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How to Become a Rigger

By Oluwadamilola Osisanya

Published:

Feeling drawn to a career in rigging yet daunted by the maze of training and qualifications? Wrestling with the challenges of entering the construction and industrial sectors can be intimidating. So, delve into our in-depth guide on becoming a rigger, transforming your ambition into a tangible and achievable plan.

Career Summary

Rigger Salary

Rigger Salary

The salary for riggers can vary widely depending on several factors. If you’re considering a career as a rigger, it’s vital that you get an idea of the potential earnings.

Here are the key rigger salary figures according to Glassdoor:

  • Entry Salary (US$45k)
  • Median Salary (US$56k)
  • Executive Salary (US$70k)

The median rigger salary is slightly lower compared to the general average salary across the United States, which was reported to be $61,900 in 2022.

What does a Rigger do?

A rigger is a skilled worker who specializes in lifting and moving extremely large or heavy objects, often utilizing cranes, hoists, derricks, and techniques involving pulleys, chains, and other mechanical advantage devices. The role of a rigger is vital in various industries, such as construction, shipping, entertainment, and any other sector where heavy objects need to be moved or precisely placed.

Rigger Career Progression

  • Rigger Apprentice: As the initial step in aligning with the rigger job description, you’ll start in the rigging industry, learning the basics under the mentorship of experienced professionals.
  • Junior Rigger: After completing your apprenticeship, you will start taking on more responsibilities. As a junior rigger, you will supervise rigging tasks and collaborate with other team members on more complex lifts.
  • Certified Rigger: After certification from recognized institutions and demonstrating proficiency in rigging practices, you can plan and execute more complex lifting operations, ensuring safety and industry standards compliance.
  • Lead Rigger: With added experience, you can become a lead rigger, overseeing multiple rigging operations on-site. Your job will ensure the team’s safety, efficiency, and adherence to project requirements.
  • Rigging Supervisor: You will supervise all rigging activities across larger projects or sites in this role. You must coordinate with project managers, handle workforce scheduling, and troubleshoot rigging challenges.
Rigger Career Progression

Pros and Cons of Working as a Rigger

Pros:

  • Opportunity to develop highly specialized technical skills.
  • Hands-on and physically active work.
  • Experience of being part of a cohesive and collaborative team.
  • Chance to travel and work in various locations.
  • Benefit from steady demand for skilled riggers in various industries.

Cons:

  • Exposure to potentially dangerous work environments.
  • Pressure to adhere to strict safety and operational protocols.
  • Possibility of experiencing physical strain from demanding tasks.
  • Inconsistent work hours, possibly involving nights and weekends.
  • Expectation to work at heights or in confined spaces.

Useful Skills to have as a Rigger

  • Physical Strength and Stamina
  • Proficiency in Mathematics
  • Problem-Solving Skills
  • Knowledge of Safety Protocols
  • Good Communication Skills

Popular Rigger Specialties

  • Tower Rigger
  • Marine Rigger
  • Theatrical Rigger
  • Aeronautical Rigger
  • Manufacturing Rigger

How to become a Rigger

Rigger 5 Steps to Career

Attaining proficiency in rigging demands a harmony of theoretical education and practical experience, ensuring safety and operational efficacy in projects. Let’s explore how to become a rigger in five simple steps.

Step 1: Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent

A comprehensive education in rigging is vital, imparting fundamental knowledge, promoting safety, and developing a solid foundation for practical application. A high school diploma or its equivalent serves as the fundamental educational prerequisite for individuals aspiring to become riggers.

This educational foundation provides essential knowledge in subjects like mathematics and physics, which are integral to understanding the principles of rigging, load calculations, and safety procedures.

Additionally, it demonstrates to potential employers your ability to meet minimum educational requirements, which can be a critical factor in the hiring process. While a diploma is the starting point, it is important to note that rigging also requires practical skills and specialized training to excel in the field.

Step 2: Enroll in a Rigging Training Program or Apprenticeship

Rigging training programs or apprenticeships offer specialized instruction in the art of securing heavy equipment, making this step vital for honing your skills and gaining in-depth knowledge of the craft.

These programs offer comprehensive and structured instruction in the art of securing heavy loads, emphasizing safety protocols and the proper use of equipment. You will learn about various types of rigging equipment, hardware, and materials, as well as load calculations and weight distribution.

