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Piling operative

Also known as -

Rig driver

A piling operative, or rig driver, is responsible for driving wood, steel, or concrete columns into the ground during construction projects, to provide vital support for structures such as houses, offices, hospitals, bridges, and piers.

Average salary*




How to become a piling operative

There are several routes to becoming a piling operative. Whilst there are no set qualification requirements, you could complete a college course, an apprenticeship, on-the-job training, or apply to an employer directly. 

You should explore these routes to find out which is the right one for you. Although some of these options have certain qualification requirements, many employers are more interested in people who are enthusiastic, willing to learn and can follow instructions.

You may need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to work on a construction site.

College/training provider

You could complete a college course in a construction-related craft, such as groundworking, and then specialise to become a piling operative once you are working.

Find out what the entry requirements are where you live.


An apprenticeship with a construction company is a good way into the industry.

If you are 18 years old or above, you could complete a specialist apprenticeship to become a piling operative or a rig driver.

Apprenticeships are open to anyone over the age of 16. As an apprentice, you’ll be fully employed by your company and expected to work a minimum of 30 hours a week. Your time will be split between on-the-job experience and a college or training provider.

Find out what the entry requirements are where you live.


If you have some previous industry experience, you could apply to an employer directly to gain work as a piling operative. They may provide you with on-site training and qualifications to progress in your career.

Work experience

Work experience is essential to gaining employment within the construction industry. You could gain this at school, or by working weekends and holidays with a company or relative who works as a piling operative. Potential employers will always be pleased to see work experience listed on your CV.


Additional skills which may benefit anyone considering a job as a piling operative include: 

  • Understanding of health and safety
  • Ability to analyse and assess a situation
  • Practical and physical skills
  • Good team working abilities.


To become a Piling Operative, you could complete a:

  • NVQ Level 2 Piling Operations
  • Level 2 Piling attendant apprenticeship 

To become a Piling Operative, you could complete a:

  • NVQ Level 5 Piling Operations
  • Level 5 Piling attendant apprenticeship 

To become a Piling Operative, you could complete a:

  • NVQ Level 2 Piling Operations
  • Level 2 Piling attendant apprenticeship 

What does a piling operative do?

As a piling operative, you will be responsible for ensuring that support for buildings is in place, by driving various materials into the ground to create structural support. You may also be required to move materials around building sites, and will be in charge of ensuring the machinery you are using is well maintained. 

The job role of a piling operative involves the following duties: 

  • Driving heavy steel tubes into the ground at the right depth, filling them with concrete and then removing them, to leave the support in place
  • Driving fully reinforced, pre-cast concrete piling into the ground
  • Carrying out rotary bore piling using a temporary casing and auger to drill to the necessary depth 
  • Installing mini piles where space is limited
  • Checking equipment before it’s used and keeping it maintained
  • Working with technical plans and information
  • Identifying the position of underground services (such as pipes or wires) before starting work
  • Using hoisting equipment to position piling leads and hammers
  • Operating machinery (either directly or via control mechanisms).

How much could you earn as a piling operative?

The expected salary for a piling operative varies as you become more experienced.

  • Newly trained piling operatives can earn £20,000 - £30,000
  • Senior piling operatives can earn £30,000 - £40,000*
  • Self-employed piling operatives set their own pay rates.

Hours and salary depend on location, employer and any overtime you may do.

* Salaries have been collected from multiple industry sources


Check out the latest piling operative vacancies: 

As these are external websites, the number of vacancies related to your preferred role may vary. New opportunities will be posted as they come up.

Career path and progression

As a piling operative or rig driver, you could progress into a position as a site engineer, a geo-technical engineer or become a contracts manager or self-employed contractor.

Progression Opportunities

Explore the progression opportunities below

  • Current role Piling operative Find out more about a career as a piling operative (rig driver). Learn about dut...
    Read more
  • Current role Construction Team Leader Take the next step in your career as an Occupational Supervisor. Work with new m...
    Read more
  • Current role Contracts manager During a construction project, the contracts manager overseas the contracts proc...
    Read more
  • Current role Self employed contractor As a contractor or subcontractor, you'll be working directly with your clients t...
    Read more
  • Current role Geo-technical engineer Interested in analysing the risk of geological hazards to identify any risks to ...
    Read more
  • Current role Setting out engineer Be the main technical advisor on site, overseeing quality control & offering gui...
    Read more
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