Crane and Tower Operators: Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Stan T.Career, Overview

Crane and Tower Operators

Crane and Tower Operators operate mechanical boom and cable or tower and cable equipment to lift and move materials, machines, or products in many directions.

Becoming One
Post-secondary certificate
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Interest Match

Job description

Crane and Tower Operators operate mechanical boom and cable or tower and cable equipment to lift and move materials, machines, or products in many directions.

  • Determine load weights and check them against lifting capacities to prevent overload.
  • Move levers, depress foot pedals, or turn dials to operate cranes, cherry pickers, electromagnets, or other moving equipment for lifting, moving, or placing loads.
  • Inspect and adjust crane mechanisms or lifting accessories to prevent malfunctions or damage.
  • Inspect cables or grappling devices for wear and install or replace cables, as needed.
Read more about what does a Crane and Tower Operator really do at work and what is it like being and working as one.


Average salary
$58160 per year

Average hourly wage
$28 per hour

Crane and Tower Operators with little to no experience tend to make between $31250 and $39750 while the more experienced ones can earn over $70940 per year.

Top 5 paying states Hourly Annual
HI $40 $82,910
AK $37 $77,270
MA $36 $74,160
WA $35 $72,270
OR $34 $70,460

One of the easiest ways to increase your salary as a Crane and Tower Operator is to move to a higher paying state like HI. Right now, the highest paying states for Crane and Tower Operators are HI, AK, MA, WA and OR.

However, a higher pay at HI doesn’t guarantee that you will make more because the living expenses at HI might be twice as high than where you are currently at now.

Three other factors that can increase your salary as a Crane and Tower Operator is the degree you hold, the industry you work in, and lastly the company you work for.


Recommended degree level
Post-secondary certificate

We asked other Crane and Tower Operators what degree they had when they got the job and most of them said they had a Post-Secondary Certificate followed by a High School Diploma.

Other than that, we also asked them what did they major in and here are the most popular majors that came up.

Construction/Heavy Equipment/Earthmoving Equipment Operation
Mobil Crane Operation/Operator
Read more about how to become a Crane and Tower Operator and the degree, training and education you need.

Pros and Cons

Here are some of the pros and cons of being a Crane and Tower Operator.

Suitable for people who likes practical and hands-on work
Suitable for people who wants to work in a supportive work environment
This career is perfect for people who love to work outdoors.
It is not too difficult to get into this career. Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for this career.
Demand for this career is growing very fast
Not suitable for people who likes to help and teach others
Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week)

What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Is this job meaningful

60% of Crane and Tower Operators said they were satisfied with their job and 56% said they feel like their job is making other people’s lives better.

Adrian Diaz

My typical day

5 AM

First coffee of the day! Prep the backpack with all the things I’ll need for the day. And it must be a very well prepped one (I tell you why in a little bit).

Get in the car and drive to the job location. Meet the colleagues, have our morning briefing about what’s the plan for the day. Talk about what dangers are we exposed to during that particular day. Different lifts will expose us to different hazards.

A few hours later (7-8 AM)

I’m in the cab and ready to rock and roll!

That’s how the day of a crane operator starts. Being a crane operator it’s a stressful job at times because there’s A LOT of responsibility on your shoulders (or in this case, a lot of responsibility in your hands).

You not only have to be careful not to damage property (the crane, the buildings, the goods that you’re lifting) but you have to have the Biblical patience of Job too. And that’s because some tasks, like installing glass, for example, one super little mistake can cause to drop the load and injure and God forbid, kill someone.

I say the above not to scare you (in case you want to become a crane operator) but I want to lay out for you the reality of becoming a good crane driver.

So if you’re reading this page because you’re thinking about getting trained to operate cranes, here are some characteristics you should have:

  • Not afraid of heights 🙂 (in case you want to work on tower cranes)
  • Patience
  • Confidence to operate the machine, to say NO or STOP when the lift you’re about to do is not safe
  • Safety-conscious
  • Good observational skills
  • Responsible
  • Excellent team player
  • Excellent communication

What are your responsibilities as a crane operator?

