What is a Forklift Operator

As a forklift operator, the majority of your time will be spent riding around on a forklift. You'll use it to move objects around so, unfortunately, there will be no time for any funny business. In fact, you'll probably need to follow some safety rules to ensure no one gets hurt.

There really aren't any formal education requirements, but you will probably need to be trained on how to operate the machine. Since products and materials are shipped at all times, you may need to stay late or even work an overnight shift from time to time.

And you better believe you'll get some overtime hours from being a forklift operator, which will be a nice little surprise when it's payday. Plus, did we mention you get to drive a forklift around. Sure, you have to be careful moving objects and trying to avoid running over your co-workers but, hey, at least you get to drive a forklift.

What Does a Forklift Operator Do

Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects. Some operators move construction materials around building sites or excavate earth from a mine. Others move goods around a warehouse or onto container ships.

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How To Become a Forklift Operator

Education and training requirements vary by the occupation. Crane operators and excavating machine operators usually have several years of experience in related occupations, such as construction equipment operators or hoist or winch operators.

Education

Although no formal education is usually required, some companies prefer material moving machine operators to have a high school diploma. For crane operators, excavating machine operators, and dredge operators, however, a high school diploma or equivalent is typically required.

Training

Most material moving machine operators are trained on the job in less than a month. Some machines are more complex than others, such as cranes as compared with industrial trucks such as forklifts. Therefore, the amount of time spent in training will vary with the type of machine the operator is using. Learning to operate a forklift or an industrial truck in warehouses, for example, may take only a few days. Training to operate a crane for port operations may take several months. Most workers are trained by a supervisor or another experienced employee.

The International Union of Operating Engineers offers apprenticeship programs for heavy equipment operators, such as excavating machine operators or crane operators. Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job training with technical instruction.

During their training, material moving machine operators learn a number of safety rules, many of which are standardized through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Employers must certify that each operator has received the proper training. Operators who work with hazardous materials receive further specialized training.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

A number of states and several cities require crane operators to be licensed. To get a license, operators typically must complete a skills test in which they show that they can control a crane. They also must pass a written exam that tests their knowledge of safety rules and procedures. Some crane operators and industrial truck and tractor operators may obtain certification, which includes passing a written exam.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Crane operators and excavating machine operators usually have several years of experience working as construction equipment operators or hoist and winch operators. 

Important Qualities

Alertness. Material moving machine operators must be aware of their surroundings while operating machinery.

Hand–eye–foot coordination. Material moving machine operators should have steady hands and feet to guide and control heavy machinery precisely. They use hand controls to maneuver their machines through tight spaces, around large objects, and on uneven surfaces.

Mechanical skills. Material moving machine operators make minor adjustments to their machines and perform basic maintenance.

Visual ability. Material moving machine operators must be able to clearly see where they are driving or what they are moving. They must also watch for nearby workers, who may unknowingly be in their path.

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Average Salary
$33,726
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
4%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
176,636
Job Openings
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Average Salary for a Forklift Operator

Forklift Operators in America make an average salary of $33,726 per year or $16 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $39,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $28,000 per year.
Average Salary
$33,726
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12 Forklift Operator Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Forklift Operator Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Forklift Operator resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Forklift Operator Resume Examples And Templates

And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. XPO Logistics Jobs (718)
  2. Tyson Foods Jobs (575)
  3. Lowe's Jobs (957)
  4. The Coca-Cola Company Jobs (1,179)
  5. The Home Depot Jobs (1,320)

Choose From 10+ Customizable Forklift Operator Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Forklift Operator templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Forklift Operator resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Forklift Operator Resume
Forklift Operator Resume
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Forklift Operator Resume
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Forklift Operator Resume

Forklift Operator Demographics

Forklift Operator Gender Statistics

male

92.0 %

female

8.0 %

Forklift Operator Ethnicity Statistics

White

61.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

18.3 %

Black or African American

14.8 %

Forklift Operator Foreign Languages Spoken Statistics

Spanish

84.6 %

French

4.0 %

Carrier

2.6 %
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Forklift Operator Education

Forklift Operator Majors

23.6 %

Forklift Operator Degrees

High School Diploma

59.3 %

Diploma

15.3 %

Associate

12.5 %
Job Openings

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Online Courses For Forklift Operator That You May Like

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Top Skills For a Forklift Operator

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 14.2% of Forklift Operators listed Forklifts on their resume, but soft skills such as Alertness and Communication skills are important as well.

