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Forklift Operator Education Requirements and Career Information

Forklift operators require little formal education. Learn about the training programs, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Forklift operators require no post-secondary education; however a high school diploma or GED is preferable. In addition to this, forklift operators will be required to adhere to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's federal regulation, which mandates the industrial truck must be operated by a person who has been sufficiently trained to drive one.

Essential Information

Forklift operators use a motorized vehicle to move items in a warehouse or industrial facility. A high school diploma or the equivalent should be sufficient to get a job as a forklift operator. Most companies have well-developed on-the-job training programs. In these programs, trainees work with a mentor to learn the basics of the job, including safety principles.

Required Education High school diploma or GED certificate
Other Requirements On-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% (hoist and winch operators)
Median Salary (May 2015)* $33,640 per year (material moving machine operators)

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

Forklift Operator Career Information

Forklift operators are responsible for receiving, moving and distributing materials throughout a warehouse. Daily tasks of a forklift operator include storing materials, documenting inventory and pulling items for production or shipping. Also, it is usually the responsibility of the operator to ensure the machine, equipment and components receive proper maintenance, which can include cleaning, recharging batteries or replacing liquefied-gas tanks.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a forklift operator's job is safety. It is a moving vehicle with moving parts, meaning it can easily cause injury to the operator or others in the workplace. Therefore, it is the duty of forklift operators to maintain safe storage areas by clearing obstructions from high-traffic zones like entry and exit points.

The BLS reports that fork lift operators in the United States had a median annual salary of $33,640 in May 2015, with most salaries ranging from $22,080 to $55,060 per year for material moving machine operators careers.

Education Requirements

There are no formal degree programs or educational prerequisites to getting a job as a forklift operator. Most employers favor applicants who have a high school degree or GED due in part to the reading and writing requirements stipulated in a forklift operator's job.

The traditional path to learning how to become a forklift operator is through on-the-job training and mentoring by an experienced operator. O*NET OnLine indicates that individuals seeking employment as a forklift operator or industrial truck and tractor operator become familiar with production processes, quality control and methods for efficient distribution of goods. Some employers have developed their own detailed and formalized training program where operators earn a certificate once they successfully complete it, validating their ability to drive a forklift.

Because forklifts can be dangerous machines, most companies require compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's federal regulation, which states that a powered industrial truck must be operated by an individual who has been trained and authorized to operate it.

Material moving machine operators, including forklift operators, typically learn through on-the-job training and hands-on experience. Due to potential hazards, the ability to spot and avoid potential safety measures will be highly useful.


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