Career Guides

Career Guide for Freight Agents

Freight agents work to ensure that shipments move correctly, efficiently, and to the benefit of the firm they work for. They make sure the routes are optimized and the shipments arrives in the time required.

In this free career guide, you will learn how to have a successful career as a freight agent.

Freight Agent Summary

  • Cargo and freight agents need no more than a high school diploma and learn their duties informally on the job.
  • Much faster than average employment growth is expected.
  • Job prospects are expected to be good.

Working as a Freight Agent

Cargo and freight agents help transportation companies manage incoming and outgoing shipments in airline, train, or trucking terminals or on shipping docks. Agents expedite shipments by determining a route, preparing all necessary documents, and arranging for the pickup of freight or cargo and its delivery to loading platforms. They may also keep records of the cargo, including its amount, type, weight, dimensions, destination, and time of shipment. They also keep a tally of missing items and record the condition of damaged items.

Cargo and freight agents arrange cargo according to destination. They also determine any shipping rates and other applicable charges. For imported or exported freight, they verify that the proper customs paperwork is in order. Cargo and freight agents often track shipments electronically, using bar codes, and answer customers’ questions about the status of their shipments.

Work environment. Cargo and freight agents work in a wide variety of environments. Some work in warehouses, stockrooms, or shipping and receiving rooms that may not be temperature controlled. Others may spend time in cold storage rooms or outside on loading platforms, where they are exposed to the weather.

Most jobs for cargo and freight agents involve frequent standing, bending, walking, and stretching. Some lifting and carrying of small items may be involved. Although automated devices have lessened the physical demands of this occupation, not every employer has these devices. The work still can be strenuous, even though mechanical material-handling equipment is used to move heavy items.

The typical workweek is Monday through Friday. However, evening and weekend hours are common in jobs involving large shipments.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Cargo and freight agents need no more than a high school diploma and learn their duties informally on the job.

Education and training. Many jobs are entry level and most require a high school diploma. Cargo and freight agents undergo informal on-the-job training. For example, they may start out by checking items to be shipped and making sure that addresses are correct.

Other qualifications. Employers prefer to hire people who are comfortable using computers. Typing, filing, recordkeeping, and other clerical skills also are important.

Advancement. Advancement opportunities for cargo and freight agents are usually limited, but some agents may become team leaders or use their experience to switch to other clerical occupations in the businesses where they work. Some may move to higher paying transportation industry jobs, such as freight brokering.

Employment as a Freight Agent

Cargo and freight agents held about 85,900 jobs in 2008. Most agents were employed in transportation. Approximately 52 percent worked for firms engaged in support activities for the transportation industry, 19 percent were in the air transportation industry, 8 percent worked for courier businesses, and 7 percent were in the truck transportation industry.

Job Outlook

Employment is expected to grow much faster than average; job prospects are expected to be good.

Employment change. Employment of cargo and freight agents is expected to increase by 24 percent during the 2008-18 decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. As the overall economy continues to grow, more agents will be needed to handle the growing number of shipments resulting from increases in cargo traffic. Additionally, as shipments require multiple modes of transportation to reach their final destinations, such as freight trucking and air, a greater number of agents will be needed to manage the process. The growing popularity of online shopping and same day delivery may also spur employment growth.

Job prospects. A combination of job growth and turnover are expected to result in good job prospects for cargo and freight agents. However, employment of cargo and freight agents is sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy, and workers may experience high levels of unemployment when the overall level of economic activity falls.

Projections Data

Projections data from the National Employment Matrix
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2008 Projected
Employment, 2018
Number Percent
Cargo and freight agents 43-5011 85,900 106,500 20,600 24
NOTE: Data in this table are rounded.

Earnings for Freight Agents

Median hourly wages of cargo and freight agents in May 2008 were $17.92. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.67 and $22.92. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.65, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.70. Median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of cargo and freight agents in May 2008 were:

Scheduled air transportation $18.39
Freight transportation arrangement 18.34
Couriers and express delivery services 18.08
General freight trucking 17.99
Support activities for air transportation 11.48

These workers usually receive the same benefits as most other workers. If uniforms are required, employers generally provide them or offer an allowance to purchase them.