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How do I Become a Bridge Operator?

Becoming a bridge operator requires a high school diploma, followed by on-the-job training. You'll need to master technical skills, safety protocols, and communication abilities. Some positions may require a certification in heavy equipment operation or a similar field. Always check specific job postings for requirements.
Patrick Roland
Patrick Roland

If you want to become a bridge operator, you must not only learn to operate various types of drawbridges, you also must know how to repair them, and you must understand maritime law. Most transportation departments have specific levels of expertise, which creates a career path toward managing larger and more complex structures. Mastering the world of bridge operation takes many years of on-the-job training, practice and a great deal of study.

To become a bridge operator, you must understand everything that goes into raising a drawbridge for passing ships. Bridge operators must know what every button and lever on the control panel does in order to enact the electrical warnings that stop road traffic and trains. The operator also must safely raise the bridge and allow boats to pass by without incident. Operators lower the bridge properly so that when traffic resumes, vehicles cross the structure safely.

Bridge operators must know how to operate and maintain drawbridges.
Bridge operators must know how to operate and maintain drawbridges.

A bridge operator must also understand how to use ship-to-shore radio equipment in order to communicate with oncoming boats. A strong knowledge of maritime law and how passing ships should handle themselves also is necessary. From the navigation lights to the bridge gates, if you want to become a bridge operator, you must also understand the various bridge components, spot problems and make simple mechanical and electrical repairs.

Depending on the bridge, if you want to become a bridge operator, you must also perform some less-than-glamorous duties. Many bridge operators are asked to do preventative maintenance, such as changing light bulbs, routine oiling and painting. Training operators with less experience can also become part of the routine once you have climbed to a level of responsibility.

There are no bridge operator schools available to help you learn these skills. Strong grades in mathematics and physics certainly help speed your understanding, but on-the-job training is the only way to gain the knowledge necessary to someday work your own bridge. The best way to get started on your understanding of bridge dynamics, maritime law and mechanics is to assist a bridge operator. Many times there is not a budget for such positions, but offering to work for free is one way to get your foot in the door. This is not lucrative, but it is a great résumé builder and can help you move into a low-level role as a bridge operator.

Most countries have a transportation department oversee bridge operation and many will have jobs divided by expertise level. To become a bridge operator, you must work your way up this experience ladder, most likely starting with simple one lane bridges and moving to more complex, multi-layered structures. For example, the United States classifies its most simple bridge workers with the title Bridge Operator one. This number increases with larger, more difficult bridges, and a sufficient time at each position is required to be promoted. The on-the-job training never stops because with every new structure you work on you will increase your knowledge and understanding of bridges.

Being a bridge operator requires a great deal of on-the-job study and patience. There also are a lot of responsibilities with the job, because the safety of any passing boats and waiting automobiles depends on you. If you are challenged by boating and mechanics, operating a bridge could be an employment choice.

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Discussion Comments


Are there any bridge operator simulators out there, where you learn all the laws and controls in simulated bridge types like there are with train and subway simulators?

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    • Bridge operators must know how to operate and maintain drawbridges.
      By: Ernest Prim
      Bridge operators must know how to operate and maintain drawbridges.