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Dredge Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Operates dredge to remove sand, gravel, or other materials from lakes, rivers or streams; and to excavate and maintain navigable channels in waterways.

This career is part of the Architecture and Construction cluster Construction pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Moves levers to position dredges for excavation, to engage hydraulic pumps, to raise and lower suction booms, and to control rotation of cutterheads.
  • Starts and stops engines to operate equipment.
  • Starts power winches that draw in or let out cables to change positions of dredges, or pull in and let out cables manually.
  • Pumps water to clear machinery pipelines.
  • Lowers anchor poles to verify depths of excavations, using winches, or scans depth gauges to determine depths of excavations.
  • Directs or assists workers placing shore anchors and cables, laying additional pipes from dredges to shore, and pumping water from pontoons.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Judging how far away an object is, or which of several objects is closer or farther away
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Detecting sounds and hearing the differences between sounds of different pitch and loudness
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Crane Operator -- Operates cranes or draglines to lift, move, position or place machinery, equipment and other large objects at construction or industrial sites, ports, railway yards, surface mines and other similar locations.
  • Dredge Captain -- Commands vessel equipped with machinery for excavating under water to facilitate building structures in harbors, estuaries, straits, sounds, rivers, lakes, bays, and oceans.