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Sawmill Machine Operator

Sawmill machine operators operate, monitor and control automated machines and equipment that process logs into lumber, shingles and shakes.

Also Known As

Log Processing Machine Operator, Lumbermill Machine Operator, Miller, Planermill Machine Operator, Production Worker, Sawyer, Wood Miller

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

Here is how this occupation has been classified over time.

2006 NOC

  • 9431: Sawmill Machine Operators

2006 NOC-S

  • J141: Sawmill Machine Operators

2011 NOC

  • 9431: Sawmill machine operators

2016 NOC

  • 9431: Sawmill machine operators

2021 NOC

  • 94120: Sawmill machine operators

2023 OaSIS

  • 94120.00: Sawmill machine operators
Updated May 20, 2021

Sawing logs into boards and planks of varying widths and thicknesses requires a fairly standard series of operations. However, the processes used vary from one sawmill to another. In some sawmills, the work of sawmill machine operators is labour intensive. In other mills, technological advances have decreased the amount of manual labour required.

Sawmill machine operators may use various types of automated or mobile equipment to:

  • Move logs from storage yards onto transfer decks
  • Convey logs through laser scanners that determine the most profitable cutting patterns for each log
  • Send logs through cut-off saws that cut logs to optimum lengths
  • Debark logs
  • Feed logs through various types of saws, edgers and trimmers to produce rough lumber
  • Perform quality control checks (lumber grading)
  • Sort and stack lumber according to quality grades, length, width and thickness
  • Move stacks of lumber to storage yards and to and from dry kilns
  • Feed rough lumber through planers and shapers to give it smooth (dressed) surfaces
  • Wrap or strap lumber into packages with labels for shipment
  • Create specialty products such as fence posts, treated posts or remanufactured wood products

In general, sawmill machine operators:

  • Use front-end loaders, stationary deck cranes or gantry cranes to feed logs into the sawmill
  • Operate equipment from consoles or control rooms to scan logs for size and quality
  • Convey logs and lumber to and from saws
  • Saw logs into rough lumber
  • Saw, trim, sort and stack lumber before putting it into a dry kiln
  • Plane rough lumber into dressed lumber of various sizes
  • Saw or split shingles and shakes
  • Monitor logs and lumber to ensure cuts satisfy customer requirements
  • Clean and maintain equipment
  • Attend regularly scheduled safety meetings
Working Conditions
Updated May 20, 2021
  • Strength Required Lift over 20 kg

Sawmill machine operators work shifts that depend on production requirements. Even though technical advancements are improving working conditions, the environment still may be hot or cold, noisy or dusty.

Sawmill machine operators must wear safety equipment such as hard hats, safety boots, safety glasses, gloves, high-visibility vests and ear protection to reduce the risk of injury. Depending on the mill, machine operators may be required to lift items weighing over 20 kilograms.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Sawmill Machine Operators

2006 NOC: 9431

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

Interest in operating front end loaders and stationary deck cranes to feed logs into sawmill, machines to saw, trim and plane rough lumber into dressed lumber of various sizes, to saw and split shingles and shakes and automated equipment to convey logs through laser scanners which determine the most productive and profitable cutting patterns; and in moving stacks to storage areas and drying kilns


Interest in compiling information while examining logs and rough lumber to determine size, condition, quality and other characteristics in order to decide what cuts are required


Interest in setting up and adjusting saw equipment, and replacing blades and bands using wrenches, gauges and other hand tools

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated May 20, 2021

Sawmill machine operators need:

  • Good spatial perception and awareness of surroundings
  • A safety-conscious attitude
  • Manual dexterity
  • The ability to lift heavy items often
  • The ability to remain alert while performing repetitive tasks
  • The ability to work as a team

They should enjoy operating and monitoring equipment, having clear parameters and organized methods for their work, and working with others to solve problems.

Educational Requirements
Updated May 20, 2021
  • Minimum Education Varies

Employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates but may hire people with less education who have experience operating machinery or equipment.

Sawmill machine operators receive on-the-job training. They usually start in entry-level labour positions and move up to machine operating positions as they become available. With experience and satisfactory performance operating one type of machine, they advance to more complex tasks.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 20, 2021
  • Certification Not Regulated

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated May 20, 2021

Sawmill machine operators work in sawmills and planing mills. In some sawmills, union membership is a condition of employment.

Machine operators may move into electrician or millwright apprenticeships. For more information, see the Electrician and Industrial Mechanic (Millwright) occupational profiles.

Advancement to head sawyer or planer operator positions requires years of experience in various sawmill machine operating positions with the same company. Without further education, such as advanced first aid, lumber grading and power engineering certification, opportunities to advance are limited.

Post-secondary education is a definite asset for advancement to leadership positions such as planer supervisor or sawmill supervisor.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 9431: Sawmill machine operators occupational group, 85.4% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 9431: Sawmill machine operators occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 2% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 19 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

The employment turnover rate in many sawmills is low so jobs may not be available often. However, employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated May 20, 2021

Wages and benefits vary considerably from one employer to another.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Sawmill machine operators

2016 NOC: 9431
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 9431 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $17.00 $30.30 $27.23 $30.30
Overall $18.00 $33.00 $29.83 $33.00
Top $20.00 $36.71 $34.24 $36.71

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information


Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
Vacancy Rate
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Trades, Industrial and Related Training
Other Sources of Information
Updated May 20, 2021

Alberta Forest Products Association (AFPA) website:

Work Wild website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2021. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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