Be a Certified Forklift Operator: Certification and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a certified forklift operator. Research the training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career as a certified forklift operator. View article »

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Video Transcript

Certified Forklift Operators

Certified forklift operators often work in warehouse distribution or construction, using machinery to move heavy objects or materials. Part of your job as a forklift operator in a warehouse or storage facility might be to track inventory and record notes about shipments. You should be comfortable making small engine repairs as well. When you work as a forklift operator, there may be some hazards in dealing with the machinery and the objects that you'll be transporting. Overnight shifts and extended hours are common.

Career Requirements

Certified forklift operators have postsecondary training and certification. They are expected to have skills in customer service and listening, in addition to familiarity with software used for inventory management, materials requirements planning, logistics and supply chain management. They should know how to use forklifts, forklift accessories, cargo handling equipment, cargo trucks, shrink wrap machines, lifts and tank trailers. They must be physically strong and able to work long or irregular hours, including nights weekends and holidays. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for all industrial truck and tractor operators, which includes certified forklift operators, was $32,090 in 2015.

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Be a Certified Forklift Operator

What steps do I need to take to become a certified forklift operator?

Step 1: Get Related Work Experience

Many employers seeking forklift operators look for candidates with at least 1 year of related experience. Aspiring forklift operators can start their careers by working in entry-level positions that give them experience in warehouse distribution operations. Some employers may offer advancement opportunities that include training for forklift certification while on the job.

You will want to maintain your physical strength and stamina. Employers often require forklift operators to be readily able to lift or pull around 50 pounds. Forklift operators need to be physically fit since their duties require constant physical activity combined with long hours. Aspiring forklift operators might benefit from regular exercise and workouts designed to increase strength.

Step 2: Develop Strong Communication Skills

Most employers desire candidates with strong communication skills. Opting to take courses designed to improve listening and speaking abilities, such as communications, customer service, public relations or public speaking, may help distinguish an aspiring forklift operator from other candidates in the field.

Step 3: Get Certified

Forklift operator certification programs can generally be completed in as little as a day. Training can be found through online or on-campus programs and focus on operation and safety. Online training might be geared toward individuals who have related experience working with forklifts and desire the final step of certification. After instruction and training, the certification process usually requires passing both written and practical exams. During the practical exam, an individual's forklift driving and operating abilities are tested. If an individual receives online training, the practical portion of the exam is typically administered by the actual employer or supervisor. Experience and certification can lead to opportunities as a construction equipment operator, a mining worker, or to opportunities in other departments of a company.

Certified forklift operators use machinery to move heavy objects or materials. They have postsecondary training and certification, physical strength and stamina, and familiarity with industry software and equipment. And they earn a median annual wage of $32,090.

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