The responsibilities differ from crane to crane, as there are many different types of cranes.

Some cranes, such as the mobile ones, you’re responsible to drive them to the job location, set them up, make sure everything works perfectly, and operate them according to the lifting operation plan and whatever regulations are in place in your area.

Others, like the tower cranes you obviously don’t have to set them up. You just turn up on the job, make your daily inspections, make sure everything works correctly and start your day.

If there are any issues you MUST report them. And if they look serious you MUST not operate the crane until someone competent inspected the issues and gave the green light! And if you’re not sure, just STOP and call the crane supervisor to have a look too.

So main responsibilities are:

  • To make sure the crane work properly according to the manufacturer guidelines
  • Operate the crane in a safe manner
  • Go home safe
  • Of course, there are a lot of nuances in there but you’ll learn more as you get into the nitty-gritty of the trade.


Autonomy: You have the authority of making your own decisions based on whether a task is safe to do or not. You make the last call. There are times where due to the nature of the job there’s a lot of pressure to finish the job fast. And that’s when usually managers forget about health and safety procedures and accidents happen. I’ve had various jobs where I simply closed the crane cab and walked off the job. Like I like to say: “It’s easier to find a job than to find a good lawyer”. If you feel like you’re pushed to do a lift that’s not safe, you can refuse to do it. Together we have to find a way to do it safely or otherwise is not going to happen.

It’s a very important job: If you tell anybody that you work as a crane operator, immediately you get a sense of curiosity from the person you’re talking to. People think that you’re brave to operate this humongous piece of machinery. And when you’re on a job, you usually get A LOT of respect from the management and colleagues as well.

Not stressful: If you compare a crane operator job with a manager’s job…there are two different worlds. As a manager for example you’re constantly being called by different people looking for solutions. Many times, you’ll work even from home on timesheets, reports, and other managerial tasks whereas as a crane operator, you only have to make sure you do your lifts safely and when 6 P.M. comes you know you’ll have nothing to worry about until the next day when you’re back in your crane.

Good for your long term health: It’s not only not stressful, but it’s better for your health overall. If you compare being a crane operator to being a roofer, bricklayer, groundworker, landscaper, etc you’ll soon realize that the work these awesome guys are doing is hard. Many times, after doing it for many years, you’ll end up with a bad back, bad legs, and other health-related issues.

Comfortable job: Since you’re sitting all day in a nice and comfy seat, you won’t have to deal with all the issues above. Plus (and this will make everybody on site hate you haha) is that if it’s raining, you’re inside the cab. If it’s cold outside and everybody is freezing, you’re inside the cab with the AC on. If it’s hot outside and everyone is melting, you’re inside the cab with the AC on.

Very enjoyable: Personally, I feel like I’m a big kid playing with big toys. I really enjoy operating these machines.


Long hour shifts: You’ll do a minimum of 10 hours per day (at least that’s my experience). Almost never finish on time, especially if you have to assist with concrete pouring. That’s the nature of the job.

Away from the family: This is especially for those who want to become mobile crane operators. You’ll be a lot on the road moving the crane from one place to another. And sometimes you’ll have to sleep in another city, away from the family. That’s perfectly fine if you’re single. I wish I knew about this career when I was younger. I could’ve done lots of hours, save the money, invest it and maybe retire by now 🙂 But hey, maybe you’re single now reading this article looking for a career, right?

Work in remote places: Remember what I said about prepping my backpack with a lot of stuff? This is the reason why. Because there will be a lot of times in your career where you’ll work in remote places where you can’t find any shop around for miles. So you have to take your food from home (which is better anyway) but you’ll have to do some extra prep.

I love operating cranes. And the beauty about this particular career is that there are so many different cranes that you could learn to operate. That’s why you’ll never grow bored with this job.
Plus it’s a well-paid job.

Is this right for me

Best personality for this career
The Builders and The Organizers

You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tends to like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery..

They also like following set procedures and routines. They like working with data and details more than with ideas.

Learn more about Crane and Tower Operators

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