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Learn How to Operate a Crane

Blog, Crane Operator

One of the keys to success in life is to always be advancing yourself by learning new skills. If you have a career in construction, or are considering one, one of the most valuable things you can do is learn how to operate a crane.

Why Become a Crane Operator?

Starting salary for crane operators is around $40,000 per year, depending on where you’re located in the country. As you build your experience and education, this salary will begin to increase. By the time you’re established, you can comfortably earn $60,000 per year, or even more in high-demand areas. Besides the financial incentives, there are other, equally important reasons to learn how to operate a crane.

When hiring, employers will give priority to candidates who have more versatile skill sets. The more talents you bring to the table, the more likely you are to get the job—and keep it. Your job security after you’re hired also depends greatly on your ability to perform many different tasks. The ability to operate a crane happens to be one of the most useful and in-demand skills for an employer.

Where Do I Begin?

As we’ve mentioned, your salary when you’re an established crane operator depends upon your education, so the first step in your journey should be to get educated. Of course, this is much easier said than done. You’ll need to figure out exactly where and how you’ll learn the tricks of the trade.

The Right School

You want to begin by finding a great heavy equipment training course in your area. While there are a decent number of these courses around, not all of them are the same, and when it comes to crane training, you want the best you can find. Do some online research and search for schools in your area. Once you find a few, see what their qualifications are. Are the instructors experienced crane operators themselves? Are they certified? How long has the school been in operation? What have previous students said? What sort of equipment will you be trained on? Will you receive hands-on, practical training? After you’ve been trained, will the school help you to find employment in your field?

One example of a school that meets all of the above criteria is West Coast Training in Washington State. Located about 45 minutes north of Portland, Oregon, West Coast Training offers multiple training programs for heavy equipment operators, including a four-week NCCCO mobile crane training course and an eight-week NCCCO crane operator and rigger training course.

West Coast Training only employs instructors with years of experience in the field, and students receive plenty of hands-on training. It’s an important part of crane training to be able to operate the machinery you’ll use on the job.

NCCCO Certification

Above, we mentioned that a good crane operator will be “certified,” but what does that mean? Certified by whom? Is the certification a requirement?
While the laws regarding this will vary from state to state, all crane operators should carry a certification from the NCCCO, that is, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators. The NCCCO is a nonprofit organization devoted to establishing effective performance standards for safe crane operation. Committed to the safety of not only the crane operators but that of every professional working on a job site, the NCCCO is comprised of professionals from all industries that make use of cranes.

These experts bring thousands upon thousands of hours of experience, not to mention years of knowledge, to bear when they develop their rigorous safety standards. They consider it a top priority that anyone who operates a crane is highly qualified to do so and has a clear understanding of all safety procedures on any given job site.

Most employers won’t even consider you for a crane operator job if you don’t hold an NCCCO certification. That’s why experience alone isn’t enough. The right crane operator school will ensure you graduate with that all-important certification in hand.

The Different Types of Cranes

Of course, a crane isn’t simply one type of heavy equipment. There are many different pieces of machinery out there that fall under the umbrella of “crane” or “mobile crane.” While there will certainly be overlap when switching between operating one or the other, these machines aren’t all exactly the same. To become an effective crane operator, you’ll need to master multiple machines.

A good crane operator school will educate you on the different types of cranes. For one, you’ll learn about the fixed cab hydraulic crane. This type of crane makes use of a cab that doesn’t move (that is, it’s “fixed”). The particular challenge of this crane is that the operator can only see what’s directly in front of them. There’s also the swing cab hydraulic crane. This one allows the crane cab to swivel about, giving the operator the ability to move the crane in all directions. Another common type of crane you should familiarize yourself with is the lattice boom crane. This one makes use of an extension that isn’t adjustable. The hydraulic boom crane can be adjusted, using hydraulic mechanisms, by the crane operator.

Other Skills You May Need

As a crane operator, you probably won’t just be operating cranes. You may work to assist another crane operator on a particular job. There might also be multiple cranes working together, requiring the operators to communicate and collaborate. There may even be situations where the crane operator can’t actually see the job they’re doing. They will need to be talked through it by another worker. All of these potential jobs require a great deal of skill. You’ll need to learn and practice them at your crane operator school.

Of course, learning how to operate a crane is just the beginning. You’ll also need to be equipped with the ability to find employment in your chosen field. That includes building a resume, networking, and successfully passing an interview. A good crane operator school, such as West Coast Training, will also teach you how to survive once you have graduated.