How Much Money Can You Make in the Dirt World?
Written by Megan Hamilton
June 1, 2023
You’re asking a good question when you ask, “How much money can I make in the Dirt World?”
The short answer is that average construction worker’s salary is $34.71 per hour—which is $2.46 more per hour than the average American’s wages.1
However, the amount of money you make in the Dirt World depends on factors like your role, industry, and location. (We'll talk about these and other factors in a minute.)
First, let’s examine the average pay for several industries and roles. That’ll help you get a better idea of the earning potential for careers that interest you.
Let’s get started.
Income by industry
We talk about the Dirt World as one big industry, because every company in this space does work that goes under, across, or through the earth.
However, the Dirt World is home to many smaller industries—and they tend to pay differently. Check out the average wages for four of the most popular sectors, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.*
|Person||Average Hourly Pay (2022)|
*All statistics and wages in this article come from U.S. data.
How much do construction workers make?
Construction is one of the biggest Dirt World industries, and it’s probably the one you’ve heard the most about. It builds the infrastructure our society uses every day, like:
- Power plants
You can further separate construction into two subsectors: building construction and heavy civil construction.
However, while the industry you work in impacts how much money you make, so does your specific role. Let’s take a look at the average hourly wages for some common Dirt World roles.
Income by role
The Dirt World offers dozens of job possibilities in the field and front office.
Since many office roles—like administrative assistant or HR manager—exist in all types of industries, this article will focus on jobs that are more specific to the Dirt World.
Here they are, in alphabetical order:
|Person||Average Hourly Pay|
$46.82 - civil11
$54.49 - electrical12
$50.29 - mining and geological13
|Fuel and lube technicians||
|Heavy equipment operators||
$30.55 - construction17
$23.24 - logging18
$25.78 - mining19
$22.77 - construction20
$21.42 - mining21
$52.96 - construction22
$32.54 - logging23
$42.94 - mining24
|Rotary drill operators||
|Service unit operators||
|Truck drivers||$21.57 - construction34
$23.62 - logging35
Average construction manager salary
In the table above, “manager” refers to first-line field supervisors when it comes to logging and mining. But for construction, “manager” includes all management positions—including upper level ones.
If you become an upper-level manager in a mining or logging operation, you’ll likely make more than the amounts listed above. If you become a first-line field leader in a construction company, you’ll likely earn less.
Here are the average salaries for construction field managers:
You’ll typically earn more as you move up into higher levels of management, especially if you become a division manager, vice president, or executive leader.
And again, your industry can impact your salary. For example, heavy civil construction managers made over $15,000 more per year than residential construction managers in 2022.39
Factors that affect how much money you make
Multiple factors can impact how much money you’ll make when you start a career in Dirt. They include:
- Union involvement
Let’s dig deeper into each one.
Again, your job affects your earning potential (i.e, a project engineer’s salary is higher than a heavy equipment operator’s salary.) Find a role that will allow you to live comfortably on what you earn.
That said, it’s totally okay and normal to start in a lower-paying, entry-level job. You may not make a ton of money your first year or two, but you’ll get the skills and experience you need to get the higher-paying job you want.
Like we just talked about, certain industries pay more than others. For example, utility work generally pays more than construction—which generally pays more than logging.
So if you’re motivated by a fat paycheck, you may decide to look for an industry where you can maximize your earning potential in your role. Or, you may decide it doesn’t matter what sector you work in as long as you get to help society and be around cool machines.
Some states and provinces have higher costs of living than others. Generally, jobs in high-cost-of-living areas pay more.
However, that doesn't mean you need to relocate to make more money. (Especially since you’ll have higher bills in high-cost-of-living areas.) It just means you should find a place where:
- You like living.
- You can afford to live comfortably—whatever that means to you.
Most field laborers receive hourly pay, so you'll have potential to increase your earning income by working longer days, overtime, nights, or weekends. You may also get paid more if you’re willing to travel for work.
On the flip side, you may earn less money if you tend to need lots of time off work or during the slow season.
All things being equal, some companies simply pay more than others. It’s important to look for a company that will pay you a fair, living wage. It’s also important to consider what tradeoffs you’re willing to make.
Let’s say Company A will pay you $30 an hour. Company B will pay you $27 an hour and train you to help you grow in your career. Short-term, you’d make more money with Company A. But the growth, development, and increased earning potential you’d get from Company B will likely make that lower starting wage worthwhile.
Look for a good employer who will pour into your professional development and pay you fairly—and know that fair doesn’t mean over-the-top.
In the skilled trades, you may have the option to join a labor union. Union members pay money (called dues) to belong to the union. In turn, the union helps them negotiate with employers for things like better wages, schedules, and benefits.
From a financial standpoint, union membership can be beneficial. The median construction worker salary was $343 a week higher for union members than non-union workers. That’s an extra $1,372 a month.40
For more on how unions work in the U.S., head over to the Department of Labor’s article, Unions 101.
Ultimately, you are the biggest deciding factor in how much money you make—and whether you’re satisfied with that amount.
Your work ethic will determine how you move up and grow in your career, which will determine pay raises. Your ability to manage your personal finances will determine whether you make the most of each paycheck. And your values will help you find the income level you’re satisfied with.
For example, would you rather make less money so you can spend more time with your family, or would you rather work more hours so you can earn more money to provide for them? Are you willing to do work that you like (not love) to earn more, or would you rather earn less in a role you’re super passionate about?
In any case, moderation is good. You can’t quit your job to stay home with your kids 24/7; they’ll starve. And you can’t work 18-hour days and never see your spouse; they’ll leave.
It's up to you to decide what you value, maximize your earning potential, and handle the money you make as responsibly as possible. And that’s true anywhere you work—not just the Dirt World.
You can earn a very good living in the Dirt World to support your family and your future dreams. And generally, construction workers make over $2 an hour more than the average American.
Exactly how much money you make in the Dirt World depends on:
- Union involvement
As you look for your next Dirt World job, remember these three things:
- You have to start somewhere, probably in a lower-paying, entry-level job. That’s normal! With a good work ethic, you can increase your pay quickly.
- Decide what’s most important to you, and don’t let money determine all your career choices. You may choose to earn less so you can operate machines you love or spend more time with your family—and that’s okay.
- You are the biggest deciding factor in how much money you make. You can take steps to increase your earning potential, and it all starts with the attitude that you’re willing to work hard, learn, and grow.
So, what’s next? Learn more about the jobs you can get in the Dirt World. Or, create a BuildWitt Jobs profile so you can start looking!
Written by Megan Hamilton
June 1, 2023