How Do I Become a Certified Forklift Operator?

Research what it takes to become a certified forklift operator. Learn about job duties, licensure requirements and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Certified forklift operators move large objects using specialized equipment. The following table provides some basic information for this profession:

Training Required Forklift training program (requirements vary by state)
Key Responsibilities Move materials around construction sites, factories & warehouses
Licensure/Certification Professional operator's license, OSHA certification
Job Growth (2012-22) -3% for all industrial truck and tractor operators*
Median Salary (2014) $33,004 for all forklift operators**

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

What Is a Forklift Operator?

As a forklift operator, it'll be your job to move materials around construction sites, factories and warehouses. You'll move such materials as earth, cement, concrete blocks and wood. You'll also load and unload trucks and ships with merchandise, luggage and building materials. During downtime, you may also be tasked with inspecting forklifts for problems and performing basic maintenance tasks.

What Skills Do I Need?

You'll need a professional operator's license to operate forklifts and other heavy-duty machinery. To become a certified forklift operator, you must be familiar with the technical functions, parts and types of forklifts that include manual and motor-operated forklifts, such as pallet jacks, basket lifts, reach forklifts, stand-ups, narrow aisle riders, wheel loaders and basket lift machines. You may work during severe weather conditions, and you must have a flexible schedule that allows you to work weekends, if necessary.

How Do I Become Certified?

Certification and licensure requirements vary by state. In most cases, verifiable completion of a forklift training program will provide you with sufficient preparation to pass licensing or certification tests. Upon completion of such a program, you'll be issued a permit and eligible to apply for certification.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that issues these certificates requires that you get acquainted with the federal OSHA standards for forklift operators. To gain an understanding of regulations issued by the OSHA, courses are available at various trade schools and online. The coursework itself may take a few classroom hours to complete. A permit will offer you a chance to practice and gain hands-on experience and knowledge to pass on the on-the-road component of the test. The certification process typically includes a written multiple-choice test as well as a practical skills test to demonstrate that you can operate a forklift safely.

How Much Can I Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2013, the median wages for industrial truck and tractor operators - a category that includes forklift operators - was $14.77 an hour ( Another source,, reported that as of February 2015, most OSHA certified forklift operators earned between $9.95-$16.78 per hour.

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