Apprenticeships, on the other hand, provide a unique hands-on learning experience. They typically involve working under the guidance of experienced riggers, allowing apprentices to apply what they’ve learned in a real-world setting.

Can I Become a Rigger through Online Education?

You can start the journey to becoming a rigger through online education, especially for acquiring theoretical knowledge. Online courses might offer foundational knowledge on rigging principles, safety protocols, and possibly some technical aspects of lifting and moving loads. They might cover topics such as mathematics for rigging, understanding of load dynamics, rigging hardware, and safety compliance.

However, the practical skills cannot be fully developed through online courses and require in-person training, apprenticeships, or on-the-job experience. Therefore, while online education can be a valuable starting point and complement to your training, it will need to be supplemented with practical, in-person experiences to become a proficient rigger.

What are some web resources to learn skills to become a Rigger?

To learn the skills required to become a rigger, dedicated web resources are designed to enhance your theoretical and practical knowledge.

Here are some of them:

  • CICB (Crane Inspection & Certification Bureau): CICB offers training programs and certifications for riggers, signal persons, and crane operators. They have various training materials and might offer some online options or resources for study.
  • ITI (Industrial Training International): ITI offers a variety of training programs, including some online options, for riggers, crane operators, and other related professions. They have courses that focus on rigging, lifting, and hoisting aspects.
  • Lift-It Manufacturing: While Lift-It Manufacturing is primarily a manufacturer of rigging products, its website contains an educational section with rigging resources and guidelines that can benefit aspiring riggers.
  • Associated Wire Rope Fabricators: While AWRF is an association rather than a training provider, it offers webinars, a bi-monthly magazine, and various other resources useful for anyone looking to learn more about the rigging industry.
  • LEEA (Lifting Equipment Engineers Association): LEEA is internationally recognized and offers various training courses and certifications regarding lifting equipment. They provide a variety of learning materials that can help you understand the best practices and standards in the rigging and lifting industry.

Step 3: Gain Practical Experience

Practical experience is paramount for aspiring riggers, providing essential hands-on knowledge, ensuring safety, and enhancing problem-solving skills in real-world scenarios.

What are Internship Opportunities for a Rigger?

Internship opportunities for a rigger typically involve hands-on experience under the supervision of experienced rigging professionals.

Here are some areas where a rigger might seek internships:

  • Construction Sites: Interns might assist in moving and placing heavy construction materials, machinery, and other large objects, learning about safe rigging practices, crane operations, and lift planning.
  • Shipping and Ports: Opportunities could involve working with lifting equipment to load and unload heavy cargo and understanding the nuances of rigging in a maritime environment.
  • Manufacturing Plants: Interns may move heavy machinery or components, understanding industrial settings’ unique challenges and safety protocols.
  • Entertainment Industry: Rigging internships in the entertainment sector might involve setting up and managing equipment for events, concerts, or theatrical productions, providing a unique perspective on rigging applications.
  • Oil and Gas Industry: In an oil and gas context, interns might learn about rigging related to drilling equipment, maintenance operations, or transporting materials and machinery in potentially harsh environments.
  • Utilities: Power plants, wind farms, and other utility facilities may offer internships where riggers move and place heavy components, such as transformers, turbines, or other large-scale equipment.
  • Heavy Equipment Rental Companies: Learning about various types of lifting and moving equipment, maintenance, safety checks, and possibly assisting in rigging operations during equipment rental setup and removal.
  • Crane Service Companies: Interns could gain insights into crane operations, safety checks, lift planning, and execution while working with experienced crane operators and riggers.

Interns in these settings might assist with the setup and breakdown of rigging equipment, participate in safety briefings, help plan lifts, and, under close supervision, participate in rigging operations.

The focus during an internship is often on learning and adhering to safety protocols, understanding the functional use of various types of rigging equipment, and developing practical rigging skills in a real-world context.

What Skills will I learn as a Rigger?

In aligning with a typical rigger job description, one must acquire comprehensive skills to safely and effectively perform their duties.

Below are some key skills you’ll learn and develop as a rigger:

Load Handling and Management

  • Weight Estimation: Accurately estimating the weight and balance of loads to ensure safe lifting.
  • Load Securing: Utilizing various rigging hardware to secure loads properly.

