what is a crane operator?

A crane operator controls hoisting equipment like clamps, elevating platforms and forklifts to move products or people. As a crane operator, you assist with transporting materials to a worksite or warehouse. You load or unload trucks, depending on the crane you are using.

Crane operators also control movement platforms that carry people around a worksite. For instance, you control the platform transporting workers to vast heights or depths at a construction or mining site. Operating a crane requires great skill to manoeuvre the load to the right spot. After moving each shipment, you update the log and record the items or workers you moved at a particular time. You also carry out maintenance and repair tasks on crane equipment.

As a crane operator, you work on large-scale construction projects like high rises and major infrastructure jobs. You can also find work in quarries, mining sites and manufacturing companies with large warehouses.

Apart from mechanical aptitude, it would help to have the physical stamina to work in industrial settings for long hours. Your job also requires concentration when manoeuvring the crane.

crane operator careers

average crane operator salary

The average salary of a crane operator is $125,000 per year. In an entry-level role, you take home a salary of $115,000 yearly. As you improve your skills and experience, your earnings increase gradually, and the highest salary in the role exceeds $135,000 annually. The remuneration package depends on your experience, skills and qualifications. While crane operators don't require extensive academic qualifications, they rely on experience and skills. When you have been working in the role for a couple of years, you develop expertise that increases your salary significantly.

The industry you work in also affects your earnings. For instance, working for the construction industry boost your chances of earning a higher salary due to the risks involved. Mining industries also pay lucrative salaries to crane operators. If you work for a large company, the unlimited resources at their disposal boost your salary prospects.

Want to know what you will earn as a crane operator? Check out what you are worth with our salary checker.

crane operator careers

types of crane operators

Some of the specialisation options for crane operators include:

  • dogman crane operator: The dogman/rigger is responsible for the safe rigging of the load and directing the lifting and placing operations by the crane
  • rigger crane operator: A Rigger crane operator is responsible for setting up pulleys, cables, ropes and other equipment to lift large and heavy objects. The role of a Rigger varies depending on the industry in which they work. 
  • general crane operator: your job is to lift or move material around a construction site using cranes. You monitor crane stability and work with a working person to ensure the safe movement of products on a worksite.
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Please use these images in the context of inclusion projects

working as a crane operator

Working as a crane operator is an exciting career with specific duties, work schedules and work environments. Explore the daily operations of a crane operator.


education and skills

You don't require formal education to become a crane operator. However, it is important to complete some courses to get the necessary licences for work.

  • complete a trade outcome certification: pursue a Certificate III Construction Crane Operations (CPC32912) to learn the safety requirements for crane operations. Completing the course qualifies you for a high-risk work licence for working on construction sites.
  • obtain licences: if you intend to work in construction, you require a White Card attained through registered training organisations. It would help to have a Heavy Combination and a Heavy Rigid licence.

crane operator skills and competencies

Key skills of a crane operator include:

  • alertness: as a crane operator, you require undivided focus and attention when operating the hoisting equipment. You focus on your surroundings to ensure you don't navigate the cranes in the wrong direction or hit objects that could cause accidents.
  • hand-eye-foot coordination: as a crane operator, you require steady hands and feet to guide heavy machinery precisely. Manual dexterity ensures you can use your hands and feet to control and manoeuvre the equipment in tight spaces or over uneven surfaces.
  • mechanical skills: as a crane operator, you conduct tests and maintenance functions on cranes and other moving equipment. Mechanical aptitude helps you perform basic repairs efficiently and ensure the equipment is in good working order.
  • visual ability: as a crane operator, you rely on good vision to see where to move the materials or workers. It is vital to watch out for construction projects or workers nearby to avoid accidents.

FAQs about working as a crane operator

Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a crane operator.

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