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What is an Excavating Contractor? Definition, Duties & Job Outlook


Posted on January 3rd, 2023

What is an Excavating Contractor? Definition, Duties & Job Outlook.

Before you can start building, you need to prepare the jobsite. That’s where excavating contractors come in.

Learn about the roles, responsibilities, and average salaries of excavation experts in construction, and see how they use software to streamline safety and project management. 

What is an excavating contractor?

Excavating contractors remove large amounts of rock and soil to prepare a jobsite for construction. They may use a combination of tools, heavy machinery, and explosives to create space to safely build structures and mechanical systems.

What does an excavation contractor do?

Excavating contractor skills.

Excavation is much more than just digging holes. The most common responsibilities of excavating contractors are:

  • Project planning

  • Site preparation

  • Excavation

  • Safety management

Project planning

Many different factors dictate the best method of excavation for a project, including the project’s end functionality, the need for grading, environmental concerns, soil composition—the list goes on. 

Before work starts, excavating contractors will review the project specifications in detail and closely survey the future jobsite to develop an appropriate plan. 

Site preparation

Before the actual excavation begins, excavating contractors may clear the jobsite of debris and vegetation or set up guides and markers.


Once the jobsite is prepared, excavating contractors will carry out the excavation. They’ll remove rock, soil, and other materials according to plan using tools like spades and pickaxes, machinery like excavators and trenchers, or explosive materials.

In addition to removing rock and soil, excavating contractors may need to perform grading to make sure the ground is level, or they may need to compact the leftover soil. They may also need to dig drainage ditches or clear space for utilities. 

Safety management

Because they work with potentially hazardous materials and equipment, excavating contractors need to take safety seriously. Safety management is a crucial part of the job.

Excavating contractors consistently monitor for risks on the jobsite and often complete daily reports and work logs to document safety procedures. 

Becoming a excavating contractor

If you're interested in becoming an excavating contractor, here’s an introduction to the basic skills and training requirements.


Excavating contractors are specialized construction professionals. If you want to work in the excavation field, you’ll need to develop a core set of skills.

Attention to detail

In the preconstruction stage, excavating contractors practice good attention to detail when surveying the jobsite and reviewing project specifications. Any one factor can affect the excavation plan substantially.

Then, during excavation, they’ll need to follow that plan exactly as intended.


Constant awareness in the field prevents accidents and injuries, especially when excavating contractors are working in high traffic areas. Staying alert helps keep you and others safer. 


Good communication is essential in construction, and excavation is no exception. Excavating contractors collaborate with fellow team members, general contractors, customers, and other third-party stakeholders on a daily basis.

Fine motor skills

As an excavating contractor, you may work with volatile materials and operate complex machinery. Developing fine motor skills makes these tasks easier.

Physical strength and endurance

Excavating contractors may also use hand tools and lift heavy materials and equipment, most always working outdoors in a variety of weather conditions. You should have the physical strength and endurance to do so without putting yourself at risk.

Training & Education

Excavating contractors are often trained on the job as a part of an apprenticeship. As long as you have a high school diploma, no other education is typically required to be hired at entry-level and paired with more experienced workers who will teach you about the excavation process, including tools and equipment.

However, the Occupational Health and Safety Association (OSHA) does offer several training courses on excavation to build a better knowledge base to get started or to grow your career if you’re already working in construction. You can register for OSHA courses at many different educational facilities across the U.S.

Licensing Requirements

You’ll likely need a license to operate as an excavating contractor, both as an individual and as an excavation contracting business. The exact requirements vary from state to state.

To obtain a license, you may need to fill out a form or application, take a test, or pay a fee.

Consult your state’s labor department for more information.


As of December 20223, PayScale reports that the national average base salary for excavation contractors is $70,000 a year. 

ZipRecruiter reports a much lower national average at $45,248, or a rate of $22/hr. This may include many entry-level positions however, as lists the median yearly pay for an Excavating and Construction Equipment Operator IV as $78,500.

The actual earning potential for excavating contractors will depend on experience, specialization, and location.

Job Outlook

With many construction companies struggling to find staff and a lack of skilled laborers on the job market, becoming an excavating contractor can be a wise career investment.

From 2022 to 2032, overall employment in construction and extraction occupations are predicted to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations, with 646,100 new openings projected each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Benefits of excavating contractor software

Raken software for excavating contractors.

Excavation is precise and potentially dangerous work. Excavating contractors can’t cut corners when it comes to safety or project management. 

Reduce violations and keep your crew on track with Raken’s excavating contractor software. Our web and mobile app features:

  • Daily progress reporting - Collect and share real-time field data on mobile

  • Managed checklists - Assign and schedule customized safety and quality checklists

  • Observations - Submit observations from the field and tag a team member to resolve any issues

  • Photo and video capture - Capture clear visuals with automatic time and date stamps

  • Toolbox talks - Digitally schedule safety talks and track attendance

  • Time and production tracking - Track work hours, material use, and equipment with a tap 

Raken is easy to use, intuitively designed so the field can get started with minimal training. You’ll have an accurate record of what happened on the jobsite every day, so you can make more informed decisions, quickly resolve disputes, and share more frequent updates with GCs and other stakeholders.

Try Raken for excavating contractors

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