Forklift Operator Career Path

Are you curious on how to become a forklift operator or on how long it takes to get forklift certified but can’t find accurate or reliable information? We’ve got you covered. Here at NCW, we’re passionate about providing reliable information on your dream industry.  

0 %
Projected Job Growth Over the Next 10 Years
$ 0
Current Job Openings for Forklift Operators in the U.S.
0 %
Increase in Salaries of Forklift Operators in the Last 5 Years

Let's get Started.

Here is a short forklift operator skills list, let’s see if you check the boxes:

Mechanical and Technical Skills

Having mechanical and technical skills in this position is essential to your production and success. As a forklift operator you must be able to operate heavy machinery but also have knowledge of how to safely and properly use the equipment.


When operating heavy machinery, like a forklift, you must be very precise with your movements. In some warehouses you could be lifting boxes, equipment, or tools that weigh hundreds or even thousands of pounds that must be very carefully transported around the warehouse.

Safety First Mindset

Not only could you be lifting thousand-pound boxes, you might have to keep your head on a swivel as warehouses can also be very active with forklifts and machines quickly moving in every direction. Keeping an eye out for other operators and using proper signaling when traveling throughout is a necessity.

Forklift Operator Job Overview

We think you have what it takes to be a forklift operator… do you?

As a key contributor to the warehousing industry, forklift operators provide more behind the scenes work than many people may realize. Their efforts inside the warehouse, however, do not go unnoticed. The transporting, stocking, and storing of inbound merchandise is crucial to keep a warehouse functioning to its full potential. 

Unsure of next steps to become a forklift operator? We got you:

Getting Started
Certifications and Training
Ramping Up
The Future

Jump Right In

Anyone with a high school degree or GED equivalent can become a forklift operator! When you are first getting going as a forklift operator in a warehouse, you will always report to a supervisor on your floor. If you are brand new to driving heavy machinery you can expect a hefty amount of on-the-job training to get you familiar with controls and operation.

The Bare Necessities

Forklift operator training is often completed in a few days or once you can demonstrate your capability to control the forklift precisely and carefully. Forklift certification requirements differ in each state, but completion of Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) certifications is almost always required.

Driving Success

Driving a forklift for an extended period of time is not for everyone, as you will spend nearly your entire work shift sitting or standing in the driver’s seat. You must always be ready to react quickly to other operators passing by as you are transporting your designated materials. Being in control of heavy machinery day after day can be a grueling task.

Development and Experience

As you continue to gain experience and expand on your skills in your role as a forklift operator you will start to see the fruits of your labor. Moving up in this space really depends on your skillset and experience in the position. Becoming an experienced forklift operator will yield higher pay with more duties and responsibilities.

Here are some trends we’ve noticed in the warehousing industry:

It is important to keep up with trends relating to forklift operators and the warehousing industry. So, we did some digging for you. Here’s what we found! 


Forklift operator trends

The states with the highest number of employments per thousand jobs as forklift operators: Indiana, 34%; Massachusetts, 33%; New Jersey, 32%; Maryland, 32%; and Rhode Island, 32%.


Hiring Trends in Warehousing Industry

More retail sales are shifting to e-commerce, which has created an increased need for hands-on labor to fulfill the ever-increasing orders. 


Related Jobs

These job titles are often associated with forklift operator: machine operator, material handler, picker packer, warehouse associate, and warehouse worker. 

Check Out Our Job Opportunities!

So, how much can you earn?

Let's Talk Forklift Operator Salary

A forklift operator’s salary can range between $27,000-$42,000 based on factors like experience, company, geographic location, and economic conditions. We know that’s a big range, and we know how daunting it can feel starting out. 

Here’s the break down:   

Entry level avg. salary: $27,000 

Median salary: $34,200 

Experienced level salary: $42,000 

After seeing the breakdown in terms of salary you may still ask yourself “how much do forklift operators make an hour?” When you break down these numbers  on an hourly scale, it would bring the median salary to around $16.45 per hour. As you gain experience within the role, that hourly rate will rise and can potentially reach to over $20 per hour.

Unsure of next steps to become a Forklift operator

We're Here to Help!

NCW Warehouse Worker

Let us show you why NCW should be a part of your journey to becoming a warehousing hire:

We specialize in helping warehousing professionals find their dream role. If you have experience operating heavy machinery, picking/packing materials, or logging extensive transportation details, we can help you find your next job operating a forklift! Have another specialty? Don’t worry, we do more than hire for warehousing jobs, so let us know how we can help you. 

Our recruiters have years of experience working with top talent, just like you. Our goal is to get to know you, understand your aspirations, chat through your experience, and connect you with a position that aligns with your wants and needs.   

Connect to Opportunitiy

Our team puts your resume directly in front of hiring managers' eyes.

Expanded Network

NCW expands your network to uncover opportunities that may not have been available otherwise.

By Your Side

Our recruiters prep you for the interview process and guide you through every step of the way.

Recommended for you:

Want to see how NCW can help you with your job hunt?

Let’s Start the Conversation