Agricultural Equipment Operator: Job Description and Requirements

Agriculture equipment operators work with many different types of farm machinery that are used to help with soil preparation, crop planting, harvesting and crop processing. Mechanical skills and aptitude are needed to drive hay balers, rake operators, tractors, cutters and other farm equipment.

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Job Description

Agriculture equipment operators are involved in farming processes such as tilling, planting seeds, fertilizing plants and harvesting crops. These seasonal workers drive or operate machines such as raking equipment, threshers, combines, tractors, loading machines, dryers and balers. Operators can also be in charge of maintenance and repair of the machinery they operate. Most of these equipment operators are employed by farming operations. Other employers may include manufacturers of pesticides and fertilizers, scientific organizations and government agencies.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for operators should increase by four percent between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). This is slower-than-average growth, but turnover rates are relatively high in this occupation, so there are frequent job openings within the industry.

The BLS also reported that the median hourly pay of agriculture equipment operators in May 2013 was $12.58 per hour. Operators employed by farms involved in sugar and confectionary product manufacturing earned the most, averaging $22.44 per hour. The highest paying state for agriculture equipment operators was Ohio, with an average hourly wage of $18.26 per hour in May 2013, according to the BLS.

Requirements

To work as an agriculture equipment operator requires physical coordination, decision-making ability, mechanical aptitude and driving skills. Although not always required, a high school diploma may help find employment. High school instruction in science, machine shop, agriculture, mathematics and driver education helps develop skills needed for this job, along with participation in high school development organizations such as the Future Farmers of America (FFA) or 4-H. In some states, 4-H offers the Tractor and Farm Machinery Operator Certification (www.4-h.org).

Some colleges offer certificate programs in agriculture equipment operation. These programs may include equipment maintenance in addition to operations training. Certificate programs take about a year to complete, and include courses in subjects such as hydraulics, mathematics, welding, construction technology, diesel mechanics and equipment operations. These certificate programs often combine classroom instruction and hands-on experience in equipment operation and maintenance.

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  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Agriculture
      • Legal Research and Professional Studies
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Agriculture
      • Dental
      • Medical and Health Preparatory Sciences
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Public Health and Safety
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    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Agriculture
      • Dental
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Ethics and Bioethics
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Mental Health Services
      • Nursing Professions
      • Public Health and Safety
      • Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Sciences
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    • Rhode Island (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Agriculture
      • Medical Ethics and Bioethics
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Public Health and Safety
  • School locations:
    • North Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Agriculture
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Notre Dame include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Agriculture
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
  • School locations:
    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Georgetown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Agriculture
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
  • School locations:
    • Tennessee (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Agriculture
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Nursing Professions
      • Public Health and Safety
  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Florida include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Agriculture
      • Agricultural Business
      • Animal Science
      • Food Sciences and Technologies
      • Plant Science
      • Soil Science
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    • New York (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Cornell University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Agriculture
      • Agricultural Business
      • Animal Science
      • Food Sciences and Technologies
      • Horticulture
      • Plant Science

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