Here’s How to Become a Crane Operator (Professional Guide)

Here’s how to become a crane operator. Within a construction zone, a crane operator utilizes a crane to transfer various things. Cranes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and kinds, including mobile cranes, tower cranes, boom trucks, and self-erect tower cranes.

how to become crane operator

What is a crane operator?

A crane operator moves heavy equipment and supplies from one location to another using modern construction technology. Crane operators are used by businesses to transfer items that are too heavy to move easily and to convey commodities to extremely high or low elevations. They frequently collaborate with ground-based colleagues who control their movements using radio voice orders or hand gestures.

What does a crane operator do?

Crane operators usually do the following tasks:

  • Use levers, wheels, or foot pedals to operate equipment.
  • Move materials according to a plan or schedule provided by their superiors.
  • Inspect and set up material-moving equipment.
  • Make minor repairs to their equipment.
  • Keep track of what they’ve moved and where it came from and went to.
  • Operate heavy machinery and telescopic boom cranes.
  • Oversee a construction and job site.

Most crane operators work in warehouses with forklifts and conveyor belts. To keep track of merchandise, automated sensors and tags are increasingly being used, allowing operators to work more quickly. Operators and hand material movers generally collaborate closely in warehouses.

Many crane operators work for mining companies, both below and on the surface. They assist in the excavation or exposure of the mine, the removal of soil and rock, and the extraction of ore and other mined materials.

Crane operators remove earth to make room for buildings in the construction industry. Some people labor on a construction site throughout the duration of the project. Operators, for example, frequently assist in the construction of high-rise structures by carrying supplies to employees far above ground level. Mobile cranes are utilized to perform tasks that a boom truck cannot, such as greater lifts, bigger loads, and lifts requiring a longer reach.

Average salary of a crane operator

Crane operators’ pay varies depending on their sector and level of expertise. Crane operators who work for construction and mining companies, for example, earn more than those who work in warehousing, storage, and manufacturing. Crane operators can earn more money by working extra and midnight shifts.

  • In the United States, the average hourly wage is $20.52.
  • Hourly wages typically vary from $7.25 to $49.35.

Crane operator requirements

After graduating from high school or getting their GED, aspiring crane operators generally receive on-the-job experience. All crane operators are required by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to get certification for the cranes they operate. The following are some of the prerequisites for being a successful crane operator:


Crane operators must have a high school diploma or an equivalent, such as a General Education Development certificate (GED), in order to be certified.

Many prospective crane operators continue their education in a trade school, even though it is not required. Students learn actual building skills as well as how to handle heavy machinery, such as cranes, throughout a one- or two-year study.


Many crane operators participate in a general crane operator training program after graduating from trade school or high school. These classes teach you how to operate a crane, how to maintain it, and how to be safe while doing so. They also assist students in preparing for the National Commission for Crane Operator Certification examination. Depending on the supplier, general crane operator training programs can run anywhere from three weeks to three months.

how to become crane operator

Crane operators then apply what they’ve learned in their education and training programs to an apprenticeship. To get a better grasp of the business and enhance their abilities, apprentice crane operators are mentored by experienced crane operators. Apprenticeship programs run anywhere from one to six years.


Crane Operator Certification credentials are administered by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) for a range of crane operators, including mobile crane operators, service truck crane operators, and articulating crane operators. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require crane operators to be certified for the types of cranes they operate. Crane operators are also required to have a municipal license in several states and localities.

Crane operator certification (certified crane operator)

Crane Operator Certification (CCO) is accessible to crane operators who have completed in-house or third-party training programs and are at least 18 years old. Applicants must next fulfill the physical and medical criteria of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, as well as agree to follow NCCCO ethical and substance usage guidelines.

Valid candidates get certification after passing a 55-question multiple-choice written test and a practical assessment in their speciality crane operation area within 12 months. To keep their certification, crane operators must pass a recertification exam every five years and adhere to medical, substance, and ethics standards.

