How to Become an Excavator


Are you looking for a career with potential? Maybe it’s time to investigate how to become an excavator.

An excavator is one of many pieces of heavy construction equipment that is put to good use every day throughout the world. It consists of a boom, dipper, bucket, and cab that sits on a rotating platform, also known as the house. The house has an undercarriage attached to either tracks or wheels to make it easy to move into place.

Think of an excavator as the digger on a job site. It’s really a mechanical shovel that can work in many ways. You’ll find excavators used in:

• Digging trenches and holes
• Handling and moving materials
• Forestry work
• Construction
• Demolition
• General grading
• Landscaping
• Mining
• River dredging
• Drilling shafts for footings
• Snow removal
• And more

With so many possibilities, there will always be an opportunity if you choose to make this your career.

But, where do you begin?


Because you’ll be working with heavy machinery, age is the first requirement. No one under the age of 18 is allowed to operate heavy machinery under federal law.

Like other jobs, most employers look for a high school diploma or its equivalent. Many start the process in high school by taking courses in mechanics, science, or computer science. They show a general interest and are mechanically inclined.

A driver’s license is required for all excavator operator positions, and some employers will also require a commercial driver’s license. Requirements vary by state and by job. Some employers may also prefer that a worker hold industry certifications related to the equipment they operate.

While a lot of what you learn will come from on the job experience, the more skills you have to put on an application, the more you’ll stand out.

You can also gain experience before your first job by focusing in on your education.


For some employers, a high school diploma and a desire to work in the field is all it takes. But for most, they will give preferential treatment to those who have taken the steps necessary to be fully trained.

If you want to become an excavator operator, going to a school that offers full training on every aspect of the machinery can give you an added benefit to putting you ahead of the competition. It can show that you’re not just doing this until the next job comes along. You have every intention of making this your full-time career.

Our Heavy Equipment Operator Training course, for example, gives you valuable instruction as well as hands-on training. You’re taught things like workplace safety, project layout, basic surveying, and civil engineering concepts in a classroom environment. Then we spend an equal amount of time out in the field, helping you understand how to operate heavy machinery safely and efficiently to ensure proper operating techniques and maintenance skills.

Important Qualities

Of course, it takes more than a certificate to be good at this job. If your goal is to make this a career and you’re wondering if you have the right skillset even before you enter a training program consider these qualities that most excavators will need.

Unafraid of heights – construction involves all kinds of projects at all kinds of job sites. As an excavator, you might be up and down, climbing to very tall heights. If this sounds unnerving, it may not be the job for you.

Physical strength – this is a position that will require a lot of heavy lifting. You should easily be able to pick up 50 pounds or more and move it with ease.

Mechanical skills – not only do excavator operators operate their machinery, they often maintain it too. If you enjoy working with power tools and are mechanically inclined, this may be the job for you.

Coordination – operating heavy machinery takes diligence to ensure safety. This means having a steady grip, being in control in tight spaces, and feeling comfortable under many different work and weather environments.

How to Find a Job

Once you decide this is the field for you, it’ll take more than getting the right credentials to find the perfect job. Understanding how to become an excavator also means you’ll need to know where to look for a job. And thanks to the internet, you may find this process a little easier.

Even before you start your first class or fill out your first application, spend some time researching online. Start looking at where the jobs are that interest you most. Pay specific attention to the job descriptions – what do they consider important in their final hires? This can give you a heads up before you start your training.

Have you always dreamed of working in a forest? Look at current job postings to better understand what the positions entail. Do you prefer the hustle and bustle of working in a large metropolis? Find jobs that are in the heart of the city.

A recent search on the job board Indeed listed excavator positions that were looking for these skills:

• Work in adherence to safe practices and procedures
• Complete work projects on time and in an effective manner
• Grease, oil, and perform minor repairs
• Perform daily inspections and maintenance evaluations
• Operate excavator safely and efficiently while moving materials
• Maintain load counts
• Heavy lifting with repeated stooping, carrying, and bending
• Must have quick reaction times

Employers give preferential treatment to those who have proven skills. Whether you gain those through employment or through the education process, proving you have what it takes is what employers want to see before you’re hired.

You can use sites like Indeed or SimplyHired. You can put up a profile on LinkedIn and use the network to find the right connections. Don’t forget about Google – typing in “excavator” along with keywords for your particular areas of interest can often find opportune results. You can even focus in on particular companies – they often have jobs sections built right into their websites.

And, if you select West Coast Training as your training school, our team will work with you to help find job placements in the location where you want a job.

Take the Next Step Today

Are you ready for a career change? If you’ve done enough research into how to become an excavator and you’re excited about the potential, take the next step now.

Fill out our online form or give us a call. We’ll answer all of your questions and provide you with the necessary steps to get you started. You can even take our online quiz to find out where your strengths are.

We keep our classes small to ensure you receive the very best in training, both in the classroom and out in the field. You’ll be taught by people who have been in the industry for years and really know their stuff.

It’s time to jumpstart your career. What are you waiting for?