How Long Does It Take to Become a Crane Operator?
Becoming a crane operator can be a rewarding and lucrative career, but it requires a significant investment of time and effort on your part. While not everyone will walk the same path, there are some things that are generally consistent. For most people, the process can take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months. Here’s how long you can typically expect to take, along with what factors can influence the length of time it takes to complete the necessary training and certification.
The Overarching Factors
Before we dive into the step-by-step process of becoming a crane operator, you’ll need an understanding of what things may affect how long it takes. All of these can add or subtract time from the process, depending on how they relate to you.
Credentials Are Key
First things first, it’s important to understand that to become a crane operator, you must earn and maintain a valid crane operator certification. This certification proves you are up to the current standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), demonstrating you have the skills and knowledge to safely operate a crane.
The nationally accredited National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) administers testing for these accreditations, so if you’re just starting out your prime objective will be passing their exam. Your ability to do so will be a large determining factor in how long it will take to become a crane operator.
Timing Will Vary Depending on What You Want to Do
While the NCCCO handles certification testing, there isn’t one overall test you can take to become certified on all cranes. Instead, you’ll need to pick and choose which certifications to earn when. For example, West Coast Training’s mobile crane operator course takes four weeks to complete. By comparison, our crane operator and rigger training takes a full eight weeks from start to finish.
Both classes will give you the knowledge and skills to pass an NCCCO exam, but what exactly they cover depends on what you need to know for your particular exam. Different types of cranes have different operating requirements and controls, and some types of cranes may require you to have more extensive training and certification. A tower crane operator will typically need to undergo much more extensive training and pass a more rigorous certification process than an operator of a smaller, mobile crane.
Where You Are Matters
Depending on where you want to work, the training or certification requirements in your state or region can also influence how long it will take to become a crane operator. Some states have much more stringent requirements than others, and some states may have additional certification requirements for certain types of cranes. Since the West Coast Training school has been in operation since 1959, we’re very familiar with the requirements of Washington and the Pacific Northwest and can help you do some research and find out what is expected of you if you plan to work in another region of the US.
How Much Experience Do You Have?
This factor is a bit more ephemeral, but it will have an impact on how quickly you can earn your certifications all the same. If you have previous experience operating heavy machinery or working in construction, you may be able to come in with a leg up and complete your training and certification more easily.
Now, that doesn’t mean we’re encouraging you to run through your education as fast as you can. It’s still important that you take your time and really master the material before taking the exam. But if you already have a base of knowledge, you may be able to achieve that mastery faster than if you were coming in with no background whatsoever. If you don’t have prior experience, you can expect the process to take a bit longer, as you will need to learn the basic principles of operating a crane from scratch.
What Your Timeline Looks Like
Now that we’ve covered the things that might impact your journey to certification, we can break down the individual steps you need to take to get there. Again, the specifics of how long it takes for you to become a crane operator may vary, but your general path should look very similar.
Do Your Research
As we mentioned earlier, the requirements for becoming a certified crane operator can vary from state to state. The first thing you should do is find out exactly what your local requirements are for operating the crane you want to work with. You don’t want to end up ill-prepared for your first job, so be thorough.
Enroll in the Training Program of Your Choice
Once you have a clear understanding of the requirements in your area, you can begin searching for a training program. Choose a training program that offers both classroom training and on-the-job training. You’ll need both sets of skills and knowledge.
At West Coast Training, we believe it is important that our students receive a thorough education both in the classroom as well as on the machines they’ll be working with. Some programs may be more comprehensive than others, so it’s important you do your research and find a program that meets your needs.
Complete Your Training Program
Once you’re enrolled in a training program, it’s time to put your nose to the grindstone. You’ll need to complete all the coursework, as well as any hands-on training requirements. This is where you get to really roll your sleeves up and learn the job, so don’t be afraid to dive in head first. The length of the actual program will depend on what you enroll in. Don’t think too much about how long it takes to complete it; just focus on absorbing as much as you can.
Pass the Certification Exam
With your course completed, the only thing standing between you and becoming a crane operator is passing the exam. Typically, it will consist of both a written and practical portion. NCCCO tests are designed to test your knowledge and skills as an operator, so use what you’ve learned in your training course to demonstrate you know your stuff. Once you pass, all you need to do is maintain your credentials, and you’ll be good to go.
Ready to become a crane operator? We’re taking registrations at West Coast Training. Whether you take our four-week NCCCO Mobile Crane Operator course or the eight-week NCCCO Crane Operator and Rigger course, you’ll be well on your way to your new job.