Bridge Crane Operator: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Bridge crane operators require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Bridge crane operators require only a high school diploma. Most are trained either on-the-job or through apprenticeship programs. These positions have a job growth outlook that is about average.

Essential Information

Bridge crane operators are employed by manufacturing and construction companies to transport heavy industrial equipment. Beginning a career as a bridge crane operator requires on-the-job training, typically through apprenticeship programs. Depending on the state, operators may also be required to obtain licensure or certification.

Required Education High school diploma may be required to enter apprenticeship program
Other Requirements Completion of on-the-job training through apprenticeship; licensure and/or certification may also be necessary depending on location
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% for all crane and tower operators
Median Salary (2015)* $51,650 for all crane and tower operators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bridge Crane Operator Job Description

Bridge crane operators, also known as overhead crane operators, typically work in industrial settings, such as manufacturing warehouses, construction sites and loading ports. While bridge crane operators usually work eight hours or longer each shift, they may work abnormal schedules due to weather conditions and a need to accommodate employers' business hours.


Bridge crane operators maneuver cables attached to cages or platforms in order to move industrial or construction supplies, as well as workers who need to reach difficult-to-access equipment. Operators move cranes with the guidance of other workers by means of radio communication or hand signals. They then set down the load through an on-board or remote console. This is a physically challenging position that often entails lifting heavy items, working outdoors and enduring exposure to hazardous fumes, chemicals and machinery.

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There are no formal education requirements for becoming a bridge crane operator, because most training is acquired on the job and in apprenticeship programs. The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) offers government-registered apprenticeship programs through its local union divisions ( In general, apprentices must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma and be physically fit. These programs pair classroom instruction with paid on-the-job training and typically take 3-4 years to complete.

Licensure and Certification

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Studies (BLS), 17 states and six cities in the U.S. require bridge crane operators to obtain professional licensure ( While specific requirements vary by state, the licensing process usually involves a physical exam, written exam and proficiency demonstration. Depending on the state, licensure may also entail the completion of a training program or certification from the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). NCCCO offers certification specifically for overhead crane operators (

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, jobs for crane and tower operators were expected to increase by 8% during the 2014-2024 decade, with the construction industry spurring much of the job growth. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for these workers was $51,650.

Bridge crane operators work in construction industries moving construction equipment and supplies to hard-to-reach locations. They have little educational requirements, though some states require licensing. These positions have a median annual salary of about $52,000.

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