Career Development

Material Handler Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Material handlers physically handle goods as part of the fulfillment process for their company. This might include loading and unloading items from trucks, stacking pallets of materials, and other tasks that involve moving and arranging various materials on a daily basis.

Material handlers physically handle goods as part of the fulfillment process for their company. This might include loading and unloading items from trucks, stacking pallets of materials, and other tasks that involve moving and arranging various materials on a daily basis.

While this job requires some physical strength and stamina, it also requires a great deal of attention to detail and an ability to prioritize the workflow of the day. While there is no typical day for a material handler, there are certain tasks and goals they commonly tackle throughout the day.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a material handler and what it takes to become one yourself.

Material Handler Job Duties

Material handlers are responsible for a wide range of duties, including:

  • Load and unload trucks, trailers, or railcars with crates of parts or materials
  • Move materials between departments within a warehouse facility, using forklifts to maneuver large objects, pallet jacks to rearrange stored items, or hand trucks to carry small loads
  • Stack materials in storage areas according to height and weight limits, using forklifts to move pallets across concrete floors
  • Operate sorting equipment such as conveyor belts, sorters, and bulk loaders to separate parts based on their size or type
  • Sort boxes into groups of similar items that are then loaded onto shelves in warehouses or retail stores
  • Check inventory records against deliveries to make sure all items are accounted for before signing off on shipping documentation
  • Record shipment information such as date of delivery and quantity of containers delivered at each location.

Material Handler Salary & Outlook

As of May 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for hand laborers and material movers is $30,010. The bottom 10% of these workers earned less than $21,790, and the top 10% earned more than $46,100.

The job market for hand laborers and material movers is expected to grow by 7% from 2020-2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations. There will be a growing demand for workers to handle materials as the economy grows, and a growing number of openings will result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or retire.

Material Handler Job Requirements

The requirements for material handlers are as follows:

Education: No formal education is required, but employers usually look for candidates with experience in warehouse operations, as well as knowledge of warehouse equipment and material handling techniques.

Training: Material handlers may not be required to complete any formal training before beginning work. However, they should be able to work quickly and efficiently when moving materials. On-the-job training can help them learn how to load and unload material safely and effectively.

Certifications & Licenses: Material handlers are not required to have any certifications or licenses to work in this field. However, there are certifications available for this career, including Certified Forklift Operator, which can improve a candidate’s chances of landing a job.

Material Handler Skills

These are the skills that you will need to be a material handler:

Physical strength: Material handlers must be able to lift heavy equipment and tools, climb ladders, and stand on their feet for much of the day.

Knowledge of safety procedures: Material handlers must know how to follow safety procedures in order to avoid accidents on the job site.

Work ethic: This is a physically demanding job that requires long hours and hard work.

Dexterity: Workers must have good hand-eye coordination and dexterity to pick up small items quickly.

Organizational skills: Organization skills are necessary for keeping track of daily shipments of supplies and materials.

Communication skills: Material handlers must communicate effectively with supervisors and co-workers about where they need materials stored and how they should be loaded onto trucks. 

Material Handler Work Environment

Material handlers are responsible for loading, unloading, and moving materials, so they typically work in warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and other industrial settings. Material handlers typically work in teams.

The work of a material handler is physically demanding and requires physical stamina and strength. In addition to working on one’s feet most of the day, material handlers must be strong enough for the physical labor of lifting and carrying heavy materials. Material handlers can often be called upon to work overtime. The nature of the physical work and the exposure to machinery such as forklifts requires a safety-conscious mentality and high alertness.

Material Handler Career Advancement

Material handlers can move up in their careers by taking on more challenging and complex tasks. For instance, they can be promoted to a material handler supervisor. As a supervisor, you’ll be responsible for overseeing the work of other employees and making sure each task is completed and done well. You might also train new hires and delegate tasks appropriately.

If you continue to impress your superiors, you might take on even greater responsibilities as a material handler manager or director of inventory management. These professionals will be responsible for coordinating large projects and working with manufacturing, shipping, and receiving teams to get all orders filled and shipped to customers.

Material Handler Trends

Here are three trends influencing how material handlers work. Material handlers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Increased Attention to Safety

Companies that produce hazardous materials or products will be increasingly concerned with safety as the economy improves and competition for resources becomes more intense.

As a result, companies will increasingly take steps to prevent workplace accidents, such as enforcing safety rules and providing better training for employees who work with hazardous materials or chemicals. In addition, increased focus on worker safety will help prevent liability issues for businesses in this field.

Impact of Environmental and Ethical Concerns:

It is no secret that customers are becoming more and more concerned about the impact their choices have on the environment, and as a result, businesses in this field will need to focus on these issues.

Companies like Nike, for example, have already made it clear that they value ethical production standards above all else when it comes to product creation. 

Industry of Automation:

Automation is becoming more prevalent in warehouses, with technology like robotic arms, conveyor belts, and scanners that automatically pick and move goods around.

While automation can make it easier for workers to get their jobs done quickly, the demands of these new technologies are also likely to lead to new job opportunities in engineering or computer programming. 

How to Become a Material Handler

1. Planning Your Career Path

If you’re thinking about a career as a material handler, it’s important to know that the job title is often used interchangeably with other positions in different industries. For example, this role is known as a dockworker in the shipping industry and a forklift operator in manufacturing.

To get started on your path to becoming a material handler, research the career path of others who have succeeded in this field. Look at their training and certifications and determine if they would be relevant for you; many material handlers start out working in entry-level roles such as forklift operators or inventory clerks and then move up to become managers or team leaders.

Once you’ve determined what type of education and experience you need, consider how you will acquire it. If your current employment does not provide opportunities for growth, look for work elsewhere; many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs so that employees can attend workshops or classes outside of work hours. Some schools even offer courses online so that students can continue working while they learn.

2. Writing a Resume

A material handler’s resume should be designed to reflect his or her transferable skills, knowledge, and experience in the field. A prospective employer will want to see any relevant certifications, workshops, or training courses listed on the resume, along with specific information about work experience. 

The more you can tailor your resume to emphasize your knowledge of how to work within the job’s industry, the better. For example, include your experience working in warehouses or storage facilities. This shows that you have real-world experience working with all kinds of equipment and machinery, such as forklifts and conveyor belts.

3. Applying for Jobs

There are several things you can do to increase your chances of getting a job as a material handler.

Go directly to the source. Contact employers directly to see if they have any open positions available. Use LinkedIn to search for people in the company who might be able to refer you or connect you with someone in HR.

Go beyond your local area. Since material handlers are needed in nearly every industry across the country, try applying for jobs outside of your local area.

Apply online. Many companies post job openings on their websites, but you should also check job boards like Indeed or Monster. If you find an opening that doesn’t require specific experience or skills, you may be able to get an interview even if you don’t have much experience yet; it’s worth applying anyway!

Network with other material handlers and people in your industry. The best way to get your foot in the door is through networking with people who already work at the company. Connect with people on LinkedIn or Facebook or join industry groups.

4. Ace the Interview

For material handler interview questions, make sure you are knowledgeable about the types of materials that will be handled. You may need to know what kinds of hazards might be involved in transporting or storing certain materials, and how to minimize risks.

Learn as much as you can about the business so that you can ask intelligent questions during the interview. When it comes time for the interview, dress professionally and bring extra copies of your resume and references.


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