What is a shipping and receiving clerk?
A shipping and receiving clerk is a professional who manages the shipment and receipt of goods in a warehouse, distribution center, or manufacturing plant. They play an important role in supply chain operations, ensuring that all incoming and outgoing shipments are correctly processed, documented, and tracked.
Shipping and receiving clerks act as facilitators for suppliers, transporters, and the company, helping maintain the smooth flow of goods that is critical to business operations. Their role is essential in inventory management, assisting in maintaining accurate inventory levels, and minimizing disruptions in the supply chain.
Duties and responsibilities
A shipping and receiving clerk’s duties primarily revolve around managing the movement of goods in and out of a facility. These professionals verify and record incoming and outgoing shipments, ensuring accuracy in order numbers, invoice documents, and shipment quantities.
Shipping duties include preparing items for shipment, which can involve packing, labeling, and arranging them for transportation. On the receiving side, responsibilities include checking incoming goods for accuracy and condition, processing returns, and updating inventory records.
Professionals in this role also coordinate with carriers, schedule pickups and deliveries, and handle any issues that may arise during shipping. Additionally, they may be required to use warehouse machinery, like forklifts, to move goods within the facility.
Shipping and receiving clerks usually work in a warehouse or distribution center environment. This role can be physically demanding, often involving lifting heavy items and being on one’s feet for extended periods. It might also require operating warehouse equipment and machinery.
The work setting can be fast-paced, especially when dealing with high volumes of goods or during peak business periods. It involves a high degree of coordination with different teams, including warehouse staff, management, drivers, and suppliers.
Typical work hours
Work hours for people in this job can vary based on the nature of the business and its operating hours. Many companies operate around the clock, leading to multiple shifts, including evenings, nights, weekends, or holidays.
Shipping and receiving clerks typically work a traditional 40-hour workweek in businesses with standard operating hours. However, overtime may be required during busy periods or to accommodate special shipments or deliveries.
How to become a shipping and receiving clerk
Becoming a shipping and receiving clerk involves developing strong organizational skills, gaining knowledge of inventory management systems, and understanding logistics operations. The path to getting a job in this field is often achievable without a degree, but it does require training and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become a shipping and receiving clerk.
Step 1: Earn a high school diploma or equivalent
While some positions may not require it, earning a high school diploma or its equivalent is often the first step toward entering this profession. High school math, computer science, and business courses can provide a valuable foundation for this career.
Step 2: Gain relevant work experience
Shipping and receiving clerks often start their careers in entry-level positions within warehouses, distribution centers, or retail businesses. This on-the-job experience gives you a practical understanding of inventory management, shipment processes, and logistics operations.
Step 3: Develop necessary skills
In addition to gaining practical experience, developing the skills necessary to be an effective shipping and receiving clerk is essential. These skills include proficiency in basic math for inventory counts and calculations, strong organizational abilities for managing inventory and shipment records, and computer literacy for using inventory management software.
Step 4: Learn to use industry-standard software
Most businesses use some form of inventory management or logistics software. Familiarity with these types of software can be helpful. If your employer uses a specific system, strive to learn it thoroughly. Otherwise, consider online tutorials or classes to familiarize yourself with popular platforms.
Step 5: Pursue certification (optional)
While not mandatory, obtaining a logistics or supply chain management certification can make you a more competitive candidate. Organizations such as the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) and the International Society of Logistics (SOLE) offer certifications that demonstrate your knowledge and competency in the field.
Step 6: Apply for jobs as a shipping and receiving clerk
With relevant experience and developed skills, you’re prepared to apply for jobs in this field. When applying, highlight your experience in inventory management, knowledge of shipping and receiving processes, and any relevant certifications on your resume.
Step 7: Take online courses to advance your skills
Whether you’re just getting started in the shipping and receiving field or wanting to advance your career, consider taking one of these online courses offered by Coursera and Udemy to set yourself apart from the competition:
How much do shipping and receiving clerks make?
