What is a package handler?
A package handler physically handles packages or goods within a warehouse or distribution center, ensuring that items move efficiently from one point to another within the supply chain. Whether these packages are incoming goods to be stored or outgoing orders to be shipped, they help maintain the flow of products, enabling a business to function smoothly.
This role is pivotal in the logistics process, facilitating the seamless transfer of goods that fuels global commerce. Their contribution to efficient operations directly impacts customer satisfaction, inventory management, and overall business performance. They, therefore, play an integral role in the economy, enabling trade and consumption by ensuring the swift and accurate movement of goods.
Duties and responsibilities
The core responsibilities of a package handler involve loading, unloading, sorting, and moving packages within a warehouse or distribution center. They handle incoming shipments, offloading packages from trucks and placing them in the correct storage areas. They also prepare outgoing shipments, picking items from storage, packing them for shipment, and loading them onto delivery vehicles.
In many cases, these handlers use equipment like forklifts, pallet jacks, or hand trucks to move larger or heavier items. They are also typically responsible for maintaining cleanliness and organization within the warehouse, ensuring that packages are stored neatly and safely. Additionally, they may perform tasks related to inventory tracking, such as scanning barcodes or updating inventory management systems.
The work environment for a package handler is typically a warehouse or distribution center. It is a physically demanding role that involves a lot of movement, lifting, and handling of packages, often under time constraints. The work setting can be noisy and busy, with many people and machines operating simultaneously.
Safety is a critical aspect in this environment due to the potential risks associated with heavy lifting and machinery operation. Handlers must adhere to safety procedures and often use protective equipment such as gloves, safety shoes, and sometimes hard hats. The role involves teamwork, as they must coordinate their activities with other warehouse staff to ensure efficient operations.
Typical work hours
Package handlers often work in shifts, as many warehouses and distribution centers operate around the clock to keep up with demand. These shifts can be during the day, evening, or overnight, and sometimes on weekends or holidays. While many work full-time, there are also part-time positions available. During peak seasons or periods of increased demand, they may work extended hours or additional shifts. The role can offer flexibility, with varying shift patterns to suit different lifestyles.
How to become a package handler
This career guide section outlines the process of becoming a package handler. The primary steps for this job include gaining the necessary skills, acquiring relevant work experience, and meeting certain physical requirements.
Step 1: Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent
While a college degree is not a prerequisite, many employers require you to hold at least a high school diploma or GED. This level of educational attainment also allows you to advance to supervisory roles within package handling facilities or warehouses.
Step 2: Develop relevant skills
You must be physically fit, as the job involves lifting heavy objects and standing for extended periods. Individuals in this role also need to be detail-oriented with good math skills for package sorting and inventory tasks. Improving organizational and problem-solving skills can also be beneficial.
Step 3: Gain work experience
Experience in a warehouse, mailroom, or delivery service environment can be advantageous. Such roles could include warehouse operative, mailroom clerk, or delivery driver positions.
Step 4: Apply for jobs
Start applying to available package handler positions. These jobs can often be found through online job portals, company websites, or local job advertisements. Highlight any relevant skills and experience on your resume and in interviews.
Step 5: Complete on-the-job training
Much of the learning for this role comes from on-the-job training. Initially, you would learn the basics about safety measures, company policies, and procedures. Then, you would learn about scanning packages, sorting them, and handling them properly without damage.
Step 6: Consider advancement opportunities
If you aim to move up the career ladder, focus on gaining more experience and improving your skills, especially in team leadership, operations management, and logistics. This could potentially open up opportunities for roles such as senior package handler, supervisor, or manager.
How much do package handlers make?
Package handler salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. The package handling profession requires physically demanding labor, so compensation may be impacted by their physical stamina and the nature of the goods being handled.
Highest paying industries
- Oil and Gas Extraction – $42,730
- Postal Service – $42,390
- Natural Gas Distribution – $40,970
- Express Delivery Services – $39,520
- Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing – $38,280
Highest paying states
- Alaska – $36,910
- Massachusetts – $34,840
- Washington – $34,610
- Oregon – $34,320
- Hawaii – $34,040
Types of package handlers
Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for package handlers, highlighting the varied fields and opportunities in this profession.
Full-time package handler
Working full-time in handling packages implies a commitment of at least 40 hours per week. These individuals are responsible for managing a large volume of packages daily. They ensure the smooth operation of sorting, loading, and unloading processes at distribution or fulfillment centers. An aptitude for organization, strength for heavy lifting, and teamwork are some of the critical skills needed in this role.
