What is a pile driver?
Professional pile drivers, or pile-driver operators, maneuver huge construction machinery to drive metal, concrete or wood piling into the earth during the early stages of construction. Many large structures depend on pilings for support, including bridges, building foundations, piers, and retaining walls. As a result, pile drivers are often some of the first workers on a construction project. They use hoists to lift pilings into position, then use pile-drivers—think very large hammers—to drive those pilings deep into the earth, often 50 feet deep or further. Pilings are driven into the soil until they reach a hard stone layer that can provide adequate support for construction. In addition to operating equipment, many pile drivers assume responsibility for performing routine maintenance and minor repairs on the equipment they use. Accordingly, they work with a large variety of hand and power tools, pneumatic equipment, rigging and hoisting equipment, and torches and welders. If you like working outside with large equipment, heavy materials—and sometimes under extreme weather conditions—then you’ll like the hardy occupation of the pile driver.

What types of jobs are completed by pile drivers?

Pile drivers install piling to hold back earth during excavations, set up the foundation of skyscrapers and bridges, or build docks and wharfs. Due to the wide range of work performed in this field, many pile drivers are certified welders and capable of working with a variety of sizes and shapes of steel. Some are commercial divers, performing the underwater construction required by the pile driving industry.

Pile drivers construct all types of cofferdams; they drive steel, wood, and concrete piles into soil. They set, drive, brace, and anchor steel, concrete and wood sheet piling. They handle hydraulic jacks when required in the driving of piling. They bore, bolt, rod, and anchor all docks. They cut off piles, build cribs, and make all wood sheet piling. Pile drivers also perform the pointing and heading of all wood piles, the pulling of all piling of any type, including wood sheet piling and all steel sheet piling. They place and sink all caissons and construct all basic foundation supports such as augured-in-place piling, drilled caissons, and cast-in-place piling. They place and remove all casings, permanent or temporary, required to install piling or caissons and place and man all pile testing equipment—except engineering instruments for measuring reactions. They may also place reinforcing and concrete as required to complete a piling or caisson.

According to BLS estimates, about 4,100 pile drivers were employed in the United States as of 2010. Between 2010 and 2020, the bureau expects jobs for pile-driver operators to grow at a pace of 36 percent—much faster than the expected 14 percent national average job growth for all occupations. However, because this is a relatively small occupation, this fast rate of growth will result in only an estimated 1,500 new jobs. Urban areas likely offer the best opportunities for employment in this profession.

Washington State Earning Potential: $86K