What’s the Difference Between NCCER and NCCCO Certifications?

Blog, Crane Certification

In order to secure a job in the competitive construction industry, it’s necessary to demonstrate to prospective employers that you are certified. A certification demonstrates your training, skill, and experience operating heavy machinery such as cranes, dozers, and excavators. Most employers won’t even consider hiring you if you don’t have some sort of certification, and in some areas, a certification may even be a legal requirement in order to get a job.

With this in mind, there are several types of certifications you can choose to pursue in order to advance your career in heavy equipment operation. Two of the most important are NCCER and NCCCO. While certifications from each of these organizations have some similarities, they’re actually different in a number of key ways. Read on to learn more about the difference between NCCER and NCCCO certifications.

National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)

One of the main organizations to certify crane operators is the National Center for Construction and Research, or NCCER. This organization is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) devoted to educating potential operators on the safe and competent use of heavy construction machinery. Certifications offered include mobile crane, rigger and/or signal person, and tower crane certification.

What sets the NCCER apart from other similar organizations is the fact that it was founded by industry leaders: over 125 construction CEOs and other academic professionals developed the foundation in 1996. The goal was to create a standardized system of training to ensure that construction operators who carry certifications from NCCER can be trusted to have a thorough understanding of the safest and most up-to-date practices for the job site.

Carrying a certification from NCCER can do a lot to boost an individual’s viability to any potential employers. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the organization tracks the credentials of its graduates on a registry system. Employers can easily discover how well-trained their potential equipment operators are.

The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO)

On the surface, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) is similar to the NCCER. It’s a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving safety and standardizing education in the world of construction. The NCCCO, of course, is devoted specifically to certifying crane operators and operators of similar heavy equipment.

Just as with the NCCER, the NCCCO was established by industry professionals. Representatives were brought in from all industries that utilize cranes and other heavy machinery in order to assist with the creation of the organization. To this day, the organization maintains a board of directors from all industries, including government, insurance, construction organizations, and labor unions. NCCCO works closely with Federal OSHA—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—to ensure their training is at the forefront of safety and the latest standards for operation.

The standards offered by the NCCCO include simulated training and the improvement of performance records. Certifications offered by this organization include mobile crane operator, drill rig operator, crane inspector, lift director, signalperson, articulating crane operator, and many others.

Key Differences Between the Two

Both organizations meet the requirements set by OSHA for the safe operation of cranes and other heavy equipment. Both issue heavy equipment certifications, and having a certification from either one is an effective way to demonstrate skill and value to prospective employers. With that said, there are a few differences between the NCCER and NCCCO that may affect which certification you ultimately choose to pursue.

A key difference between the organizations is in how their testing operates. For example, the NCCER allows you to bring your own crane to use for testing; this isn’t permitted by the NCCCO. The NCCCO also utilizes more stringent time limits. Because their training has an emphasis on accuracy in a limited timeframe, your speed behind the controls of the machinery is key. This can lead to the NCCCO’s practical examinations being a good deal more challenging than the NCCER’s.

On the other hand, the written examinations for the NCCER can prove to be the more challenging ones. This is because the organization makes use of many different load charts during their written exams. The NCCCO utilizes only one load chart for every category of examination.

Periodically, you’ll need to have your credentials recertified. How difficult this is also depends upon the organization you’re certified with. For example, the NCCER requires you to retake both your written and practical exams before you can be recertified. The NCCCO, on the other hand, will allow you to bypass your practical exam in favor of a written one only, provided you have accrued enough seat time working with the machinery.

Choosing Between the Two

The training, and ultimately the testing, you choose to utilize should depend upon what you want your career focus to be. If you’re favoring general heavy equipment training, it may be best to pursue an NCCER certification. With this credential, you’ll have a focus on-site preparation, flagging, and grade checking, as well as practical training with all sorts of equipment, including backhoes, dozers, loaders, scrapers, compactors, and plenty of others; not just cranes.

On the other hand, if you want to focus on cranes more specifically, an NCCCO certification is likely to be your best option. With this certification, you’ll prove to prospective employers that you understand how rigging, signaling, blind lifts, and tandem lifts work. In addition, you’ll be equipped with a knowledge of many different types of cranes and their safe operation.

Of course, ultimately, the very best option is not to choose between the two after all. There’s no reason why you can’t have certifications from both organizations. This is actually simpler than it sounds. It’s merely a matter of finding the right training school, with instructors certified by both organizations. West Coast Training is an excellent example of such a school. After taking the NCCER-certified Heavy Equipment Operator course and NCCCO-certified Crane Operator course, you’ll walk away equipped with credentials from both the NCCER and NCCCO, sure to impress any prospective employer.