What Is the Average Salary of a Forklift Operator?

Do you want to work as a forklift driver? Have you ever wondered how much these workers earn and what type of training is needed? If you're interested in pursuing this career, read on for current salary figures and training information. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

Forklifts—also known as powered industrial trucks—transport, stack and lift heavy material. Forklift operators maneuver these trucks with hydraulic lifting systems to load and unload heavy and large objects. You can work in warehousing and storage facilities, at docks and terminals, construction sites, storage yards and other locations that require material to be stored or transported. To enter this career, you'll need to become trained and certified in its operation and safety.

Important Facts About Forklift Operators

Work Environment Warehouse, office
Key Skills Alertness, dexterity, mechanical skills, visual ability
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)1% (for all material moving machine operators)
Similar Occupations Delivery truck driver, water transportation worker, warehouse manager

Source: Payscale.com, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Average Salary Overview

According to Payscale.com, the median annual salary for industrial truck and tractor operators, including forklift operators, was $31,163 in September 2015. Overall, base annual salaries ranged from $20,915 to $48,988.

Salary by Industry

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the top-paying industry for industrial truck and tractor operators was the electric power generation, transmission and distribution industry, with an average annual wage of $54,030 in May 2014. Those in the rail transportation industry earned an average annual wage of $49,460, while those working in aerospace product and parts manufacturing earned an average wage of $48,600.

The industry with the highest level of employment was the warehousing and storage industry, which had a mean wage of $32,620. Other industries with high employment levels included employment services and building material and supplies dealers, with mean wages of $28,910 and $26,070, respectively.

Salary by Location

According to May 2014 BLS figures, mean wages for the locations with high employment levels included $38,260 for California, $29,310 for Texas, $31,620 for Illinois, $35,750 for Pennsylvania and $30,440 for Georgia. States with the highest mean wages included Alaska ($51,700), the District of Columbia ($47,440), Hawaii ($41,750), Wyoming ($41,200) and Washington ($40,700). States with lower mean wages between $20,320 and $30,190 included Idaho, South Dakota, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.

Job Requirements and Training Information

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), forklift operators must be at least 18 years old and be properly trained and certified before they may operate an industrial truck at a workplace (www.osha.gov). Many employers require forklift operators to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training and certification courses can be found at community colleges, technical schools and businesses, which are members of power industrial truck organizations. Such programs combine classroom instruction with hands-on training in areas such as safety and operation guidelines, mechanical parts, forklift types, steering, forklift parts and workplace practices.

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