How to Become a Forklift Operator

July 28, 2023
Written by: Micki Vandeloo

Forklift Operators, or Material Handlers as they are sometimes known, are critical to the successful operation of a manufacturing facility.  These employees ensure material is where it is needed when needed.  Here are some facts about the Forklift Operator profession from Indeed[1]:

  • “A Forklift Operator is responsible for operating forklifts and moving goods around warehouses and other industrial sites. Their duties include using forklifts to unload deliveries, stacking boxes for storage and moving wooden pallets around the warehouse.”
  • Forklift Operators are skilled drivers who maneuver forklift around busy industrial environments
  • Forklift Operators are responsible for the safe delivery of materials and for ensuring forklift travel areas are free from obstructions or spills.
  • These employees are also responsible for checking the forklift for faults and damage.
  • Forklift Operators are also usually responsible for packaging material on a pallet, including using shrink-wrap to secure items to a pallet prior to shipment, and for consolidating items from separate pallets into one pallet for shipment.
  • On average, Forklift Operators in the United States make over $41,000 per year, with annual salaries ranging from $31,000 to $54,000. [2]

How do you become a Forklift Operator? 

You must be over 18 years old to operate a forklift, possess a high school diploma or GED, and be certified according to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for Forklift Operators.  Training and certification can be obtained through an employer, through a community college or other training program, or by online training.  Coursework is required as well as hands on training hours.  Those wishing to be certified as a Forklift Operator must pass a test to be certified.

Employers generally look for warehouse/distribution center experience and heavy equipment operation experience when hiring Forklift Operators.

What are the advantages of a career as a Forklift Operator?

The Forklift Operator position comes with many benefits, including:

  • The ability to become familiar with many departments within a manufacturing facility, which can provide opportunities for advancement.
  • The opportunity to meet many people within a manufacturing facility.
  • Good pay and benefits, which many times include additional training and certifications to help workers advance in their manufacturing career.
  • An entryway into an exciting career in manufacturing!

If you are considering becoming a Forklift Operator, contact your local community college or organizations like Raymond Corporation or the OSHA Education Center, which offers a two-hour, online Forklift Certification course for $49.



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