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Occupation Profile for Cargo and Freight Agents

Expedite and route movement of incoming and outgoing cargo and freight shipments in airline, train, and trucking terminals, and shipping docks. Take orders from customers and arrange pickup of freight and cargo for delivery to loading platform. Prepare and examine bills of lading to determine shipping charges and tariffs.


Significant Points

  • Cargo and freight agents need no more than a high school diploma and learn their duties informally on the job.
  • Faster than average employment growth is expected.


$37,110.00 Median Annual Wage 4,000 Average Job Openings Per Year
0.4 Average Unemployment Percentage 42.8 Percentage That Completed High School
86,000 Employment Numbers in 2006 41.7 Percentage That Had Some College
100,000 Employment Numbers in 2016 (est.) 15.5 Percentage That Went Beyond College Degree

Sample Job Titles
Air Export Logistics Manager
Booking Clerk
Cargo Router
Container Coordinator
Customer Service Manager
Customs Broker
Documentation Clerk
Drop Shipment Clerk
Export Traffic Department Manager
Freight Booker
Freight Broker
Freight Forwarder
Freight Receiver
Freight Representative
Freight Router
Head Shipper
Import Customer Service Manager
Import Dispatcher
Intermodal Dispatcher
International Coordinator
Load Planner
Logistics Clerk
Logistics Coordinator
Logistics Service Representative
Logistics Technician
Ocean Export Account Manager
Ocean Import Representative
Operations Manager
Ramp Service Agent
Route Agent
Route Clerk
Ship Broker
Shipper Receiver
Shipping Agent
Shipping Coordinator
Shipping Processor
Traffic and Documentation Clerk
Traffic Specialist
Transportation Agent
Transportation Broker
Transportation Clerk

  • These occupations often involve using your knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include sheet metal workers, forest fire fighters, customer service representatives, pharmacy technicians, salespersons (retail), and tellers.
  • These occupations usually require a high school diploma and may require some vocational training or job-related course work. In some cases, an associate's or bachelor's degree could be needed.
  • Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience may be helpful in these occupations, but usually is not needed. For example, a teller might benefit from experience working directly with the public, but an inexperienced person could still learn to be a teller with little difficulty.
  • Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees.

Cargo and freight agents need no more than a high school diploma and learn their duties informally on the job.

Education and training. Many jobs are entry level and require only a high school diploma. Cargo and freight agents undergo informal on-the-job training. They start out by checking items to be shipped, attaching labels to them, and making sure that addresses are correct. As this occupation becomes more automated, workers may need longer periods of training to master the use of equipment.

Other qualifications. Employers prefer to hire people who can use computers. Typing, filing, recordkeeping, and other clerical skills also are important.

Advancement. Advancement opportunities for cargo and freight agents are usually limited, but some agents may become team leaders or use their hands-on experience to switch to other clerical occupations in the businesses where they work.

Nature of Work

Cargo and freight agents arrange for and track incoming and outgoing shipments in airline, train, or trucking terminals or on shipping docks. They expedite shipments by determining the route that shipments will take and by preparing all necessary documents. Agents take orders from customers and arrange for the pickup of freight or cargo and its delivery to loading platforms. Cargo and freight agents may keep records of the cargo, including its amount, type, weight, dimensions, destination, and time of shipment. They keep a tally of missing items and record the condition of damaged items.

Cargo and freight agents arrange cargo according to its destination. They also determine any shipping rates and other charges that usually apply to freight. For imported or exported freight, they verify that the proper customs paperwork is in order. Cargo and freight agents often track shipments electronically, using bar codes, and answer customers’ questions about the status of their shipments.

Work environment. Cargo and freight agents work in a wide variety of businesses, institutions, and industries. Some work in warehouses, stockrooms, or shipping and receiving rooms that may not be temperature controlled. Others may spend time in cold storage rooms or outside on loading platforms, where they are exposed to the weather.

Most jobs for cargo and freight agents involve frequent standing, bending, walking, and stretching. Some lifting and carrying of small items may be involved. Although automated devices have lessened the physical demands of this occupation, not every employer has these devices. The work still can be strenuous, even though mechanical material-handling equipment is used to move heavy items.

The typical workweek is Monday through Friday. However, evening and weekend hours are common in jobs involving large shipments.

Related Occupations

Sources: Career Guide to Industries (CGI), Occupational Information Network (O*Net), Occupation Outlook Handbook (OOH)

Median annual earnings of cargo and freight agents in May 2006 were $37,110. The middle 50 percent earned between $27,750 and $46,440. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,470, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $57,440. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of cargo and freight agents in May 2006 were:

Scheduled air transportation $38,340
Freight transportation arrangement 37,130
Couriers 36,750
General freight trucking 34,010
Support activities for air transportation 23,770

These workers usually receive the same benefits as most other workers. If uniforms are required, employers generally provide them or offer an allowance to purchase them.

For the latest wage information:

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following pages:

  • Cargo and freight agents
  • Job Outlook

    Employment is expected to grow faster than average.

    Employment change. Employment of cargo and freight agents is expected to increase by 16 percent during the 2006-16 decade, faster than the average for all occupations. A growing number of agents will be needed to handle the increasing number of shipments resulting from increases in cargo traffic. Additional demand will stem from the growing popularity of online shopping and same-day delivery.

    Job prospects. In addition to new job growth, openings will be created by the need to replace cargo and freight agents who leave the occupation.


    Cargo and freight agents held about 86,000 jobs in 2006. Most agents were employed in transportation. Approximately 44 percent worked for firms engaged in support activities for the transportation industry, 23 percent were in the air transportation industry, 9 percent worked for courier businesses, and 7 percent were in the truck transportation industry.

    • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
    • Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
    • Sales and Marketing — Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
    • Medicine and Dentistry — Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
    • Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
    • Equipment Maintenance — Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
    • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
    • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
    • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
    • Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
    • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
    • Stamina — The ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time without getting winded or out of breath.
    • Explosive Strength — The ability to use short bursts of muscle force to propel oneself (as in jumping or sprinting), or to throw an object.
    • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
    • Hearing Sensitivity — The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
    • Supplemental — Attach address labels, identification codes, and shipping instructions to containers.
    • Supplemental — Retrieve stored items and trace lost shipments as necessary.
    • Supplemental — Contact vendors and/or claims adjustment departments in order to resolve problems with shipments, or contact service depots to arrange for repairs.
    • Supplemental — Pack goods for shipping, using tools such as staplers, strapping machines, and hammers.
    • Supplemental — Route received goods to first available flight or to appropriate storage areas or departments, using forklifts, handtrucks, or other equipment.
    • Monitoring and Controlling Resources — Monitoring and controlling resources and overseeing the spending of money.
    • Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
    • Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
    • Repairing and Maintaining Electronic Equipment — Servicing, repairing, calibrating, regulating, fine-tuning, or testing machines, devices, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of electrical or electronic (not mechanical) principles.
    • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
    Related College Curriculum
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