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Career profile Bridge Operator

Also known as Bridge Operator, Bridge Tender, Lock Tender

Bridge Operator

Also known as Bridge Operator, Bridge Tender, Lock Tender

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
  • Enterprising
Pay Range
$28,570 - $64,810 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Monitoring
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
Knowledge Areas
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Telecommunications
  • Education and Training
Core tasks
  • Turn valves to increase or decrease water levels in locks.
  • Check that bridges are clear of vehicles and pedestrians prior to opening.
  • Control machinery to open and close canal locks and dams, railroad or highway drawbridges, or horizontally or vertically adjustable bridges.
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What does a Bridge Operator do?

Bridge Operators operate and tend bridges, canal locks, and lighthouses to permit marine passage on inland waterways, near shores, and at danger points in waterway passages.

In addition, Bridge Operators

  • may supervise such operations,
  • includes drawbridge operators, lock operators, and slip bridge operators.

What kind of tasks does a Bridge Operator perform regularly?

Bridge Operators are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Control machinery to open and close canal locks and dams, railroad or highway drawbridges, or horizontally or vertically adjustable bridges.
  • Observe position and progress of vessels to ensure best use of lock spaces or bridge opening spaces.
  • Direct movements of vessels in locks or bridge areas, using signals, telecommunication equipment, or loudspeakers.
  • Record names, types, and destinations of vessels passing through bridge openings or locks, and numbers of trains or vehicles crossing bridges.
  • Observe approaching vessels to determine size and speed, and listen for whistle signals indicating desire to pass.
  • Move levers to activate traffic signals, navigation lights, and alarms.
  • Write and submit maintenance work requisitions.
  • Log data, such as water levels and weather conditions.
  • Prepare accident reports.
  • Perform maintenance duties, such as sweeping, painting, and yard work to keep facilities clean and in order.

The above responsibilities are specific to Bridge Operators. More generally, Bridge Operators are involved in several broader types of activities:

Controlling Machines and Processes
Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Training and Teaching Others
Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.

What is a Bridge Operator salary?

The median salary for a Bridge Operator is $52,340, and the average salary is $49,610. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Bridge Operator salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Bridge Operators earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Bridge Operators earn less than $28,570 per year, 25% earn less than $39,020, 75% earn less than $60,490, and 90% earn less than $64,810.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Bridge Operators is expected to change by 3.1%, and there should be roughly 400 open positions for Bridge Operators every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$28,570 - $64,810
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Bridge Operators?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Bridge Operator are usually higher in their Realistic and Conventional interests.

Bridge Operators typically have very strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Also, Bridge Operators typically have moderate Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Bridge Operator tend to value Relationships, Support, and Working Conditions.

Most importantly, Bridge Operators moderately value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Bridge Operators moderately value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Lastly, Bridge Operators moderately value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Bridge Operators must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, self-control, and attention to detail.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Bridge Operators, ranked by importance:

Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

What education and training do Bridge Operators need?

Working as a Bridge Operator usually requires a high school diploma.

Bridge Operators need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Bridge Operators

  • 3.9% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 39.1% completed high school or secondary school
  • 25.2% completed some college coursework
  • 13.2% earned a Associate's degree
  • 15.5% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 2.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.3% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Bridge Operators

Bridge Operators may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as public safety and security, telecommunications, or education and training knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Bridge Operators might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

Important Abilities needed by Bridge Operators

Bridge Operators must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Bridge Operators need abilities such as information ordering, near vision, and selective attention in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Bridge Operators, ranked by their relative importance.

Information Ordering
The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Selective Attention
The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
Control Precision
The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
Far Vision
The ability to see details at a distance.

Critical Skills needed by Bridge Operators

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Bridge Operators frequently use skills like monitoring, active listening, and speaking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Bridge Operators, ranked by their relative importance.

Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.