Best States For a Forklift Operator

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a Forklift Operator. The best states for people in this position are North Dakota, Alaska, Minnesota, and Vermont. Forklift Operators make the most in North Dakota with an average salary of $39,739. Whereas in Alaska and Minnesota, they would average $38,056 and $37,511, respectively. While Forklift Operators would only make an average of $37,409 in Vermont, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Wisconsin

Total Forklift Operator Jobs:
1,655
Highest 10% Earn:
$41,000
Location Quotient:
1.64
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. North Dakota

Total Forklift Operator Jobs:
137
Highest 10% Earn:
$45,000
Location Quotient:
0.81
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Minnesota

Total Forklift Operator Jobs:
1,204
Highest 10% Earn:
$43,000
Location Quotient:
0.99
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Forklift Operators

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Top Forklift Operator Employers

Most Common Employers For Forklift Operator

RankCompanyZippia ScoreAverage Forklift Operator SalaryAverage Salary
1$38,822
2$38,723
3$35,259
4$35,147
5$34,997
6$34,608

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Becoming a Forklift Operator FAQs

How long does it take to become a Forklift Operator?

It takes 3 years of professional experience to become a forklift operator. That is the time it takes to learn specific forklift operator skills, but does not account for time spent in formal education.

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Do forklift operators make good money?

No, forklift operators do not make good money. The lowest-paid forklift operators are only paid around $19,000 a year, while the highest only reach about $35,000 in total annual salary, both of which are well below the average salary across all jobs in the United States.

The national average salary for a forklift operator is only $28,000 a year; this equals about $14 an hour.

If a person moves into a slightly higher position, like a forklift supervisor or a forklift engineer, the salary levels jump drastically. Forklift engineers earn around $64,000 a year, and forklift supervisors earn about $60,000 a year. These are both more than double the average annual salary of a forklift operator.

While changing job titles can increase a forklift operator's salary, moving to another location does not. Salaries do not vary much by location, with the highest paying jobs in California only averaging around $35,000 a year. This, paired with the higher cost of living, means that forklift operators make about the same money everywhere.

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Is a forklift operator a good job?

Yes, being a forklift operator can be a good job for the right person. While many might consider the job a drag, the right individual will find it a great job that fits their skills, interests, and aptitude.

Becoming a forklift operator is a good job for people who have no wish to continue their education and want to get the right to work to start making money. It is also a good job for people who do not do well in an office or retail environment and want to perform some physical labor as part of their work.

Being a forklift operator is also a good job for those looking for job security. the warehouse and manufacturing industries are always looking for good forklift operators, so no matter where a person lives, it will always be easy to find a job as a forklift operator.

Also, while the job does not pay a lot, it does pay enough to pay the bills, and forklift operators can choose more lucrative shifts if they want to -- like second and third shifts -- that will typically pay more money.

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Is forklift operator an easy job?

Yes, forklift operator is an easy job. All a person needs to become a forklift operator is a high school diploma or equivalent and some specialized training in operating forklifts.

Forklifts are classified as heavy equipment. While they do not move fast, they can lift enormous amounts of weight and do a lot of damage in the process if they are not used correctly.

This is why it can be challenging to be a forklift operator. In this role, the forklift operator is responsible for their own safety, the safety of their coworkers, and the safety of the items that are being moved.

This requires some math skills (considering angles and balancing the machine), hand-eye coordination, and a strong ability to be patient and allow the machine time to properly do the job.

Being a forklift operator is rewarding as they can see the physical results of their work and recognize the power that the position holds in the company's day-to-day operations.

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Is forklift training hard?

No, forklift training is not hard. A person interested in becoming a forklift operator can take the forklift training from a vocational school or community college that offers such a course.

When a student is enrolled in a forklift course, the instructor will teach them heavy equipment driving skills and important safety-related information about driving a forklift.

A typical forklift training course comprises classroom instruction and practical training and usually takes about two days to complete.

A person will spend their first day in the classroom learning the fundamentals of forklift operation. This includes current OSHA regulations and applicable safety procedures. After the classroom portion, the student will often spend time in the actual workplace doing practical training exercises and forklift operation under instructor supervision.

On the second day, the instructor will administer the written exam and hands-on driving assessment on the second day to measure the students' knowledge learned from the first day of training. Upon passing the tests, a person will be able to operate a forklift.

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