Air Cargo Handler: Job Description and Education Requirements

Sep 27, 2019

Air cargo handlers work at airports loading and unloading baggage. These workers require little education and usually receive on-the-job training. The outlook is for these jobs to grow as fast as average.

Essential Information

Air cargo handlers place luggage and other items on airplanes. A high school education is sufficient to enter this occupation, and newly hired handlers are trained on-the-job. The job involves heavy lifting, working in all types of weather, and evening, holiday and weekend shifts. Air cargo handlers need good communications skills, an understanding of how a load should be balanced and the ability to drive transport vehicles.

Required Education High school diploma or the equivalent
Other Requirements On-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% (aircraft cargo handling supervisors)
Mean Annual Wage (2018)* $55,110 (aircraft cargo handling supervisors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Job Description for Air Cargo Handlers

Air cargo handlers specialize in loading, staging, securing and unloading cargo and baggage on airplanes. To accurately perform their duties, they must calculate the aircraft's center of gravity and assess the quantity of cargo. Air cargo handlers work in all weather conditions and operate a variety of equipment, including trucks, forklifts, conveyors and baggage tugs. Loaded cargo can include luggage, mail sacks and animals. Airplanes ship bags of all sizes, so handlers must be able to lift heavy objects that weigh more than 50 pounds, according to These professionals can also expect to work on holidays and weekends.

Salaries and benefits vary. Air cargo handlers often work directly for airlines or governments, and they may advance to managerial, specialist or supervisor positions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide career statistics for entry-level handlers, but it reports that aircraft cargo handling supervisors earned an average annual wage of $55,110 in 2018. Most supervisors earned between $33,280 and $85,460 at that time. The BLS projects that employment for aircraft cargo handling supervisors will grow as fast as average during the 2018-2028 decade.

Education Requirements for Air Cargo Handlers

Training occurs on the job, so air cargo handlers only need to have a high school diploma. Other helpful assets include interpersonal, problem solving, organizational and communication skills. Air cargo handlers must be able to multitask in order to effectively and safely transport goods from one place to another. Experience driving a forklift proves to be beneficial in this position.

With enough experience, professionals may get promoted as aircraft cargo supervisors. At this level, they can work on planes as flight crew members to manage the cargo en route. In case of emergency or safety procedures, supervisors can also aid flight passengers.

Aircraft cargo handlers with an associate's or bachelor's degree in business may find it easier to perform at an advanced level. Vocation schools sometimes offer apprenticeships to teach students various skills and regulations required to move up in this business.

Air cargo handlers require only a high school diploma or GED. The need to possess problem solving, organizational and communications skills. These positions have an average annual salary of about $55,000.

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