Everything you ever wanted to know about becoming a crane operator

Skilled crane operators are in high demand and not surprisingly are paid fairly well. Some making as much as $7,000 a month.

How much training is required to operate a crane?

According to the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) currently 16 states and 7 cities have licensing requirements for crane operators. Regardless, if licensing requirements are in place or not for your particular municipality, the highest paid crane operators the ones who are the best trained and proper certification is an industry norm.

Not all cranes are created equal

According to the NCCO there are nine different crane operator certifications; Mobile Crane, Boom Crane, Service Truck Crane, Tower Crane, Overhead Crane, Articulating Crane, Digger Derrick, Dedicated Pile Driver, and Drill Rig.

In addition to the different types of cranes there are four different job titles specifically related to crane operation.

What type of physical demands does it take to work a crane?

First and foremost concentration. The ability to focus, and remained focused, on the task at hand is a critical for crane operators. This is true whether one is working on a skyscraper with a large tower crane or on a single family residential property with a “simple” boom truck crane. Losing your focus can lead to disaster (see photos below). Crane operators are often unable to leave their cabin for hours at a time. This can be fatiguing, so being in good physical condition general is a big help.

Do you have to be a member of a union to work as a crane operator?

No, you don’t have to be a union member to operate a crane, but many construction jobs have union contracts, which means you will need to be a member of that specific union.

How dangerous is operating a crane?

Statistically, working a crane is much less dangerous than many occupations, including a number of other skilled trades. However when things do go wrong with cranes they are very dramatic.


Emergency crews work at the scene of a construction crane collapse near the intersection of Mercer Street and Fairview Avenue near Interstate 5 Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Seattle. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times via AP) AP

Opportunities to work out-of-state / internationally

Just because their isn’t work as a crane operator in your specific area right now, does not mean there is no work. A good crane operator can travel out-of-state or even internationally for high-paying work. Of course having an internationally recognized license is a big advantage when looking for work, and if you are willing to travel finding work isn’t hard.