How Long Does It Take to Learn to Operate a Crane?

long-learn-operate-crane Credit: microgen/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Most crane operators learn the work through an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. State- and federally-registered apprenticeships are available through the International Union of Operating Engineers' local chapters. While apprenticeships usually last three to four years, including field and classroom training, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most operators are trained on the job in less than a month. Some states and cities require licensing or certification that involves skills testing and a written exam on safety procedures.

The only national certification available for crane operators is through the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators. NCCCO certification programs are based on American Society of Mechanical Engineers and American National Standards Institute B30 crane safety standards and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's crane regulations. NCCCO certification is recognized by OSHA as proof of training. All employers must certify that each crane operator has completed required training on the standardized safety rules of OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Crane operators work primarily at construction sites or major ports, unloading and loading cargo; they also work in iron and steel mills. Work as a crane operator requires constant alertness, good vision and the ability to move equipment across difficult terrain and in tight spaces. Most crane operators have prior experience as construction workers or hoist or winch operators.