Becoming an Excavation Machine Technician: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as an excavation machine technician? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming an excavation machine technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Excavation Machine Technician

Excavation machine technicians fall under the broader career field of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment technicians. The following table outlines some of the pros and cons associated with this career.

Pros of Becoming an Excavation Machine Technician
Anticipated job growth (10% from 2012-2022)*
Significant education isn't required*
Higher mean salary for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment technicians than for all occupations ($49,000 in 2014)*
Can find work in a variety of industries, such as mining or construction*

Cons of Becoming an Excavation Machine Technician
Industry is sensitive to the economy*
Job can be physically demanding, requiring individuals to move materials**
Work may be less than full time during the winter months*
Long hours, including evening and weekend shifts*
Minor injuries, such as cuts and bruises can take place*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Excavation machine technicians are responsible for the repair and maintenance of excavation equipment, such as backhoes and bulldozers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), excavation machine technicians - part of the larger category of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment technicians and mechanics - may work for a variety of industries, including wholesalers, construction and the government. They may work on a construction site or in a maintenance facility, making repairs or performing routine diagnostic tests with computers to ensure that a machine is in proper working order. These processes may involve reading schematics, overhauling components, disassembling and reassembling equipment.

While some technicians may work with several types of equipment, others may specialize in a specific manufacturer, such as Caterpillar, through their employer or the training program they complete. Some jobs may require individuals to work in dangerous situations, such as mining. While the hours can be inconsistent due to seasonal and economic factors, work weeks may extend beyond 40 hours. You must be able to work in loud or chaotic environments.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS indicates that employment opportunities for mobile heavy equipment mechanics are expected to grow 10% from 2012-2022. The employment opportunities available to you may vary with factors like your experience level. While the mean salary for all occupations is around $47,000, the BLS reports that heavy equipment mechanics make closer to $49,000. In some states, this figure can be significantly higher. For example, Alaska had a mean annual wage of more than $64,000.

Both the salary and job outlook may vary depending on the specific field you wish to work in. The BLS reports that the largest employers of mobile heavy equipment mechanics were wholesalers, with nearly 33,000 employees in 2014. Many of the highest paying industries that the BLS listed, such as aerospace product and parts manufacturing ($65,000 in 2014), employed fewer than 200 heavy equipment technicians nationally. The increase in construction activity for homes roads, bridges and other structures may lead to an increase in jobs.

Job Requirements

The BLS reports that the minimum educational requirement for heavy equipment technicians is a high school diploma. While completing an educational program isn't necessary, it may reduce the on-the-job training that is required. Coursework in associate's degree programs may cover topics like engine fundamentals, fuel systems, transmissions and hydraulic systems. Excavation machine technicians must have strong mechanical aptitude with knowledge of electronic and hydraulic systems in addition to diesel engines and transmissions. You may consider programs that are accredited by Associated Equipment Distributors, an organization that sets national technical standards for technical education programs ( In addition to educational or training requirements, physical requirements, such as dexterity and the ability to lift a certain amount of weight, are typically required. According to the BLS, the skills you will need for this career include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Good visual and listening abilities
  • Effective communication
  • Ability to work in loud environments
  • Ability to learn new technology and maintenance techniques

Job Postings from Real Employers

While a particular degree or training program isn't required, some excavation machine technician positions may have specific requirements. The BLS indicates that entry-level workers may begin their careers performing minor repairs. Employers may prefer individuals with 2 or more years of experience, as well as experience with specific mechanisms, such as hydraulics. The following job listings were posted in April 2012:

  • A transportation company in Chicago is looking to hire a field equipment mechanic/operator. This individual must be efficient at generating computer reports and have good troubleshooting skills. Experience in the diagnosis and repair of various forms of heavy equipment is required.
  • A Louisiana engineering and construction-based firm seeks an experienced mechanic to make repairs on both light and heavy vehicles. This is a shop position in which the individual will work under a supervisor. Both a high school education and basic computer skills are required.
  • A North Carolina steel company is seeking someone to fill their mechanical maintenance lead position. This individual will be responsible for making repairs, as well as developing and overseeing other maintenance personnel. A minimum of 2 years of mechanical equipment maintenance, along with experience with systems like hydraulics and construction is required.

How to Stand out


For heavy equipment technicians, the BLS indicates that most employers prefer individuals who have completed some form of post-secondary training. Some colleges offer technician programs, leading to an associate's degree or certificate, that are geared toward a specific equipment manufacturer. These programs combine coursework with labs that allow you to gain hands-on experience with the equipment. While enrolled in a program, you learn about hydraulics, engines and computer-assisted technology. You may be required to complete an internship as part of these programs.


You may also consider an apprenticeship program, which combines classroom time with extensive on-the-job training. While learning on the job, apprentices are paid a percentage of journeyman-level wages, which increases as they advance through the program. Apprenticeships usually take several years to complete. The Oregon Apprenticeship and Training Division indicates that apprenticeships may lead to advanced positions (


You can also consider earning certifications that may be beneficial toward a career as excavation machine technician. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence reports that certifications can improve your skills and knowledge with new technology in an area related to excavation technology ( One possible option is the Excavation, Trenching and Underground Construction Safety Technician Certification offered by the National Association of Safety Professionals ( Safety certification doesn't fall within the typical scope of a mechanic's job description; however, the BLS states that certifications can demonstrate competence and may lead to higher pay.

Other Careers You May Consider

Mechanical Engineering Technician

If you are more interested in the development of machinery than actually using it, you may consider a career as a mechanical engineering technician. These professionals assist engineers with the development and testing of equipment, including industrial machinery. They may help in the creation of a new product or modify existing ones for improved performance. According to the BLS, most positions require some form of postsecondary training, such as an associate's degree. In May 2011, the BLS indicated that the median annual wage for these individuals was $51,000, but the employment opportunities were expected to grow just 4% from 2010-2020.

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Automotive service technicians and mechanics service cars and trucks. The education requirements for this career are similar to an excavation machine technician, with a high school diploma and on-the-job training typically required. Unlike excavation machine technicians, these individuals primarily work in shops. In May 2011, the BLS indicated that automotive service technicians and mechanics earn a median annual salary of around $36,000 and are expected to see a 17% increase in the number of job opportunities from 2010-2020.

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