Forklift Operator Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for forklift operators. Get the facts about job duties, training, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Forklift Operator?

Forklift operators have a range of responsibilities related to the movement of goods using a forklift. They transport and distribute materials, equipment or merchandise in an industrial setting using a forklift. They may also be responsible to account for materials. They may work on a construction site or in a warehouse or factory. Forklift operators may also have to maintain a record to indicate what has been moved and where it was moved to. They may also be responsible for maintaining the forklift and cleaning it and their work area.

Education Required High school diploma
Training Required Formal forklift operator training
Key Skills Mechanical ability, physical dexterity, hand-eye coordination
Job Growth (2014-2024)3% (for all material moving machine operators)*
Median Hourly Salary (2016) $13.00**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Would I Do as a Forklift Operator?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes forklift operators in the category of material movers, and that's exactly what they do: move objects from one location to another (www.bls.gov). The Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) states that a forklift operator unloads incoming shipments of materials and products and puts them elsewhere for storage (www.werc.org). You may be responsible for ensuring that items aren't damaged in shipping and that the incoming and outgoing shipments contain all the right materials. You may also have to provide maintenance on the forklift you drive and keep records of changes in inventory.

What Training Is Required?

The BLS notes that often the only educational requirement is a high school diploma and a physical examination. The BLS also states that some workers may need to have specialized training if they're handling hazardous materials. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that a forklift operator be trained before they can operate the truck (www.osha.gov).

Community colleges offer forklift training through continuing education departments. In a forklift operator training program, you'll learn how to hoist materials using the machine. Parking, safety, maintenance, driving and fueling the forklift are major topics of instruction. You'll learn how the design of a forklift affects how easy it is to drive and what OSHA requires for safe operation.

How Much Can I Earn?

The salary website PayScale.com noted that the median hourly wage of forklift operators was $13.00 as of October 2016. This could equate to an annual salary range of $21,757 to $43,778, which includes any bonuses, overtime, profit sharing and tips.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Delivery truck drivers and hand laborers and material movers work in fields that are similar to that of a forklift operator. No formal postsecondary education is required for any of these positions. They all learn through on-the-job training. Delivery truck drivers are responsible for collecting items that need to be shipped, moving them by vehicle, and delivering them to their intended destination. This is similar to the work that forklift operators do because forklift operators move materials and goods from one location to another, and are therefore responsible for picking up the items, transporting them and delivering them. Hand laborers and material movers move stock, materials and goods by hand. They perform the same tasks as forklift operators without using mechanical equipment.

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