Hoist Operator Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a hoist operator career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a hoist operator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Hoist Operator Career

Hoist operators work in construction and manufacturing to move heavy equipment. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of a career in hoist operation to decide if it's right for you.

Pros of a Hoist Operator Career
A high school diploma is often the only educational requirement*
On-the-job training may take a month or less*
Above-average pay relative to education requirements (median annual wage of $39,000 as of May 2014)*
Unions may offer apprenticeship programs that offer training and hands-on experience*

Cons of a Hoist Operator Career
Low employment growth expected (three percent between 2012 and 2022)*
When working outside, you may be required to work at great heights*
Long hours are common in this field*
The risk of injury in this field is higher than in other industries*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

Hoist operators move heavy equipment and materials using cables, cranes and other machines. They work alongside other employees who use radios and hand signals to guide the positioning of these materials. It's more common for hoist operators to move materials over short distances, such as on and off of ships and trucks, than to transport them long distances. They control moving devices using levers, foot pedals, dials and wheels and are often responsible for the inspection and adjustment of these devices.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that these professionals earned a median hourly wage of $19.03 per hour. A hoist operator's income could be more, or less, depending on their industry and location. For example, hoist operators working in mining support services earned a mean wage of approximately $37,000 annually, while those in support activities for water transportation reported average earnings of $64,000. Location could also be a factor. Hoist operators in Illinois reported an annual mean wage of $81,040, while those in Nebraska earned $28,530.

According to the BLS, employment of hoist and winch operators is projected to grow slower than average at only three percent between 2012 and 2022 overall. This amounts to an addition of just 100 jobs. Hiring of those professionals in the field of support activities for water transportation is actually expected to decline 15% as many of these tasks become automated.

Career Requirements

Education and Training Requirements

The BLS notes that a high school diploma is commonly the only education requirement, but increasingly, employers seek hoist operators with experience and professional certification. During your training, you'll likely learn about safety requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or the Mine Safety and Health Administration, according to the BLS. You'll need good eyesight and manual dexterity as well as the ability to make mechanical adjustments to the machinery as you use it. Depending on the state you wish to work in, you may be required to obtain professional licensure.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Employers often want an experienced hoist operator. Additionally, employers sometimes look for candidates with professional certifications that may be earned as part of an associate degree program, or from professional organizations. Below is a sampling of real job positions available in April of 2012:

  • An employer seeks hoist operator candidates in West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. These individuals must have proof of one year of experience as a hoist operator. For those in West Virginia, evidence of professional certifications must be provided.
  • A Michigan-based company seeks a plating line hoist operator to monitor racks for setups, interpret schedules and monitor for defects. This individual should be detail-oriented, have a high level of energy and be open to working second or third shifts.
  • An Indiana-based company seeks a hoist operator to load racks by hand and using a hoist. This individual will be responsible for loading and unloading other trucks and will have other duties assigned. This individual must be able to lift up to 50 pounds and be able to work independently and with others. The ability to read and comprehend English is a requirement.

How to Stand Out

Further Your Education

You may stand out by earning an associate degree in heavy equipment technology with an emphasis in equipment operation or diesel technology. These degree programs require study of engine systems, electronics for heavy equipment as well as maintenance and operation of heavy equipment. Common courses include brake systems, climate control and shop practices. You may also be able to take advantage of cooperative education to gain hands-on experience.

Gain Professional Certification

A crane operator's license or certification is required for hoist operators in some states. The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) offers multiple crane operation certifications including mobile crane operator, tower crane operator, rigger and articulating crane operator. Each of these certifications includes a written exam and a practical exam.

Alternative Career Paths

If hoist operation is not your area of interest, but you want to work with heavy equipment, you could consider a career as an excavating machine operator, using a machine with a scoop or shovel to move dirt. According to the BLS, 22% of excavating and loading machine operators work as specialty trade contractors. Another 14% work in heavy and civil engineering construction. Furthermore, excavating and loading machine operators had a projected employment growth of 17% in the 2010-2020 decade. The BLS reported that as of May 2011, they earned a median annual wage of around $37,000.

If you'd prefer to transport goods from one place to another, consider a career as a long-haul truck driver. These individuals reported a mean annual wage of around $40,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS. Many individuals in this field earned between $25,000 and $58,000 annually. Additionally, this occupation was expected to see faster-than-average growth of about 21% from 2010-2020. This job requires a high school diploma and a commercial driver's license. A driver may be able to obtain specific endorsements to allow them to drive certain types of vehicles. Companies often require prior experience before hiring.

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