Part-time package handler
A part-time role is ideal for those who may have other commitments but still want to undertake the duties of a package handler. Working hours are shorter, typically ranging between 15 to 25 hours per week. These individuals would still perform the core functions of loading, unloading, and sorting packages but over a shorter duration each day.
Package handler trainer
This role involves teaching new package handlers how to carry out their duties efficiently and ensuring they adhere to company procedures. They should have excellent communication skills, patience, and proficiency in handling packages. It’s an ideal role for those with significant experience in the field who wish to pass on their skills and knowledge.
Lead package handler
A lead package handler is in charge of a team of package handlers. The role involves supervising the day-to-day operations and making sure the team meets its targets. It requires someone with good leadership skills, the ability to manage people, and strong problem-solving abilities. This role generally requires prior experience as a handler.
Package handler for special cargo
Some package handlers specialize in handling various specific types of packages, including hazardous materials, fragile items, or oversized packages. Up-to-date knowledge of current safety regulation guidelines and operational procedures for dealing with such cargo is a prerequisite for this position.
Top skills for package handlers
This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a package handler.
The ability to stand, lift, and carry heavy objects for extended periods is key in this field. Being a physically demanding job, it requires great stamina and strength. Good overall fitness aids in preventing injuries and contributes to overall efficiency.
Attention to detail
Maintaining high levels of accuracy while sorting or delivering packages minimizes errors that can lead to customer dissatisfaction or potential loss for the company. This skill also ensures that safety protocols are properly followed, creating a safe work environment.
Being organized maximizes efficiency when sorting packages. It aids in timely and accurate delivery by keeping track of the destination and sequence of packages. Efficient sorting and good record-keeping make a significant contribution toward achieving targets.
Ability to work in a team
In many settings, you’ll work closely with others to sort, load, and deliver packages. Cooperating and communicating well with fellow workers contributes to a harmonious workplace. Working in a team also helps to distribute workload and achieve common goals more effectively.
Lastly, being a reliable team member is highly valued in this industry. Dependability involves punctuality, consistency in performance, and fulfilling one’s commitments. A record of dependability reassures your employer that they can count on you to deliver, even under challenging circumstances.
Package handler career path options
A package handler has multiple paths for climbing the career ladder within the logistics and warehousing industry. With time, experience, and commitment, they can progress to more technical and leadership roles. It’s essential to remember that the exact path often varies according to factors like the company size, structure, and geographic location.
One of the most common progression paths is to move into a supervisory role. This could mean becoming a shift supervisor, overseeing a team of handlers and ensuring smooth operation on the warehouse floor. It’s a position that calls for leadership and management skills and could be a stepping stone to even higher managerial roles.
Another option is pivoting into more technical aspects of logistics. Gaining expertise in inventory management or logistics coordination can open doors to roles like logistics coordinator or inventory specialist. These positions involve a more in-depth understanding of logistics operations and may require additional training or certifications.
Managerial and executive roles
Over time, with the right skill set and motivation, it’s not uncommon for these individuals to rise to higher managerial or executive roles within the company. Operations manager, logistics manager, or warehouse manager are common next-level positions leading to regional logistics director or even vice president of operations roles. These positions demand strong business acumen, leadership skills, and years of logistics experience.
Career transition opportunities
Lastly, a background in package handling and logistics can serve as a springboard to entirely different roles or industries. With teamwork, time management, and physical coordination skills, you could easily transition into manufacturing, transportation, or purchasing. It all comes down to your personal ambitions and where you want to take your career.
Similar job titles
Position trends and outlook for package handlers
A considerable surge has been observed in online shopping, and digitization is drastically shaping the speed and efficiency of package handling. Automation has been increasingly incorporated by many companies in the sector over the past few years, changing how workers in this field perform their duties. Drone technology, for instance, is being explored by different firms to expedite delivery and make the process more efficient. The trends are pushing professionals in this sector to adapt quickly and be technologically savvy.
In addition, sustainability is another trend in the logistics industry, impacting the work of those who handle packages. Emphasis on waste reduction, the use of environmentally friendly packaging materials, and the need to minimize the carbon footprint of logistics operations are increasingly becoming industry standards. This trend is leading to the introduction of green technologies and environmentally friendly practices into daily operations.
