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Tower Crane Operator

Certification OverviewCCO Certified Operator-150x

Welcome to the CCO Tower Crane Operator certification program. This nationally recognized and internationally accredited certification program is the culmination of a year of hard work by experts from the various industries and groups that use tower cranes, including construction, steel erection, utilities, crane rental, petrochemicals, pulp and paper, and operating engineers.

The NCCCO Tower Crane Task Force that determined the content of the certification exams was made up of experts from all aspects of the crane industry—crane operators, training directors, managers, supervisors, manufacturers—who together represent many thousands of hours of crane-related experience. These volunteers gave freely of their time and expertise with the goal of improving the safety of all whose work brings them into contact with cranes and lifting equipment.


Visit How to Test for instructions on applying for and taking CCO Written and Practical Exams; visit How to Recertify for instructions on recertification.

Complete instructions, exam contents, and candidate applications are also contained in the Candidate Handbook for each program.


Requirements for certification include the following:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Meet physical requirements
  • Comply with CCO’s Substance Abuse Policy
  • Pass Written Examination
  • Pass Practical Examination (Candidates must pass the Written and corresponding Practical examinations within a 12-month timeframe.)
  • Comply with the Code of Ethics 


CCO certification examinations are designed for operators who are trained and who currently work in crane operation.

Crane-related experience is defined as: operation, maintenance, inspection, or training.


Certified crane operators must continue to meet ASME B30 physical requirements throughout their certification period and attest to their agreement to this requirement in their applications.

In appropriate circumstances, means of compliance with ASME physical requirements may include, but are not limited to, a current Department of Transportation (DOT) Medical Examiner’s Certificate.


The Tower Crane written exam consists of a single examination in Tower Crane operation. This examination has 55 multiple-choice questions, six of which are load chart questions. Candidates are allowed 60 minutes to complete the exam. Candidates meeting eligibility requirements may take the written and practical examinations in either order.


The CCO Tower Crane Practical Examination demonstrating crane operator proficiency may be taken on the following crane types:

  • Hammerhead
  • Luffer
  • Self-Erecting


Candidates must pass both Written and Practical Examinations to be certified for a five-year period. The Written and Practical Exams may be taken in either order. Candidates have 12 months from the time they pass their first Written or Practical Exam for each crane type in which to pass the corresponding (Written or Practical) Exam.

Any tests passed within a 12-month period count towards certification. For example, a candidate who fails the Tower Crane Operator Written Exam in January 2015 but passes the Tower Crane Operator Practical Exam in June 2015 has until the end of June 2016 to retake and pass the Tower Crane Operator Written Exam.

If a certified operator subsequently becomes certified in an additional operator designation by taking the appropriate written and practical exams, the certification period for the additional designation expires at the same time his/her original certification (i.e., all operator designations expire on the same date, regardless of when in the five-year certification period the candidate passed them). If the new designation is added within the final 24 months of his/her certification period, the certificant is exempt from recertifying for the new designation after five years; after that, however, certificants must recertify for all designations during the 12 months prior to their certifications’ expiration date. This ensures that all of the certificant’s operator designations maintain the same expiration date.

Candidates for certification or recertification may petition for an extension of NCCCO’s standard timeline(s). NCCCO staff shall have the discretion to make the initial determination of whether a requested extension should be granted. Petitions for an extension of time are generally denied absent a showing of extraordinary circumstances. Denials of such petitions may be appealed to the Appeals Committee.


The following policies apply to all CCO certification programs:

These policies are also covered in the Candidate Handbooks for each program.


Certified operators receive a plastic photo ID card at no cost when they certify for the first time and when they complete the requirements for recertification.

Replacement cards, cards showing certification in an additional designation, or updated cards for candidates who retake and pass a designation they previously failed may be obtained from NCCCO at a cost of $25. Cards may be ordered online or by contacting Jennifer Warner at jwarner@nccco.org or 727-449-8525.

Certification cards remain the property of NCCCO, are not transferable, and must be returned to NCCCO upon demand.


CCO certification is valid for five years. Candidates must complete all of their recertification requirements during the 12 months prior to their expiration date.

Review recertification requirements for Tower Crane Operators.

Get complete instructions on How to Recertify.


The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators gratefully recognizes the sponsors for the Tower Crane Operator Certification Program:

Liebherr Tower Cranes

Manitowoc Crane Group

Morrow Equipment Company

Terex Cranes