics if it is available, since operative engineers may often do maintenance on their machines.

Investigate apprentice opportunities for different construction equipment operators by going to the International Union of Operative Engineers Web site (https://www.iuoe.org).

Visit the program resources section of the NCCER's Web site for various publications and projects  on the construction industry: https://www.nccer.org/workforce-development-programs.