The compensation for shipping and receiving clerks can be influenced by several factors, with training and experience having the most significant impact on salary. Generally, those with demonstrated proficiency in inventory management systems and software will earn more than those with less experience or expertise.
The geographic location of the job can also affect salaries. States or regions with a higher cost of living often pay higher wages, while those with lower living costs may offer lower compensation. Similarly, the industry in which a shipping and receiving clerk works can have an impact, with specific sectors like manufacturing or wholesale trade typically paying more.
Highest paying industries
- Natural Gas Distribution: $56,540
- Postal Service: $55,760
- Mining Support: $49,450
- Federal Government: $48,640
- Aerospace: $47,580
Highest paying states
- District of Columbia: $45,240
- Alaska: $43,710
- Washington: $43,320
- Massachusetts: $42,930
- Connecticut: $42,670
Types of shipping and receiving clerks
In this section of the career guide, we discuss the various types and specializations within the role of a shipping and receiving clerk. Their responsibilities may vary depending on the industry, the size of the operation, and the specific nature of the goods being handled, which creates room for several specializations in this profession.
Warehouse shipping and receiving clerk
Professionals in this specialization work in large warehouse settings, overseeing the movement of goods in and out of the warehouse. These individuals are responsible for receiving shipments, verifying the contents against invoices or order forms, organizing stock in the warehouse, and preparing goods for shipment.
Retail shipping and receiving clerk
Retail shipping and receiving clerks work in a retail environment, receiving goods from suppliers and preparing items for shipment to customers or other retail locations. This role may require dealing with smaller quantities of goods than their counterparts in large warehouses but handling a wider variety of items.
Freight shipping and receiving clerk
People in this role work for freight transportation companies, overseeing the loading and unloading of goods onto trucks, trains, ships, or airplanes. Their responsibilities often include inspecting goods for damage, managing documentation related to freight shipping, and coordinating with drivers and logistics personnel.
Mailroom shipping and receiving clerk
Mailroom shipping and receiving clerks work in settings where they manage large volumes of mail and small packages. They might work for large corporations, universities, or government offices. Their daily tasks entail receiving, sorting, and distributing incoming mail, as well as preparing outgoing mail.
Manufacturing shipping and receiving clerk
Professionals in this specialization work in manufacturing settings, managing the receipt of raw materials and the shipment of finished goods. These individuals are necessary in ensuring the continuous flow of production materials and the timely delivery of products to customers.
Top skills for shipping and receiving clerks
Shipping and receiving clerks play a critical role in the logistics chain, overseeing the movement of goods in and out of a warehouse or business. The job demands meticulous attention to detail, physical stamina, proficiency in inventory management software, and excellent organizational skills.
Successful shipping and receiving clerks ensure the smooth operation of warehouse activities, contribute to efficient inventory management and play a significant role in customer satisfaction by providing timely and accurate deliveries.
Attention to detail is paramount for professionals in this role. They must accurately record and inspect incoming and outgoing shipments, checking details such as quantity, quality, and product specifications. Errors in documentation or handling can lead to serious complications, from inventory discrepancies to incorrect deliveries. A meticulous eye for detail can prevent such issues and contribute to smooth logistics operations.
Shipping and receiving clerks often spend considerable time on their feet, lifting and moving boxes, operating machinery, and performing other physical tasks. People in this job may handle packages of various sizes and weights, making physical stamina and safety awareness vital skills. The ability to perform physically demanding tasks consistently and safely can significantly impact a clerk’s effectiveness in this role.
In the modern warehouse, digital tools play an integral role, meaning people in this line of work need to be proficient in inventory management software and other computer systems used to track and organize inventory. This includes entering data accurately, updating records, and retrieving information as needed. Familiarity with these tools increases efficiency and helps maintain accurate inventory records, contributing to better planning and decision-making.
Shipping and receiving clerks juggle multiple tasks, from receiving deliveries to preparing outgoing shipments, maintaining records, and organizing warehouse space. Excellent organizational skills help them prioritize tasks, manage their time effectively, and maintain an orderly workspace. Using these skills can streamline warehouse operations, improve productivity, and ensure that goods are easily locatable and ready for dispatch when needed.