Equipment Operation and Management

  • Crane Operation: Understanding and potentially operating cranes and other lifting equipment.
  • Equipment Maintenance: Regular checking and maintenance of rigging equipment.

Safety Practices

  • Risk Assessment: Identifying and mitigating potential risks involved in lifting operations.
  • Adherence to Safety Protocols: Following and ensuring strict adherence to safety rules and regulations.

Communication

  • Effective Communication: Communicating with team members using verbal commands, hand signals, and radios.
  • Team Coordination: Working cohesively with a team to ensure safe and efficient operations.

Problem-Solving

  • Troubleshooting: Addressing issues that arise during rigging operations promptly and effectively.
  • Decision-Making: Making informed and quick decisions under pressure to ensure safety and project integrity.

Technical Skills

  • Understanding of Mechanical Systems: Deep knowledge of various mechanical advantage systems used in lifting operations.
  • Blueprint and Plan Reading: Interpreting construction drawings and rigging plans.

Planning and Organizing

  • Lift Planning: Developing comprehensive plans for lifting operations considering all variables.
  • Project Management: Coordinating various aspects of rigging projects to ensure they proceed according to plan.

Developing these skills typically involves a combination of formal education, on-the-job training, and continuous learning to ensure adherence to ever-evolving industry standards and practices.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Certification is a pivotal step, as it validates your competency and safety awareness in rigging, often opening doors to better job opportunities and career advancement.

Several relevant certifications for riggers include:

  • NCCCO Rigger Certification: Offered by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, this certification is widely recognized in the industry and demonstrates a rigger’s knowledge of load charts, rigging gear, and safe practices.
  • OSHA 30-Hour Construction Industry Training: While not a specific rigger certification, this Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) course provides valuable safety knowledge, which is crucial for all riggers working on construction sites.
  • API Rigger Certification: Offered by the American Petroleum Institute, this certification is tailored for riggers working in the oil and gas industry, ensuring they are well-versed in industry-specific safety requirements.
  • ETCP Certified Entertainment Rigger: Focused on the entertainment industry, this certification verifies a rigger’s competence in safely rigging lighting, sound, and stage equipment.

Step 5: Apply for Jobs

The culmination of your efforts, applying for rigger positions is where your education, training, experience, and certifications converge to launch your career in the field of rigging. Riggers possess a versatile skill set that can be applied in various job environments. Let’s explore some of them.’

Rigger Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a Rigger?

Here’s a look at different job opportunities and roles that a rigger might explore:

  • Entertainment Rigger: Entertainment riggers specialize in safely suspending and supporting equipment, lighting, sound, and set pieces for concerts, theater productions, and other live events.
  • Crane Rigger: Crane riggers are responsible for ensuring the proper attachment and secure lifting of heavy loads using cranes and other lifting equipment, with a focus on safety and precision.
  • Oil and Gas Rigger: Oil and gas riggers work in the energy industry, where they handle the safe assembly and disassembly of drilling equipment, pipelines, and other heavy machinery on offshore and onshore rigs.
  • Construction Rigger: Construction riggers assist in hoisting and positioning construction materials, equipment, and structures on building sites, ensuring they are safely and accurately placed.
  • Marine Rigger: Marine riggers specialize in rigging and hoisting tasks aboard ships and vessels, securing cargo, equipment, and sails to withstand the challenges of the maritime environment.
  • Theatrical Rigger: Theatrical riggers are experts in safely suspending and operating stage elements, such as curtains, scenery, and lighting, to create captivating and dynamic live performances.
  • Aerial Rigger (for acrobatics and performances): Aerial riggers support the setup and safety of acrobatic and aerial performances by rigging equipment, such as trapezes and silks, to ensure the safety of performers.
  • Wind Turbine Rigger: Wind turbine riggers are responsible for assembling, maintaining, and repairing wind turbines, ensuring that these renewable energy structures operate efficiently and safely.
  • Heavy Equipment Rigger: Heavy equipment riggers specialize in transporting and securing large machinery and equipment for various industries, such as manufacturing, mining, and logistics.
  • Shipyard Rigger: Shipyard riggers work in shipbuilding and repair facilities, where they handle the lifting, positioning, and securing of ship components and materials during the construction and maintenance of vessels.

Each setting presents distinct challenges and requires specific knowledge of the materials, environments, and machinery encountered in the field.

What Type of Companies Hire a Rigger?

