Agricultural Machinery Operator

Agriculture worker

An Agricultural Machinery Operator is involved with a wide range of activities on a farm from tractor driving to the harvesting of crops, which could be either cereals or vegetables, as well as the operation of any other agricultural machinery. 

The role will include the operation, maintenance and cleaning of the combine or machinery, and sometimes basic repairs. 

Agricultural Machinery Operators may work on a large farm or for an agricultural contractor.

Crops can include:

  • Combinable crops - wheat, barley, oats and sugar beet, some of which are grown for human consumption, others for animal feed
  • Vegetables - some may be sown directly from seed, others planted out as seedlings
  • Non-food crops - these include linseed, hemp, flax and oilseed rape
  • Energy crops - these can be grown for power and heat generation, and for the production of liquid fuels.

Working Conditions

Agricultural Machinery Operators generally work at least 40 hours a week plus paid overtime when necessary. Early mornings, evenings and weekends are all necessary during busy periods like harvest.

 Making the most of good weather can mean working for long hours and ensuring that machinery can be relied on.

Work can be seasonal and required when the crops are ripe for harvesting. Drivers are likely to operate other agricultural machinery throughout the year depending on requirements.

Machinery can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and be highly technical. Most machines will have an enclosed cab with air conditioning for the operators comfort and safety, computers to drive and provide the operator with the information on the crops they are harvesting.



Salaries vary with experience, qualifications and between companies, but here's a guide to what you can expect.

Starting salary:


Ending Salary:



Getting started

Experience is an advantage, but training is usually provided.

What employers are looking for

  • Enthusiasm
  • Motivation
  • Leadership and management skills
  • Strong planning, organisational and communication skills
  • Understanding of associated software systems

What experienced workers can do

  • Maintain good standards of health and safety for self and others
  • Maintain environmental good practice at work
  • Operate a power vehicle
  • Prepare a power vehicle for operation
  • Carry out maintenance procedures
  • Prepare equipment and machines for maintenance
  • Prepare power tools and attachments for use
  • Operate a tractor or other self-propelled vehicle and its attachments
  • Prepare harvested crops
  • Maintain and control harvesting operations
  • Maintain safe working with noise, dust or vibration (MSDs)
  • Operate plant and machinery.

Personal qualities you should have

  • Good timekeeping
  • Able to work alone
  • Initiative
  • Attention to detail
  • Able to solve problems

Next steps

Agricultural Machinery Operators can gain further responsibility on very large farms or nurseries by leading a team. Another option is to be self-employed as an agricultural contractor offering a range of machinery and services to businesses, or with the right training take another route to being an Assistant Farm Manager.

Industry links

British Institute of Agricultural Consultants

My world of work

National Farmers Union Scotland

Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service

Scottish Crofting Federation

Scottish Machinery Rings

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

Soil Association

Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs