A high school diploma or GED certificate is required to become a forklift operator. Training programs consist of forklift operation certification courses, which are offered by employers or outside organizations, including the American Red Cross. Many programs are available online and require one to two days to complete.
Career prospects are best for forklift operators with at least one year of experience. Forklift operators should have extensive knowledge of workplace safety policies and procedures and are required to perform routine safety checks. They should also be in good physical condition in order to lift materials and stand for long periods of time.
In forklift operation certification courses, students gain practical, if limited, experience with a forklift. Certification courses cover:
- Proper forklift operation techniques
- Loading and unloading practices
- Emergency prevention and response
- Hazardous material transportation
- The principles of warehouse and inventory leadership
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), industrial truck and tractor operators make a mean annual wage of $34,090 as of May 2015. The BLS also states that the employment of material moving machine operators is expected to grow 3% from 2014-2024. This job outlook is slower than average compared to other occupations.
Forklift operators are not legally required to be licensed or certified. However, employers generally prefer to hire forklift operators with certification or the ability to become certified within several months of employment. Employers who hire uncertified forklift operators typically offer in-house certification courses that comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification standards. Certification is usually good for two years. Some certification courses may need to be retaken in the event of forklift accidents or changes in an employer's forklift operation policies and procedures. When employers change the type of forklifts or lift trucks they use, additional certification courses may be necessary.
Forklift operation workshops and seminars are typically the same as certification courses. Because certification courses are relatively short-term, lasting no more than one or two days, workshops are typically the main source of training and education for forklift operators. Workshops may be offered by employers, technical schools or safety organizations. Professional development information is available from OSHA and forklift operation employers. OSHA is a division of the U.S. Department of Labor and provides a wealth of safety and workplace information for all types of industrial professionals. Forklift operators can find information on current safety legislation, resources for continuing education, and safety newsletters.
Forklift certification programs usually last for only one to two days, but the programs provide basic training to prospective forklift operators and enable them to work in warehouses, factories or other industrial settings upon completion. Training can include courses in proper forklift operation techniques, emergency prevention and response and hazardous material transportation.