Shipping and receiving clerk career path
A shipping and receiving career path often begins with an entry-level warehouse or distribution center position. This initial role provides practical experience in inventory management, logistics, and the basics of shipping and receiving operations.
With experience and demonstrated efficiency, a worker in this field may advance to a lead clerk or shipping and receiving supervisor role. These positions carry greater responsibility, including overseeing the work of other clerks, coordinating shipping and receiving tasks, and ensuring compliance with shipping regulations and safety standards.
After proving their leadership and organizational skills, a clerk may move into managerial roles such as warehouse manager or logistics manager. In these roles, they oversee broader operations, manage staff, and participate in strategic planning to improve efficiency and meet the organization’s goals.
Beyond management roles, there are opportunities to move into higher-level logistics or operations management roles, such as operations director or logistics director. These roles involve overseeing more prominent logistical aspects, possibly regional or global. Depending on their interests and skills, a clerk might also choose to specialize in areas such as inventory control or supply chain management.
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Position trends and outlook for shipping and receiving clerks
The role of a shipping and receiving clerk is seeing transformations due to advancements in technology and changes in supply chain practices. With the proliferation of e-commerce, there is an increased demand for efficiency and accuracy in shipping and receiving operations. Clerks are now required to use digital tools such as inventory management systems, tracking software, and handheld scanning devices, making technological literacy increasingly important in this role.
Automation is another significant trend in this field. Automated systems and robots are being utilized to speed up processes and reduce errors. While this might reduce the demand for certain manual tasks, it also creates opportunities for clerks to take on more complex roles, such as overseeing automation technology, troubleshooting issues, and analyzing operational data.
There’s also an increasing emphasis on sustainability in logistics and supply chain operations. Shipping and receiving clerks may work with reusable packaging materials, manage waste reduction initiatives, or coordinate with environmentally-friendly transportation services.
Employment projections for shipping and receiving clerks
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment for “Shipping, Receiving, and Inventory Clerks” is expected to decline by 3% through 2031. This is largely due to the increasing automation of shipping and receiving tasks.
However, there should still be many job openings in the field due to the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. Despite the decline, clerks proficient in using digital tools and who can adapt to new technologies will likely have better job prospects.
Shipping and receiving clerk career tips
Familiarize yourself with shipping procedures
In this role, you’ll need to be familiar with all aspects of shipping procedures, including packaging, labeling, documentation, and carrier requirements. This knowledge can help you perform your duties efficiently, reduce errors, and ensure the timely and safe delivery of goods.
Understand inventory management
Effective inventory management is crucial in the shipping and receiving role to understand how to manage stock, track incoming and outgoing goods, and maintain accurate inventory records. This will not only help to prevent stock discrepancies and shortages but also provide valuable data for inventory planning and decision-making.
Develop organizational skills
People in this job handle multiple tasks simultaneously, from processing shipments to managing documentation and coordinating with suppliers, carriers, and customers. Excellent organizational skills can help you manage these tasks effectively, stay on top of your responsibilities, and reduce errors and inefficiencies.
Attention to detail is essential for this position. Overlooking minor details can lead to issues like mislabeled packages, incorrect orders, or inventory discrepancies. A detail-oriented approach can help you catch and correct errors before they cause problems.
Keep expanding your knowledge and skills in the shipping and receiving field by:
- Attending workshops or seminars on logistics or supply chain management
- Learning about new inventory management software or tools
- Pursuing relevant certifications, such as Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution (CLTD) from APICS
Build a professional network
Building professional relationships can offer learning, collaboration, and career advancement opportunities. Consider joining professional associations and networks related to the field, such as:
- Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC)
- Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP)
- International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA)
Know your tools and equipment
Shipping and receiving clerks often use various tools and equipment, such as forklifts, pallet jacks, barcode scanners, and shipping software. Knowing how to use these tools effectively and safely can help you carry out your duties efficiently and prevent accidents and errors.
