How to Become a Rigger

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There are more than 7 million construction workers in the United States alone. That means there’s a ton of opportunity in this industry – opportunities that you could benefit from if you decide to enter it.

If you’re interested into getting construction, then you might want to look into becoming a rigger. This is a specialized career that can be highly rewarding if it’s a good fit for you.

We’ve put together this article to tell you everything that you need to know about becoming a rigger. By the end of it, you’ll have all of the information that you need to decide whether this is the right career for you.

Let’s get into it.

What is a rigger, exactly?

A rigger is a type of construction worker who focuses on safely moving heavy objects. They use tools like ropes, pulleys, and cranes to maneuver items like beams, HVAC systems, and other heavy objects into tight and awkward spaces.

Here are some of the most common responsibilities for riggers:

  • Securely attach cables and ropes to loads
  • Identify any plan for potential hazards of moving an object 
  • Use various types of equipment and machinery to move large loads
  • Dismantle rigging gear once the move is complete
  • Maintain and repair gear needed to move large objects


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks a ton of great employment information that you can use to learn more about what your job opportunities as a rigger might look like.

According to the BLS, there are currently 21,700 riggers employed in the United States. These workers earn an average hourly wage of $25.49, which translates into an average annual salary of about $53,020.

But your earning potential will vary based on the state that you work in. For example, riggers in New York earn an average salary of $78,910, while those in Louisiana earn an average of $45,500 per year.

An overview of how to become a rigger

At the entry level, becoming a rigger is a relatively straightforward process. You just need to complete your high school education and then you can start looking for entry-level rigger jobs in your area.

Most of the training that you need to become a skilled rigger happens after you’re already employed – either through an apprenticeship or informal on-the-job training.

This is what you need to get started

The good news is that there’s a relatively low barrier of entry to become a rigger. The only real requirement is that you’ve completed your high school education – either through earning a diploma or the equivalent of one.

That being said, it can be useful to have some other things before attempting to get hired as a rigger as well.

For example, if you have previous construction experience, it could be much easier for you to find your first job as a rigger. That’s because employers in this industry tend to value workers who already know their way around a construction site.

You may also have an easier time getting a job if you complete your post-secondary education in the construction industry. This could involve earning an associate’s degree or a certification in a field related to rigging.

Watch out for these potential issues

If you’re serious about becoming a rigger, then it can be helpful to have a clear understanding of what could prevent you from reaching your goal. That way, you can plan for those hurdles now so that they don’t prove insurmountable if you encounter them.

One thing that could hold you back is your location. For example, there are only about 410 riggers in Mississippi but there are nearly 2,500 in Louisiana. If you live in a state with fairly few prospects for riggers, opening up your job search to neighboring states could help.

Your location within a state also matters for this type of work. Generally, it’s easier to find a job as a rigger in a metropolitan area than it is in a rural one.

For example, the four metropolitan areas with the highest employment numbers for riggers are all home to more than 1,000 workers in this field. But the rural area with the highest employment numbers for riggers is just over 600.

Step 1: Complete your high school education

The first step to becoming a rigger is finishing up your high school diploma. If you’ve already done that, great! If not, you can get a GED and still meet this requirement.

If you’re still in high school and you know that you want to be a rigger, then it could make sense to pick classes that get you ready for this career.

For example, any classes that give you the chance to work with tools will be useful. Similarly, it could make sense to focus on math and physics, since you may need to know some of the theories covered in those classes to excel as a rigger.

Step 2: Train on-site or through an apprenticeship

The next step in this process is finding either an entry-level job as a rigger or an apprenticeship. Both of these options have their own pros and cons.

Entry-level rigger positions offer informal training. That can be nice if you don’t want to have to wait for an obligatory amount of time to pass before you can become a full-fledged rigger. 

Instead, you’ll get the full responsibilities of a rigger as soon as you’re ready for them. But you may not get the comprehensive training that you would get from an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships offer a more solidified training curriculum but may take longer to complete. This means you may have to wait longer before becoming a full rigger but you’ll likely be better prepared to have a successful career as one at the end of your apprenticeship.

You can find apprenticeships through local unions, trade associations, and technical colleges in your area.

Step 3: Become a certified rigger

Once you’ve completed your entry-level training as a rigger, it’s typically a good move to seek out certification. 

Earning a certificate gives you an easy way to prove to employers that you know what you’re doing. This could make it easier for you to find new jobs as a rigger.

The top certification for riggers in the United States comes from the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO).

They have general Rigger 1 and Rigger two exams, as well as a wide variety of specialty rigger certifications that you can earn.

Getting a specialized rigger certification in a field like digger derrick operation can be a good move if you know that you’d like to work in the oil industry.

Ultimately, earning a certification gives you an easy way to prove that you have the rigging skills that you say you do. And to earn one, you really only need to pass an exam and potentially satisfy a few work experience requirements. So, it often makes sense to earn one if you’re serious about a career in rigging.

Step 4: Choose a specialty and look for work

At this stage of the process, you’re ready to begin looking for rigger job opportunities in your area. Before you start looking, you may want to make a decision about the specific type of work that you’d like to do as a rigger.

For example, you can choose from becoming a:

  • Mobile crane operator
  • Lift director
  • Overhead crane operator
  • Service truck crane operator
  • Tower crane operator
  • And several other specialties

If you’re not sure which field you’d like to enter into yet, don’t worry. You can start by looking for general rigging jobs so that you get the chance to experience the industry before settling on a specialty within it.

Once you’ve decided on the type of rigging job that you would like, you’ll be ready to start looking for opportunities in that field on various online platforms.

Rock the Trades makes it easier to find your next job as a rigger

Becoming a rigger can be a great way to set yourself up with a rewarding long-term industrial career. But it can be tough to find your first job in the specific rigging specialty that interests you most.

That’s why you should use Rock the Trades. Our app automatically connects you with industrial employment opportunities in your area that align with your skills and goals.

All that you need to do is download our app, tell us a bit about yourself, and we’ll take care of the rest.So why wait? Download Rock the Trades today to get started.

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