A backhoe operator drives and manipulates the bucket of a backhoe to dig and move dirt, sand, gravel or a combination of these materials. He may also operate similar earth-moving or construction equipment as part of his job or have expertise exclusive to backhoes. His job may require coordinating excavation efforts with other drivers and operators, or he may work alone.
To be effective in his job, a backhoe operator must be able to interpret stakes and signage on the land. These indicators typically convey the perimeter of the area to be excavated and the desired depth of the hole. He must have the agility to control the backhoe and bucket to get the job done in a safe and timely manner. If multiple tasks are involved, time management and planning skills are required.
A job foreman or project supervisor normally instructs a backhoe operator on the details of the task at hand. The operator is typically told the project deadline as well as what other operators and equipment will be involved. If there are special considerations like underground water and electrical or cable systems to be considered, the backhoe operator is expected to work around the obstacles to avoid damage. The operator is expected to follow strict safety guidelines when using the backhoe to prevent harming others or himself.
Operating a backhoe and its bucket requires good upper body strength and overall physical agility. The ability to move heavy objects is often required to remove rocks and debris from job sites. Backhoe operators are frequently expected to work in rain and snow, so overall good health is required to withstand wind and precipitation. Overtime may be required to meet project deadlines.
No solid formal education is required for this job, although most employers require job seekers to be able to read, write and understand English. The employer generally provides training in backhoe operations, or it's done at state or locally sanctioned facilities that specialize in industrial and construction job training. Some companies require backhoe operators to have certifications from professional organizations attesting to the skills and safety training of the applicant.
Salary and Advancement Opportunities
Advancement opportunities for a backhoe operator are generally limited to becoming a site supervisor or foreman. These growth opportunities may be contingent on the operator obtaining additional certificates to operate different types of construction equipment. Based on information provided at MySalary, the median annual salary in 2009 for a backhoe operator in the United States was $48,335.