What Does a Crane Operator Do?

Are you interested in becoming a crane operator? Not sure what a crane operator actually does. As a crane operator, your duties may typically include:

  • Performing daily pre-operation inspections
  • Performing minor crane maintenance and repairs
  • Using levers, foot pedals, or wheels to control the equipment
  • Operates a crane to move heavy equipment and cargo
  • Working with crew members to safely load and unload heavy items
  • Calculating capacities.
  • Move material (using blueprints or on-site plans given from superior)

When it comes to deciding if you would like to become a crane operator you must remember there are 3 separate categories of crane operations. The 3 different types of categories used are: Tower Cranes, Overhead Cranes, and Mobile Cranes. Different cranes will be used for different job sites and industries. A crane operator can choose to operate in one industry such as construction and or get the knowledge and hands on work in other industries such as railways, steel fabrication, and or shipping docks. The more knowledge and hands on work the better chance you have at becoming a crane operator.

Q. What skills do you need to be a crane operator?

Answer: To become a crane operator many, think that all you need to know how to do is operate mechanical equipment to move heavy loads. Yes, that is a small part of the skills needed to be an effective crane operator, other skills needed are as followed:

  • Ability to follow directions
  • Able to communicate effectively
  • Organization
  • Mathematical skills

It is important that you have organization skills to be sure all blueprints or job order forms are kept organized and easy to access. Another set of skills one may need to become a crane operator is mathematical skills to be able to calculate capacities when necessary. Being able to follow safety procedures, ability to work with your hands, pay attention to detail and one important skill to have is the ability to follow directions. A crane operators’ job can be very dangerous if not done correctly and safely. If the operator doesn’t possess the skills mentioned, they should not operate a crane. Always remember Safety first at all times.

Q. How do you become a certified crane operator?

Answer: To become a certified crane operator there are a few steps that need to be taken before just jumping on a crane and operating. The following steps must be taken:

  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Participate in a training course (4-8 weeks or longer)
  • NCCCO certification
  • On-the-job training
  • High school diploma or GED certificate

To become a certified crane operator, you must participate in a training course which could last anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks or several months depending on which crane category you would like to operate (Tower, Overhead, or Mobile). You must find a school that provides the training required to operate a crane. Once the training is done there are still several steps that need to be taken before operating. Depending on the state that you live in you may need to be licensed to operate. To obtain the proper licensing you will be responsible for passing a practical assessment and also a knowledge test. You will also need some type of on-the-job-training which will prove that you have had some in the field experience. Since all states requirements are not the same it is best to conduct your research to be sure that you have all of the proper qualifications and requirements.

Q. How much do crane operators make per hour?

Answer:  A crane operator usually work 12 to 14-hour shifts per day with possibly one to two breaks per day. When it comes to figuring out how much a crane operator is paid, it is usually based on the candidate’s experience. When employers have to figure out the amount a candidate should be paid, they usually base it off that person’s education and experience (field, hands-on). You could be paid anywhere between $15-35$ per hour. Depending on the state that you are looking to become a crane operator in, yearly salaries can range anywhere from $27,015 and go up to $92,736. Another thing that you must understand is that since there are 3 different categories (Mobile, Tower, Overhead) the pay scale will be different for each. A tower crane operator can make anywhere from $20-$46 an hour. A Mobile Crane operator can make anywhere from $15-$43 hourly. An Overhead Crane operator will make between $15-$35 an hour. If you are not sure you can either research your state, and or call around to local companies and ask what their rates may be.

Barb Fullman- CEO of Total Equipment Training
About the Author

As the owner of Total Equipment Training, Barb Fullman has been an active contributor to the heavy equipment training industry for over 23 years. Barb, a Penn State University graduate, is recognized as the highest ranking women-owned heavy equipment training business in the US. As a leading authority and provider of heavy equipment training, training manuals and tests based on OSHA Standards and Regulations, Total Equipment Trainings’ client list is composed of most of the Fortune 1000 companies focusing on energy, construction, heavy highway, and manufacturing.

Barb’s motto is “Stay safe, stay up to date”. She is committed to up-to-date & technically correct training, whether it is via in-person or through our library of online heavy equipment resources. With over 50 OSHA qualifying training topics to choose from with TET, the most popular heavy equipment training subjects are mobile cranes, NCCCO, all “dirt equipment”, rigging, crane inspections, and train-the-trainer.