How do I Become a Crane Operator?

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  • Written By: Vicki Hogue-Davies
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 02 July 2019
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Crane operators work at construction sites, for product manufacturing companies, moving cargo at seaports and in other industries requiring the lifting and moving of large, heavy objects. It takes specialized training to correctly and safely learn how to operate a crane. Depending on where you live, certification might be required if you want to work as a crane operator. Even in areas where certification is not required by law, employers might require it. A high school diploma or the equivalent generally is required to become a crane operator.

Many people who become crane operators are trained through apprenticeship programs. In the United States and Canada, for example, the International Union of Operating Engineers provides apprenticeship training programs for operators of cranes and other heavy equipment. Apprenticeship programs generally combine three to four years of on-the-job training with classroom instruction. To be considered for an apprenticeship program, you usually need to be at least 18 years old and in good physical condition. You can find out about specific apprenticeship programs through local union organizations and construction companies.

Trade and vocational schools train crane operators and prepare them for certification. Inquire at schools in your area about crane operator training or search online for training programs. Some employers provide training on the job. Some crane manufacturers provide training to operate their cranes.


In the United States, 17 states require that crane operators are certified. A major certifying organization is the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators. The organization provides certification for operators of mobile cranes, overhead cranes and tower cranes. Even if it isn't required, if you want to become a crane operator, certification can make you more marketable when you are searching for a job. Ask about certification requirements where you live when you are attending crane operator training.

Other qualities that are important if you want to become a crane operator include strong eye-hand coordination and good eyesight. Having mechanical aptitude and a propensity for working with machines is helpful. Some computer experience can be important, because many cranes are computerized, and crane operator training programs often use computers. The ability to work as part of a team is important because crane operators often rely on other workers outside the crane to give hand signals to help them move objects safely and successfully.

Even after you have become a crane operator, it is a good idea to stay up-to-date on the latest in crane technology. Taking continuing education courses in the field will help ensure that you can pass recertification examinations that might be required. It also will help ensure that you continue to be a safe crane operator.


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