Schools for Aspiring Crane Operators: How to Choose

Many schools offer programs that teach aspiring crane operators about crane operation, including mobile cranes and tower cranes, which are all part of the heavy equipment trade. Continue reading to learn more about how to choose a school and program.

Individuals looking to become crane operators can do so through apprenticeships or training programs. In addition to training and apprenticeships, many states and municipalities require crane operators to be licensed. Students will want to check with local authorities regarding crane operator requirements in their own area.

Schools with Heavy Equipment Programs

These schools offer certificate or associate's degree programs in heavy equipment operation, and many programs include an apprenticeship. Annual tuition is based on degree-granting programs for the 2015-2016 school year:

College/University Location Institution Type Program Type Tuition and Fees*
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo, IA 2-year, Public Certificate $4,466 in-state, $5,166 out-of-state
Flathead Valley Community College Kalispell, MO 2-year, Public Certificate $5,337 in-state, $11,105 out-of-state
Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport, PA 4-year, Public Associate's $15,810 in-state, $22,470 out-of-state
Hazard Community and Technical College Hazard, KY 2-year, Public Certificate, Diploma $3,624 in-state, $12,456 out-of-state
Southern Maine Community College South Portland, ME 2-year, Public Certificate $3,694 in-state, $6,394 out-of-state
Wake Technical Community College Raleigh, NC 2-year, Public Certificate, Diploma $2,768 in-state, $8,912 out-of-state
Butte College Oroville, CA 2-year, Public Certificate $1,364 in-state, $6,404 out-of-state
Central Arizona College Coolidge, AZ 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $2,460 in-state, $10,740 out-of-state

*Source: NCES

School Selection Criteria

Students may consider other items such as:

  • Trade schools and community colleges offer 12- to 18-month career certificates and 2-year associate degree programs in crane operation as part of heavy equipment training programs.
  • In addition to courses in safety, site layout and hands-on equipment training, many schools offer apprenticeships or some other form of work-study component to provide extra training and experience to students.
  • Students are advised to choose schools that use a variety of up-to-date, well-maintained equipment vehicles and have properly maintained work areas.
  • Look for schools offering training programs that include preparation for accreditation exams as part of their curriculum.

Certificate Programs in Crane and Heavy Equipment Operations

Certificate programs are designed to provide students with the most basic elements for crane and heavy machine operations. Courses typically include basic safety, heavy equipment identification, project site layout, equipment operation and maintenance and operational techniques. Programs may also include a set of courses for specific equipment as well, such as graders, loaders and backhoes.

Admission into a crane or machine operations program often requires a high school diploma or a GED. In addition, prospective students may be required to take an aptitude test to assess their level of mechanical skills and a background check for improper drug use.

Associate's Programs in Crane and Heavy Equipment Operations

Associate's degree programs differ from certificate programs in that they typically require the completion of general education courses. General education requirements often include quantitative methods, physical and natural science, communications, social science and humanities.

In addition, heavy equipment programs often include an apprenticeship component, where students observe and gain hands-on operating experience with cranes and other heavy equipment. Admission to associate's degree programs generally requires a high school diploma or GED and academic assessment tests for math, reading and writing. Program administrators may also require that students undergo a background check before placement into any apprenticeship or work-study job.

In summary, crane operation is often included in the curricula of heavy equipment operations programs. Students can also gain knowledge and experience through apprenticeships. No matter the degree type, those looking into becoming a crane operator should choose a program that prioritizes safety, has up-to-date facilities, and includes preparation for accreditation exams.


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