Crane Operator: Education Requirements and Career Information

Working as a crane operator requires no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Crane operators lift and transport heavy materials using mobile, tower or overhead cranes. Entering the occupation requires no formal education, and most operators learn their skills through an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Some states require material movers to earn and maintain a specialized license. Read on to find out the education requirements and career information for crane operators.

Required Education Completion of an apprenticeship or on-the-job training
Other Requirements State certification required; some states utilize the exam proctored by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 17% for crane and tower operators*
Median Salary (2013) $48,630 for crane and tower operators*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Crane Operator Education Requirements

There are no strict educational guidelines for crane operation. Most crane operators get their experience through on-the-job training or apprenticeships. The International Union of Operating Engineers, for example, offers federal- and state-registered apprenticeship programs through its local sectors (www.iuoe.org). Such programs typically last 3-4 years and combine classroom education with paid training in the field. Apprenticeship candidates generally must be 18 years or older, have a school diploma or equivalent and be in fit physical condition.

Certification and Licensure

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 17 states require crane operators to be licensed (www.bls.gov). Procedures for obtaining a license vary according to state, but usually include taking a physical exam, passing a written test and demonstrating safe crane operation. Operators must update licensure every few years. Some states require candidates to complete a training program or earn certification from the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, which involves passing written and practical exams (www.nccco.org).

Crane Operator Career Information

In May 2013, crane and tower operators earned a median annual wage of $48,630, according to the BLS. Employment of crane and tower operators is expected to increase 17% from 2012-2022, which is faster than average. The BLS expected this growth to result from increases in global shipping, which will require more professionals to help with loading and unloading. Job prospects are also good due to the occupation's high turnover rate; opportunities will continue to become available as large numbers of crane operators retire or leave the profession.

Crane operators may work in manufacturing industries, as well as on construction sites or at shipping and receiving ports. The occupation is physically demanding and often involves working outside, lifting heavy objects and being exposed to construction and manufacturing elements such as fumes, chemicals and loud machinery. Crane operators typically work eight hours or longer per day, but their shifts tend to have unusual frequency; some operators may work only in suitable weather conditions or seasons, while others may work overnight to avoid disturbing the public.

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  • School locations:
    • Montana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at The University of Montana include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Ground Transportation
        • Heavy Equipment Operation
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at New Castle School of Trades include:
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Ground Transportation
        • Heavy Equipment Operation
        • Truck, Bus and Commercial Driver
  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Informatics and Illustration
      • Medical Residency Programs
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Dental
      • Medical and Health Preparatory Sciences
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Public Health and Safety
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Dental
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Ethics and Bioethics
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Mental Health Services
      • Nursing Professions
      • Public Health and Safety
      • Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Sciences
  • School locations:
    • Rhode Island (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Medical Ethics and Bioethics
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Public Health and Safety
  • School locations:
    • North Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Nursing Professions
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Notre Dame include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Medical and Health Preparatory Sciences
  • School locations:
    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Georgetown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Nursing Professions
      • Optometric and Ophthalmic Services
      • Public Health and Safety
  • School locations:
    • Tennessee (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Transportation and Distribution
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video

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