Local license/certifications

Crane operators are required to have a municipal license, certification, or both in several states and localities. The CCO certification, the NCCCO (National Certification Program) certification operator card, and the results of a current physical examination are typically required to be shown to a relevant government or council agency. Applicants can also be required to pass a separate test on the rules and regulations governing building in their area. After a certain number of years, licenses and certificates must be renewed.

Required skills

Crane operators are generally sought after by companies that require the following skills:

Technical skills/mechanical skills

Crane operators must be able to move the crane and make minor changes while moving from one position to another and depositing their cargo. They must be extremely precise while operating on uneven terrain or in cramped places.


To accomplish their jobs efficiently and without accidents, crane operators must always be aware of their crane, their load, and their surroundings. Long hours and nighttime shifts might make this difficult.

how to become crane operator

Attention to detail

When checking their cranes, crane operators must pay close attention to every aspect. Ignoring an issue on the working site might jeopardize worker safety.


While operating their cranes, crane operators rely on their good verbal communication abilities to provide and receive commands from the ground.

Work environment

Crane operators work for construction companies, mining companies, manufacturing companies, and other enterprises. Crane operators might operate either outside, on building sites and ports, or inside, in industries and warehouses.

Because crane operators are generally surrounded by heavy gear, including their own crane, these jobs can be rather noisy, although earplugs can help to reduce the noise. Extreme weather can affect crane operators operating outside, especially in the summer and winter. To be comfortable on the job, they must dress correctly for these situations.

The majority of crane operators’ time is spent within their cranes. Many crane operators even take breaks and eat meals in their cabs. Crane operators frequently work long shifts. Many people choose to work extra in order to increase their pay. When crane operators are on the verge of missing a deadline, they frequently work extra hours. Shift times might fluctuate, with hours varying from one week to the next from project to project.

how to become crane operator

How to become a crane operator

To operate as a crane operator, you must have the necessary experience and certification. To become a crane operator, follow these steps:

Complete high school

Crane operators must have a high school diploma or GED in order to obtain certification.

Enroll in a trade or vocational-technical school

Courses in the construction sector and crane operation are available at trade schools for prospective crane operators. The majority of programs last one or two years.

Complete a general operator training program

A general operator training program provides crane operators with greater in-depth knowledge of crane operation, safety, and maintenance. These are usually short courses that last a few months.

Get an apprenticeship

An apprenticeship will broaden your understanding of crane operations while also providing you with important hands-on experience. To arrange your apprenticeship, contact crane operators in your region.

Obtain a crane operator certification

Crane operators in the United States are required to get Crane Operator Certification. Obtain certification to operate the cranes you wish to work with.

Get local certification and licenses

Crane operators are required to have a municipal certification, license, or both in several towns and states. To acquire the documents you need to work unsupervised in your region, check your local regulations.

Build a resume

Make a resume that includes information about the training programs you’ve attended as well as your qualifications and licenses, which should include your NCCCO certification (the national certification program offered through your education). To demonstrate your experience, you should also include the frequent jobs and projects you worked on throughout your apprenticeship. Only putting essential information on your resume should help you keep it short.

Apply for crane operator roles

You can operate as a crane operator unsupervised after obtaining industrial experience and getting licensed and qualified. Send your resume/CV and cover letter to local construction companies, mining companies, warehouses, manufacturing companies, and other enterprises that use crane operators. Your cover letter should explain why you think you’d be a good fit for the position you’re applying for.

Common questions

Questions from aspiring crane operators:

How do I become a tower crane operator?

Pass the written exam for tower crane operators. Tower crane operators, unlike mobile crane operators, must only pass a single written exam. There are 55 multiple-choice questions on this Tower Crane operator test, six of which are load chart questions. The test has a time limit of 60 minutes for candidates to finish it. On-the-job training is typically provided for tower crane operators.

What is OSHA certification?

In short, heavy equipment training and safety protocols. OSHA is a government agency that was established in 1970 as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The OSH Act was enacted to safeguard employees’ rights and to provide long-term remedies to workplace dangers.

how to become crane operator

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