While operating the truck that sweeps leaves, trash, and other debris off city streets every morning and evening may be the career aspiration of many a fascinated 4-year-old, as an adult you may assume a more sedate desk job is in your future. However, working as a street sweeper can often provide you with generous benefits and a competitive salary for a very low educational investment. Read on to learn more about the job outlook, pay scale, and daily duties of a street sweeper to determine whether this is a viable profession for you.

What does a street sweeper's average day look like?

With the rise of automation, most modern street sweepers spend their days behind the wheel of a heavy-duty truck rather than standing on the sidewalk with a broom and dustpan. These trucks are navigated through city streets to suck up spills and sweep up debris and are then taken to the dump or sanitation station to be emptied before the next shift begins. Many street sweepers (particularly those employed in smaller jurisdictions without a dedicated city or county garage) may also be responsible for maintenance of and minor repairs to the street sweeping truck—tasks like cleaning the sweeping brushes, checking and changing the engine's oil, and tightening lug nuts. Those who live in climates with a long, snowy winter will likely also need to operate special snow-clearing brushes before the streets can be swept. 

As a street sweeper, you'll likely report to a city or county superintendent or public works director. You may have the same location assignment every day or be asked to rotate locations with other sweepers. You may also wind up with overtime (and overtime pay) if a bad car accident or thunderstorm showers potentially hazardous debris into the roadway.

What skills or training will you need to become a street sweeper?

One of the only requirements you'll need to fulfill to work as a street sweeper is the ownership of a valid driver's license. Although a few speeding tickets or even a misdemeanor DUI conviction likely won't disqualify you from this position, because street sweepers must often navigate around expensive vehicles or jaywalking pedestrians, being alert and having a quick response time are crucial. Those with multiple at-fault traffic accidents may be too high-risk for the city or county's insurance policy to cover.

You'll usually need to pass a preliminary drug test before a formal offer of employment is extended. You may also be subject to periodic random drug testing (or may only be tested if involved in an on-the-job accident).  

The most successful street sweepers are those with some minor mechanical skills and the ability to remain alert and awake even after hours behind the wheel. Most training will be performed on the job, after your hire.

How much could you earn as a street sweeper?

The median salary for a street sweeper is a little less than double the federal minimum wage at $13.00 per hour. However, street sweepers are frequently eligible for overtime (at time-and-a-half pay) and, as municipal or county employees, often have generous healthcare benefits, vacation time, or even pensions. At the top end of the pay scale, the most experienced street sweepers or those in high cost of living areas could earn $27.00 per hour, or around $65,000 per year. 

Because there's no standard educational requirement for this position, it can be a great way to gain some workforce experience while earning a higher-than-average starting salary. You may be able to advance up the corporate ladder to become a supervisor or even a public works director. Have a peek here to learn even more about the job.