crane operator requirementsIf you are considering a career in crane operation, this article will guide you in qualifying for the requirements to become a certified crane operator.

Certified Crane Operators drive and maneuver cranes that are used to move large materials in the construction industry, industrial production, and manufacturing. Cranes are essential equipment for building roads, bridges, and high rise buildings. They are also key features in docks, wharves, transportation centers, and engineering plants.

If you like this hands-on job and has a cool temperament around heavy types of machinery, becoming a crane operator might just be the perfect career for you. Planning ahead will help you achieve your career goals. So, what are the requirements to become a Crane Operator? Here are the crucial steps to becoming one:



A High School Diploma

Most construction jobs don’t require a college degree but you will need a high school diploma to get you a certification in Crane Operation. If you have not finished your high school, you can take the General Educational Development (GED) test that will serve as an equivalent to completion of a high school degree. This is one of the Education Requirements you will need to jumpstart your career in crane operation. You can also pursue a College degree in Construction Engineering to open a whole range of career advancement possibilities in your future.

Crane Operator Training Certificate

It is crucial that you undergo an initial crane operator training program. In this program, you will be taught about the safety regulations in operating the crane. It will also give you the practical knowledge and hands-on experience in actually operating the machine. Moreover, you will be taught how to keep the machine in tip-top shape and how to do repairs when the machine breaks down. It usually takes several weeks to several months. This program will prepare you for the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO).

The school will give you the necessary knowledge on the basics and standards of heavy types of machinery and tasks of construction jobs. Through your training in technical school, you will learn how to operate different machines used in real and actual work sites.

NCCCO Certification

Enroll in the NCCCO Tower Crane Operators Licensure Program. This test is designed for crane operators who have undergone training and are working in crane operation. Most US states and construction companies prefer to hire crane operators who have received the NCCCO certification.

How to Get NCCCO Certification?

Must be at least 18 years of age

Meet the medical requirements

Comply with NCCCO’s Substance Abuse Policy and Code of Ethics

  • You need to agree to comply with these policies and codes as they are the guidelines for working safely within the construction environment and with your work colleagues.
  • You will attest that you will not take in substances that would impair your judgment, motion, body functions and abilities i.e illegal drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs, etc.

Pass written examinations (Core competencies and at least one Specialty)

  • The exam consists of 55 multiple choice questions that you need to finish in one hour.

Pass the CCO Tower Crane Practical examinations

  • The applicant is required to take the practical exam within 12 months after passing the written exam.
  • In front of a supervisor, you will be given crane operation situations that need to be resolved following safety guidelines.



Be in Good Physical and Health Condition

The nature of the job is physically demanding, this is why aspiring individuals need to be in good physical and health condition. This is one of the things a prospective employer will be required from the job applicants, as they don’t have to spend much in insurance premiums. The employer wants to have a worker who is qualified physically to operate a crane.

According to NCCCO policy, you must meet the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) B30 physical requirements throughout your certification period. This includes having a current DOT examiner’s certificate to prove your physical and medical qualification for the job as a crane operator.


  • You are required to have a follow-up physical test within two years
  • Pass a drug test and be randomly tested for substance abuse throughout your certification period
  • The DOT exam covers a comprehensive physical to assure operators are in optimal health and physical condition, Additional exams may be administered including EKG, Radiography, Lab blood work

Completion of an Apprentice Program

After getting the necessary basic training and completing the special crane operator training program, you will be required to complete a crane operator apprenticeship program. The goal of the program is to provide theoretical knowledge and hands-on skill that is required for an apprentice to safely and efficiently operate a crane.

You may contact a local of International Union of Operating Engineers nearest you if you would like to apply for apprenticeship program. This will give you on-the-job experience and increase your knowledge about the work. Apprentices do receive a living minimum wage.

The length of time needed to spend in such program will depend mainly on the operator’s ability to gain knowledge and practical experience. The apprenticeship program usually takes around 3 to 4 years to complete.

Being an apprentice gives you the opportunity to earn while you learn.

Gaining Some Experience as Crane Operator

It is absolutely okay to start working as a general laborer or with other lower entry construction jobs while you are still in trade school. Gaining hands-on construction experience will help you advance a good internship. Apply for crane operator jobs in your locality. Search online or find jobs in your local classified ads. Send your comprehensive resume to these open opportunities. Make sure you list down pieces of training you've gained, programs you've completed, NCCCO certification, and/or any projects you completed as an apprentice. Employers would prefer applicants with a wide range of experience.

After getting the job, you must work hard as a crane operator. Try to establish a good working relationship with your co-workers. It is advisable to keep your machine well maintained. Punctuality will also get you far. After gaining years of job experience and good working ethics, you may want to apply for higher-level jobs such supervisor or crane operation director. You could also take in an apprentice of your own. You might want to get a degree in construction engineering to qualify for more advanced positions in the company.

Renewing your NCCCO Crane Operator Certification

It is important to note that your certification needs to be renewed every 5 years to keep your skill current. The exam will usually be composed of 30 questions that you need to finish in 45 minutes. Recertification process will allow you to take two (2) attempts to pass the written exams. Failure to renew your certification within the specified expiration date or failing the written exams twice will prompt you to re-take the full physical, written, and practical exams.

For more information about renewing your NCCCO certification, read this page.



To Conclude This

The demand for crane operators is expected to increase by 10% from the year 2014 to 2024 according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many advantageous openings are expected to arise due to growths in construction and cargo movers at ports. Crane operators and equipment operators are needed in warehouses, construction, and manufacturing companies.

Now is the time to make a career as crane operator. industry is booming, you won’t be running out of employment opportunities.

In order to pursue this career, there are crane operator requirements you need to meet. These ensure you are qualified for the job.

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