Thinking of becoming a crane operator?

Awesome! We’ve got the info you need right here.

Crane operators love working with heavy machinery, working in teams, and have good hand-eye coordination. If this sounds like a great way to spend your working day, you could have a bright future as a crane operator.

Why become a crane operator?


Start your career with no student loan

Earn a wage from day one, and finish your apprenticeship without a massive loan hanging over your head!


Work that suits your lifestyle

Work outdoors instead of being stuck in the same office all day. As your career grows, you'll have more freedom and flexibility in your schedule to fit in more time for the things that matter, such as family, hobbies, and interests.


A variety of experiences

No two days are the same! You'll get the chance to work on a wide range of jobs throughout your career.

What do crane operators do?

Cranes play a massive role in New Zealand’s construction sector. By becoming a crane operator you’ll play a direct role in building up New Zealand’s infrastructure. Whether it’s lifting structures into place, moving heavy loads, or unloading containers from trucks – wherever there is development, there is a need for skilled crane operators.

Crane operators use cranes to move large, heavy objects. This can include materials on construction sites, containers on wharves, and heavy parts in factories.

There’s lots of coordination and communication on the job - you’re not the only one on the job! Whether you’re operating the crane itself or you’re on the ground directing the crane, it’s all about the team working together effectively.

On any given day you could be:

  • Driving mobile cranes to and from work sites 

  • Lifting loads using a crane 

  • Slinging loads for a crane to lift

  • Checking that the crane is set up correctly and securely 

  • Checking the crane’s water, fuel, and oil levels, as well as its other mechanical parts 

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By the numbers


Length of training

Training to become a crane operator takes approximately 2 years.

money bags


Trainee crane operators usually earn around $20 or more an hour. Very experienced crane operators in specialist roles can earn $60 to $70 an hour.



Job outlook

The nationwide construction boom means there is a high demand for skilled crane professionals. More than 330 new people are needed in the cranes and elevated platforms sector by 2020.

Source: Skills/Infometrics

Industry training

As a crane trainee, you’ll be working, learning, and earning money at the same time. You’ll work closely with experienced people at your company to learn everything you need to become a qualified crane operator.

During your training, you'll learn the skills you need to become a crane operator in two ways:

on jobOn-job learning: This is the practical learning side of your training. Someone at your company will teach you the tasks you’ll carry out in your day-to-day work, and you will be assessed on how well you can do these tasks.

off jobOff-job learning: This is the theory learning side of your training. You’ll be studying different topics throughout your training in a range of ways, for example night classes or day courses.

A supervisor at your company will support you to check you are working correctly and safely.

Where can I go?

Once you complete your qualification you will be able to work as a crane operator on worksites around New Zealand. From there you’ll be able to get further qualified which will allow you to take on more specialised crane operation roles or move into supervisory roles.

As you become more experienced, you’ll be able to progress to higher level roles, such as foreperson, supervisor, health and safety advisor, or project manager.

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Is it for me?

There are some basic skills which will help you go far in your career as a crane operator. You should be:

responsibleResponsible and well-organised 

heightsComfortable with heights

weatherHappy working outdoors in any weather

strongReasonably fit, with good hand-eye coordination, hearing, and eyesight (with or without glasses)

communicateGood at communicating with others 

timeFlexible with working hours, as evening, weekend and on call is sometimes required

eyePatient and observant