CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 28, 2014
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How to Become an Agricultural Equipment Operator in the US

The status of agriculture as the backbone of many countries makes it one of the most lucrative industries to work in. The industry has numerous kinds of careers you can join. You can become an agricultural equipment operator if you have what it takes. Here are the qualities and skills you need to perform the duties for this job competently.

What Does an Agricultural Equipment Operator Do

The duties you will typically perform as an agricultural equipment operator are:

  • Mixing specified materials into planter or sprayer machinery
  • Operating tractors, irrigation equipment, combines and other machinery used in agricultural production
  • Loading containers, hoppers or conveyors to feed machines using forklifts, suction gates, shovels, transfer augers or pitchforks
  • Adjusting mechanisms on machinery
  • Operating towed equipment, such as seed drills and manure spreaders for fertilizing, dusting, planting, and spraying crops
  • Supervising and guiding workers engaged in weeding, planting or harvesting activities
  • Inserting plants in planter machines at specified times
  • Servicing and repairing farm machinery
  • Notifying superiors when malfunctions in machines arise
  • Regulating the flow of products through machines by guiding them on conveyors
  • Discarding rotten or diseased products
  • Irrigating soil and maintain pipes and pumps or ditches
  • Catching products, removing and closing full containers at the end of discharge machines
  • Controlling insects, weed growth, fungus and diseases by spray pesticide or fertilizer solutions
  • Weighing and recording weights and other identifying information on harvested crops
  • Using bolts and hand tools to attach farm implements such as discs, sprayers, plows, or harvesters to tractors
  • Transporting supplies, tools, crops or farm workers on trucks
  • Loading and unloading crops or materials using machines such as hand trucks, conveyors, forklifts, or transfer augers

Qualifications

To qualify for employment as an agricultural equipment operator, you may need the following qualifications:

  • High school diploma. You should get instruction in science, agriculture, machine shop and mathematics
  • Excellent driving skills
  • In some states certification such as the Tractor and Farm Machinery increase job prospects
  • You can get a certificate in agriculture equipment operation to gain competitive advantage over other job seekers. Courses in the certificate program may include subjects such as hydraulics, construction technology, mathematics, diesel mechanics, welding and equipment operations.
  • Experience in operation and maintenance of agricultural equipment
  • On-the-job training

Additional Skill/ abilities

Having the following skills can help you perform at your best:

  • Far vision to enable you see distant details clearly
  • Manual dexterity to help you manipulate or assemble objects
  • Hearing sensitivity to enhance detection of varying sound loudness and pitch
  • Stamina and flexibility to enable long-term physical exertion without being out of breath
  • Good oral expression to communicate information for others to understand

Salary

The following table represents various hourly wage rates for agricultural equipment operators in May 2013:

Entry Level

 

$12.58 per hour

Mid Career

 

$18.26

Successful

 

$22.44

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work Environment

Being an equipment operator requires determination and hard work. Thanks to advanced technology, equipment has made the work easier than before. However, you still have to grapple with dusty and dirty environments characteristic of farms and oily machinery. Working with machines can also be risky if you lose concentration. Physical exhaustion and sweating are common in this industry because you will have to carry agricultural materials and heavy farm equipment and load or unload them onto trucks.

Career Prospects

From 2012 and 2022, employment of agricultural equipment operators should increase by 4 percent. You will find frequent job openings because of a relatively high turnover rate. Therefore, you can easily switch jobs if the current one is not fulfilling enough.

If you enjoy working outdoors and with machines, becoming an agricultural equipment operator could be the job for you.

Image Source: Farm-equipment.com

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