Here are some of the companies and organizations that typically hire riggers.

  • Construction Firms: Companies involved in residential, commercial, or industrial construction projects hire riggers to move materials and machinery on-site.
  • Heavy Equipment Suppliers: Firms that supply heavy machinery and equipment to various industries, which might require riggers to manage equipment delivery, setup, and removal.
  • Steel Erection Companies: Organizations that specialize in assembling steel structures, needing riggers to handle, position, and secure steel components.
  • Precast Concrete Manufacturers: Companies producing precast concrete elements may hire riggers to move and transport heavy precast components in the manufacturing plant and onto transport vehicles.
  • Machinery Moving Companies: Businesses specializing in transporting and relocating heavy machinery across various industries and locations.
  • Offshore Drilling Companies: Entities operating offshore oil and gas drilling rigs, which require riggers to manage the movement of heavy equipment and materials in often challenging sea conditions.
  • Engineering Consultancies: Consulting firms might employ riggers to provide expert advice on lift planning and rigging configurations and to supervise lifting operations on various projects.
  • HVAC Installation Companies: Businesses that specialize in installing large heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, which often require the use of rigging to position units.
  • Boat and Yacht Builders: Companies that build or repair boats and yachts, often requiring riggers to handle the movement and positioning of large components, such as hulls and engines.
  • Demolition Companies: Firms specializing in demolition may require riggers to manage the safe dismantling and removal of structural elements and debris.
  • Telecommunication Firms: Companies that install and maintain telecommunication towers employ riggers to ensure safe lifting and positioning of tower components.
  • Renewable Energy Companies: Solar and wind energy sector firms may hire riggers to handle and position large components like solar panels or wind turbine parts during installation and maintenance.
  • Entertainment and Event Production: Entertainment companies and event venues hire riggers to set up and safely manage equipment for concerts, theater productions, and other live events.
  • Forestry and Logging Companies: Riggers are employed in the forestry sector to manage the transportation and positioning of large logs and machinery.
  • Utilities and Power Plants: Riggers are needed in power generation facilities to handle equipment used in the production and distribution of electricity.

What’s the Career Outlook for Riggers?

The career outlook for riggers in the United States remains promising due to the essential nature of their role in safely lifting and moving heavy objects, equipment, and materials. These tasks are pivotal in industries such as construction, shipping, and manufacturing, among others.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of construction laborers and helpers, which includes riggers, is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

This growth is driven by the continuous need for infrastructure projects, residential and commercial construction, and other projects that demand the expertise of riggers. 

As cities expand, infrastructure ages, and technology advances, the construction and industrial sectors will require proficient riggers to manage the challenges of lifting and positioning heavy equipment and materials.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Rigger?

Riggers often encounter a challenging work-life balance due to their work’s project-based and sometimes unpredictable nature.

Riggers might work long hours or during weekends to meet project timelines or to take advantage of specific conditions, such as weather or availability of particular machinery.

Being part of a project, riggers may work intensely and then experience lulls between projects, where work might be sparse, impacting a consistent work-life routine. Furthermore, the job’s physical demands can sometimes lead to fatigue, which might spill over into their personal life.

However, the work-life balance can vary depending on the role and employer. Some riggers might work in environments with more predictable and regular hours, particularly in industrial settings where operations are continual, and shifts might be more standardized.

Should I become a Rigger?

Choosing to become a rigger is a pivotal decision that encompasses a blend of technical expertise, physical prowess, and an unwavering focus on safety. As we’ve explored in this article, the journey to becoming a rigger is diverse, presenting challenges and professional growth opportunities.

In making your choice, consider the salient points highlighted throughout this piece, from the intricacies of training and the diverse roles available to the demands and rewards of the job. Equally important is a self-reflection on your personal interests, innate abilities, and long-term ambitions.

Do you resonate with the intricate art of safely maneuvering heavy objects? Are you driven by the challenge of operating in dynamic construction or industrial settings? These are essential questions to ponder.

Also, contemplate your broader career aspirations. Rigging offers a chance to be at the heart of monumental projects and industries. Does this align with where you envision yourself years down the line?

Ultimately, the decision to embark on a career as a rigger should be deeply reflective, weighing the tangible benefits and demands of the role against your individual passions, dedication, and future goals.

Careers Related to Rigger


Oluwadamilola Osisanya

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