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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.

  • Avg. Salary $67,230.00
  • Avg. Wage $31.83
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook above avg
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Medium
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: Sawmill Machine Operators (9431) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Sawmill Machine Operators (J141) 
  • 2011 NOC: Sawmill machine operators (9431) 
  • 2016 NOC: Sawmill machine operators (9431) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift over 20 kg
Interest Codes
The Sawmill Machine Operator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Sawmill Machine Operators

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

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 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 More

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

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.

  • Strength Required Lift over 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
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

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.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 20, 2021

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.

Sawmill machine operators are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 9431: Sawmill machine operators. In Alberta, 77% of people employed in this classification work in the Manufacturing [pdf] industry.

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Manufacturing industry)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

In Alberta, the 9431: Sawmill machine operators occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.5% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 20 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

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.

Sawmill machine operators

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $19.00 $32.72 $28.62 $29.20
Overall $22.40 $35.34 $31.83 $33.15
Top $23.80 $37.70 $34.45 $36.83

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.

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.

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 May 20, 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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