What Is a Hoist Operator?

Research what it takes to become a hoist operator. Learn about the training and licensure requirements, salary information and typical job duties to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Hoist Operator?

A hoist operator, sometimes called a derrick operator, runs the equipment that controls the movement of platforms that carry people and equipment around work sites. After moving a load of workers or goods, they update a log so that they have a record of what was moved and to what location. In addition to directly operating hoist equipment, they also perform routine maintenance and make basic repairs when necessary. In many cases, hoist operators work on construction sites, but they may also find jobs in manufacturing, mining or quarrying settings. Hoist operators work on construction sites and help build, repair and maintain various structures. The following table provides information for this profession:

Education Required High school diploma
Training Required On-the-job training, apprenticeship through professional organizations
Key Responsibilities Load and unload transport vehicles; inspect, set up and adjust equipment; maintain cleanliness of equipment
Licensure/Certification Licensure may be required; certification is optional
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% (for all hoist and winch operators)*
Average Salary (2015) $50,680 (for all hoist and winch operators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of a Hoist Operator?

As a hoist operator, you operate a large piece of equipment, called a hoist, which controls the movement of cables, cages, railcars, loaders, ships and other equipment that carries people or materials. Typically, you're responsible for moving items only short distances from one spot to another or on and off a transportation vehicle. Your work will typically be done on construction sites, in shipyards, at factories or in warehouses.

Job duties may also include inspecting, setting up, adjusting and cleaning equipment. Operating the hoist involves moving levers, regulating speed, following sound cues and observing markings to maneuver materials in the correct spot. You may also have to check loads for proper weight and size and work with handlers to load or unload materials.

What Are the Requirements for the Job?

Your training is primarily done on-the-job where you learn from experienced hoist operators. Employers typically require high school graduates. They may also look for individuals 18 years old or older and able to meet the physical demands of the job like lifting heavy items repeatedly.

Apprenticeships may be offered through professional organizations including the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). The IUOE offers training programs and apprenticeships through local unions. These programs usually last for 3-4 years and allow you to work with experienced, skilled workers. Programs include classroom instruction and fieldwork where you can learn and apply your practical skills to enter the work force. Upon completion of the apprenticeship, you're tested through written and practical exams (www.iuoe.org).

Should I Be Licensed or Certified?

If you're a member of the IUOE, the organization offers the Operating Engineers Certification Program (OECP). The OECP offers certification to prove your skills and knowledge in crane operations. Additionally, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) offers certification for riggers and various crane operators. To become certified, you're tested on your knowledge, skills and expertise through a written and practical examination process (www.nccco.org).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that some states and cities require licensure for crane operators (www.bls.gov). Licensing usually requires testing and meeting educations requirements.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Rather than working as a hoist operator, you could choose to specialize in the use of a different material-moving machine. For instance, as a dredge operator, you would operate equipment that excavates waterways by removing rocks and sediment. You could also specialize in an entirely different type of construction machinery, such as paving equipment. As a paving equipment operator, you would control machines that lay down concrete and spread asphalt. For any of these jobs, you need to have at least a high school diploma.

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