How to Become a Tower Crane Operator
If you like hands-on work and keep a calm head around heavy machinery, becoming a tower crane operator might just be your dream job. Planning ahead can help you reach your career goals. To work as a crane operator, you will need to finish trade school and complete an apprenticeship with a licensed operator. After you've gained enough education and experience, you can then apply for a tower crane operator license and work with construction agencies.
Completing Your Education
Finish your high school diploma.Most construction-level jobs do not require a college degree, but you will need a high school diploma to gain tower crane certification. If you do not have your high school diploma, return to school for your GED.
- Get plenty of rest before your GED exam, and make sure to have a filling breakfast the day of your test.
Attend trade school.Trade schools will provide students with the practical knowledge to operate heavy machinery and basic construction skills. You will learn how to read blueprints, install building materials, and inspect construction codes. Usually, trade schools take one or two years to complete.
- You can enroll in trade school as a high school student if you have parental permission.
Complete a general crane operator training program.Although you will receive much of your training in an apprenticeship, you will want to complete a crane operation training program. Crane operator programs can last anywhere from several weeks to several months and involves learning safety regulations and crane machine maintenance. It will also prepare you for the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) exam.
- Most crane operator training programs are not offered online because you will need hands-on learning.
Enter an apprenticeship.After you have finished trade school and a specialized operating program, contact local tower crane operators to ask if you can become their apprentice. Apprenticeship will help you gain on-the-job experience and increase your knowledge of construction work.
- An apprenticeship program can take anywhere between 1-6 years, depending on what you negotiate with your supervisor.
- Construction apprentices are almost always paid a living wage.
Enroll in the NCCCO Tower Crane Operator licensure program.Most US states require tower crane operators to receive certification. Of those that don't, construction companies prefer to hire tower crane operators who are certified. To receive NCCCO licensure, you need to be at least 18 years old and be in good physical health.
- The NCCCO requires operators to complete certification within a 12-month timeframe.
Keep your body in good shape to pass the physical examination.To gain your NCCCO tower crane operator certification you will need to pass the ASME B30 physical requirements. You will need strong optical health as well as keen hearing. You will also receive a psychological evaluation.
- To fully pass the physical exam, you will also need negative results from a substance abuse test.
- If you have a history of epilepsy or loss of physical control, you will be disqualified for certification.
Pass the written examination.When you've finished your training program and apprenticeship, you will need to take a written exam on tower crane operation to receive your license. The NCCCO exam consists of 55 multiple-choice questions within an hour.
- Before you can take the written examination, you need to meet the physical eligibility requirements.
- If you have a hard time with multiple-choice exams, take practice tests beforehand and study often in the weeks leading up to your exams. Don't wait to study until the day of your exam.
Complete the practical evaluation.Once you've passed the written exam, you can then take the CCO Tower Crane Practical Examination. Before the evaluation, you will be briefed on a series of tasks to complete. In front of a supervisor, you will then complete situations you'll be in as a tower crane operator. During the exam, your supervisor will be on the lookout for unsafe procedures.
Comply with the NCCCO Code of Ethics and Substance Abuse Policy.All tower crane operators must agree to comply with these codes before they can gain certification. The NCCCO Code of Ethics presents guidelines for operators to work safely with the environment and other construction workers.To comply with the Substance Abuse Policy, you promise not to operate while under a substance that would impair your ability (like prescription medication, illegal drugs, or alcohol).
- If you're sick and receive an over-the-counter medicine, call in sick. Nothing is worth risking the safety of your fellow workers.
Work entry-level construction jobs while training.While you're in trade school and up until your internship, work as a general laborer for a construction company. Gaining construction experience early-on will help you gain a good internship. Most general laborer positions do not require a high school diploma (though most apprenticeships do), so you can begin working while in school.
Apply for tower crane operator jobs in your area.Search for jobs online or in your local classifieds for tower crane operator jobs. Send your resume via email, and make sure to list your training programs and NCCCO certification. Most construction companies prefer operators with several years of experience, so describe any projects you completed as an apprentice.
- If you have worked any other construction jobs, like a general laborer or other specialized worker, list these as well. Employers appreciate applicants with a wide range of experience.
Work hard to advance as a crane operator.After you have years of experience working as a tower crane operator, you can apply for higher-level jobs. So long as you keep your certification, you can work as a supervisor or director. If desired, you could even take on an apprentice of your own.
- Although bachelor degrees are not required for construction workers, you might consider going to university for a BS in Construction Engineering. This will qualify you for advanced positions within a construction company.
Renew your license as needed.After you have gotten certified, you will need to renew your license every five years. Recertification for tower crane operators is less intensive: you will need to pass a 30-question test within 45 minutes. Tower crane operators who fail to renew their license by its expiration date will need to re-take the full physical, written, and practical evaluations.
- Recertification candidates are allowed two attempts to pass the written exam.
QuestionWhat is the load chart?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt is a chart that tells you how much weight you can lift at a designated radius.Thanks!
QuestionCan a crane be operated from the ground?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou are responsible for seeing that the ground on which the crane will operate is sufficiently firm and level to enable the crane to operate safely. You will not be able to operate the controls of the crane unless you are inside of the crane.Thanks!
QuestionI worked for five years as a tower crane operator in my country. Now I'm in the USA and I want to get certified. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere are various places you can get certified. Most people I've heard of go for a NCCCO certification. The NCCCO website has a list of their locations.Thanks!
QuestionIs it too late to become a tower crane operator at 40?Top AnswererNot necessarily, as long as you can "sell yourself" to the employer in your resume and highlight past experience in relevant industries and are willing to commit to work for the company for a relatively long period of time. Experience with smaller types of mobile cranes or even telehandlers may also prove beneficial.Thanks!
Do you have to attend a trade school to become a crane operator or can you go through just crane operator training?
How many hours seat time is needed to qualify for a crane license?
- Show up on time for all your training courses or apprenticeship programs. Because construction work is so time-intensive, you cannot be habitually late.
- Construction work involves great agility and physical stamina. If you prefer a desk job with little physical activity, tower crane operation is likely not for you.
- Pay great attention to your work supervisors. To be a tower crane operator, you need good listening skills (as well as the ability to carry out tasks).
- Operating heavy machinery can be dangerous, and construction companies require that their workers have full control over their bodies. If you have a history of epilepsy, narcolepsy, or vertigo, consider an alternative job.
Video: The Benefits of Becoming a Crane Operator
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