Safety should always be a top priority in the shipping and receiving environment. Familiarize yourself with safety regulations and best practices, including proper lifting techniques, use of personal protective equipment, and hazard recognition.
Where the shipping and receiving clerk jobs are
- New York
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What qualifications are typically required for a shipping and receiving clerk role?
Qualifications for this role often include a high school diploma or equivalent. Prior experience in a warehouse or distribution environment can be beneficial. Familiarity with warehouse equipment, such as forklifts and pallet jacks, and inventory management systems is also often desired. Some employers may require certification in forklift operation.
What skills are important for a shipping and receiving clerk?
In this role, it’s important to have strong organizational skills for managing inventory and keeping records, physical stamina and strength for handling heavy items, and attention to detail for tracking shipments and identifying errors. Basic computer skills are also important, as many shipping and receiving tasks involve using computerized inventory systems. Good communication skills are needed to interact with suppliers, carriers, and coworkers.
What are the typical duties of a shipping and receiving clerk?
Professionals in this role typically receive and process incoming shipments, inspecting them for damage and verifying their contents against purchase orders or invoices. They also prepare outgoing shipments, including packing items, preparing shipping documents, and arranging for pickup or delivery. In addition, they often update inventory records, maintain the cleanliness and organization of the warehouse, and perform other duties as needed.
What is the role of a shipping and receiving clerk in inventory management?
A shipping and receiving clerk plays a key role in inventory management by maintaining accurate records of all incoming and outgoing shipments to ensure that the inventory levels in the warehouse accurately reflect what is physically present. These workers may also conduct regular inventory counts or audits, identifying and resolving discrepancies, and reporting any issues to their supervisor.
What are some safety considerations for a shipping and receiving clerk?
Safety is a significant consideration in the work of a shipping and receiving clerk. They must be trained in the safe operation of warehouse equipment, such as forklifts and pallet jacks, and should always wear appropriate safety gear, such as steel-toed boots and high-visibility vests. Professionals in this role must also adhere to safety procedures for handling hazardous materials, if applicable, and maintain a clean and clutter-free workspace to prevent accidents.
What’s the difference between a shipping and receiving clerk and a warehouse worker?
While there is often overlap in the duties of a shipping and receiving clerk and a warehouse worker, the roles can have different focuses. A shipping and receiving clerk typically specializes in handling incoming and outgoing shipments, including inspecting, documenting, and arranging these shipments. On the other hand, a warehouse worker may have a broader range of duties that can also include picking and packing orders, stocking shelves, and performing general warehouse maintenance tasks.
What challenges might a shipping and receiving clerk face?
Challenges include managing high volumes of shipments during peak periods, dealing with damaged or missing items, maintaining accurate records despite fast-paced work conditions, and adhering to strict deadlines for outgoing shipments. Physical challenges, such as lifting heavy items or standing for long periods, can also be part of the job.
How does a shipping and receiving clerk contribute to customer satisfaction?
Professionals in this role contribute to customer satisfaction by ensuring that shipments are accurately received and sent out on time, which can greatly enhance their satisfaction. When errors occur, prompt and effective action by the shipping and receiving clerk to correct the problem can also contribute to customer satisfaction.
How does a shipping and receiving clerk interact with suppliers and carriers?
Shipping and receiving clerks may interact with suppliers and carriers regularly. They may coordinate with suppliers regarding incoming shipments, ensuring that they match purchase orders. Their responsibilities include working with carriers to schedule pickups and deliveries, resolve shipment-related issues, and obtain the necessary documentation.
What opportunities for advancement are there for a shipping and receiving clerk?
With experience and further training, a shipping and receiving clerk can potentially advance to higher roles such as warehouse supervisor or operations manager. Professionals in this field may also specialize in inventory control or procurement. Some companies offer training programs or tuition assistance that can help shipping and receiving clerks gain the skills needed for these advancement opportunities.