How to get a crane operator certification

How to get a crane operator certification

In many states, crane operators require certification to perform their trade. Keep reading to learn more about crane operator certifications and how you can obtain them.

When do you need a crane license?

There are many reasons you might need a crane license, the most obvious being that your jurisdiction requires one (more on this shortly). Even in jurisdictions that don’t require crane operators licenses, however, having one can make you a more attractive job candidate and offer meaningful opportunities for career advancement.

Jurisdictions requiring crane operator certifications

According to the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO)), 16 states throughout America have licensing requirements for crane operators. Those states are:

  • West Virginia
  • California
  • Washington
  • Connecticut
  • Utah
  • Hawaii
  • Rhode Island
  • Maryland
  • Pennsylvania
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • Minnesota
  • New Mexico
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada

Additionally, these seven cities in the United States also have their own licensing requirements:

  • Chicago
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Cincinnati
  • Philadelphia
  • New Orleans
  • Omaha
  • New York City

Many of these jurisdictions recognize certifications established by the NCCCO.


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Types of crane certifications

There are many types of crane certifications you can obtain throughout the United States. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most popular ones.

Mobile crane operator certification

The NCCCO’s mobile crane operator certification was created by a task force of experts ranging from mobile crane operators to supervisors and manufacturers.

To receive the certification, participants must study course materials centered around the following types of cranes:

  • lattice boom crawler cranes
  • lattice boom truck cranes
  • telescopic boom cranes – swing cab
  • telescopic boom cranes – fixed cab

Receiving the certification also requires the completion of practical training. 

Service truck crane operator certification

The service truck crane operator certification was designed by the NCCCO specifically for industries that utilize vehicle-mounted cranes.

To receive this certification, workers must complete written and practical examinations within 12 months of each other. You have the option of taking these courses in whatever order you’d like.

Tower crane operator certification

The NCCCO developed this crane certification program for construction, utilities, petrochemicals, and other industries that utilize tower cranes.

To receive this certification, participants must pass a 55-question multiple-choice examination and practical examination on one of the following crane types:

  • self-erecting
  • hammerhead
  • luffer

As with many other NCCCO certifications, these tests must be completed within 12 months of each other. Once you’ve received the certification, it is valid for a five-year period.

Overhead crane operator certification

The overhead crane operator certification was developed by the NCCCO and sponsored by the following organizations:

  • Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA)
  • American Crane & Equipment Corporation
  • Demag Cranes & Components
  • OMI Hoist & Crane
  • Morris Material Handling
  • KCI Konecranes
  • Virginia Crane (Foley Material Handling)
  • ACE World Companies
  • Capco Crane & Hoist
  • Deshazo

To receive the certification, candidates must pass both written and practical examinations, the latter of which take place on one of the following types of cranes:

  • cab operated
  • pendant/remote control

The overhead crane operator certification remains valid for a period of five years.

Articulating crane operator certification

The NCCCO developed the articulating crane operator certification for those looking to operate boom cranes and loaders.

Unlike with other NCCCO certifications, candidates taking this training course can choose between multiple written and practical examination combinations depending on the type of crane they’d like to operate.

For example, candidates wishing to operate articulating boom cranes are given the option of taking the articulating boom crane written test and articulating boom crane practical examination.

Candidates must complete all required tests within a 12-month period. The certification lasts five years.

Digger derrick operator certification

The NCCCO’s digger derrick operator certification, as with most of the organization’s other programs, requires that candidates successfully pass written and practical examinations.

Upon completion of the examinations within a 12-month period, candidates will qualify to operate digger derricks for five years, after which they’ll need to be re-certified.

Dedicated pile driver operator certification

The NCCCO’s dedicated pile driver operator certification was designed to ensure safety among professionals that come into contact with pile drivers and other heavy lifting machinery.

The written exam consists of 70 multiple choice questions and must be completed within 90 minutes. During the practical examination, candidates must demonstrate proficiency in operating a pile driver.

As with other NCCCO certifications, these tests must be completed within 12 months of each other. The certification remains valid for five years.

Drill rig operator

For professionals interested in operating drill rigs, the NCCCO offers this certification. The certification’s written examination portion consists of a core examination with 90 multiple choice questions and additional specialty examinations containing 45 multiple choice questions. The specialty examinations cover these types of drill rigs:

  • anchor/micropile drill rig
  • foundation drill rig

For the practical examination, meanwhile, candidates can choose between the same two drill rig types (with each examination costing $100).


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How to get a crane operator license

Now that you know about a few types of crane operator certifications, let’s discuss how you can go about becoming a licensed crane operator.

Step 1: Research your jurisdiction’s regulations

Nation-wide, jurisdictions differ in terms of which certifications they recognize. Make sure to research which certifications are required in your state and city when deciding which program to take.

Step 2: Ensure you have the necessary prerequisites

Crane certification requirements typically include:

Step 3: Study for and complete your certification

Once you’ve chosen the right certification program and enrolled in it, complete the coursework to receive the desired credentials.

Step 4: Renew your certification as needed

Most crane operator certifications require renewal periodically (i.e. every five years for many NCCCO certifications). Make sure to keep your certification up to date, particularly if a certification is required to be a crane operator in your jurisdiction.

Crane certification: Conclusion

We hope this article has helped you understand the world of crane operator certifications a bit more. In summary, there are many crane operator certifications out there, with the NCCO offering courses aimed at training you on how to use various types of cranes.For more articles about construction management and the industry in general, visit our blog,


Brandon-Richard Austin

Brandon-Richard Austin is a writer and content strategist focused on the construction sector. He’s passionate about educating readers on construction management techniques and best practices.