According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projection data, job opportunities for package handlers are anticipated to increase by approximately 6% through 2031. This growth is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Increased demand for package delivery services, primarily due to the growth of online retailing, is expected to lead to new job opportunities in the next decade.
Package handler career tips
Master the basics of package handling
Invest your time in diligently learning the process of sorting, scanning, and loading packages effectively and efficiently. Although this skill might seem fundamental, mastering it will significantly improve your performance and position you for advancement opportunities.
Understand the technology
Supply chain and logistics operations increasingly depend on automated processes and digital systems. Familiarizing yourself with these technologies – such as conveyor controls and package tracking software – will make your job easier and demonstrate your adaptability and commitment to continuous learning.
Pay attention to safety training, apply the lessons learned daily, and encourage others to do the same. This is a meaningful way not only to protect yourself and your coworkers but also to stand out as a proactive employee who takes safety seriously.
Build a professional network
Networking can be a powerful tool for career advancement, even in roles like package handling. Forge relationships with peers, supervisors, and even clients. Attend industry events when possible. Here are some professional associations that can provide networking opportunities:
- Warehouse Education and Research Council (WERC)
- Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM)
- Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA)
Commit to continuous learning
Industries evolve, and best practices change over time. Staying up-to-date on new tools and tactics can help set you apart from others. Here are some ideas for continuous learning in the package handling industry:
- Attending logistics and supply chain webinars
- Enrolling in online courses on freight management and inventory management
- Reading up-to-date industry books and publications
Where the package handler jobs are
- DHL Express
- United States Postal Service
- New York
Top job sites
What physical strength and endurance are required for a package handler?
They will be expected to lift heavy packages, load packages into vehicles, and unload packages from vehicles. They may also be expected to stand for long periods, climb ladders, and work in different weather conditions. Physical strength and endurance are necessary to handle the job’s physical demands.
What safety precautions are essential for package handlers?
Safety is a top priority. Common precautions include wearing safety gear such as gloves and steel-toe boots, utilizing proper lifting techniques to avoid injury, and being aware of your surroundings to prevent accidents. They’ll also need to adhere to safety guidelines related to equipment such as forklifts or pallet jacks.
What other abilities are useful for package handlers?
Good organizational skills can be a valuable asset, including quickly categorizing and sorting packages according to their destination. Strong communication skills can also help when you need to collaborate with team members or interact with customers. Finally, problem-solving skills may be needed to efficiently handle any issues that arise during the shipment process.
What type of training is typically provided for package handlers?
In most cases, new hires receive on-the-job training. This usually includes learning about the company’s specific procedures for handling packages and training in safety protocols. Some companies may also provide training on machinery operation, like forklifts or pallet jacks, if these are part of the job responsibilities.
Do package handlers need specific qualifications or education?
Generally, a high school diploma or equivalent is sufficient. No special qualifications are generally required, and most of the necessary knowledge can be learned on the job. However, any prior experience in warehouse work or machinery like forklifts can be beneficial.
How does the work environment affect package handlers?
Environmental factors significantly influence the nature of the work. They may find themselves working in various environments, including warehouses, distribution centers, or outdoors when loading and unloading vehicles. The work is often fast-paced and may require shift work, including overnight, early morning, or weekend shifts. All these factors can impact the job’s physical demands and stress level.
How important is team collaboration for package handlers?
Teamwork plays a key role, as different handlers will be responsible for different aspects of the package handling process. You must coordinate with others to ensure packages are sorted correctly, handled safely, and moved efficiently. This means good communication and cooperation skills are essential in this role.
What specific challenges does a package handler face?
They often work in high-pressure environments where they must process high volumes of packages quickly and efficiently. This can be physically demanding and may require a high level of focus to avoid errors. The work can also be repetitive, which can be challenging for some people. Working in varying weather conditions or awkward package sizes and weights can add to the job’s complexity.
Are there opportunities for career advancement as a package handler?
While this role is often an entry-level position, there can certainly be opportunities for career progression. With experience and demonstrated competence, they may have the chance to move into supervisory or management roles. Some companies also encourage continued education and may support further training or professional development opportunities. Therefore, this role can serve as a stepping stone to more advanced positions within a company.
What is the impact of technology on the package handling profession?
Advancements in technology have had a significant impact on the package handling industry. Automation technologies, such as conveyors and sorting systems, have increased efficiency and reduced the physical demand of the job. However, while these advancements can make the job easier, they also require handlers to be comfortable working with technology and adaptable to changes in the workplace environment.