Education and Training On-the-job training
Salary Varies—see profile
Employment Outlook Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Warehouse workers receive, store, and ship merchandise that is kept in warehouses—buildings in which all kinds of goods are stored and protected from theft or deterioration. Commodities such as steel or wood sit in warehouses before they are used to create manufactured goods. Manufactured goods are often stored in warehouses between the time they are produced and the time they reach retail stores or customers. Many manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and transportation companies, as well as federal, state, and local government agencies, have their own private warehouses. Independently owned warehouses, sometimes called public warehouses, charge a fee for storage. Many warehouses are located in large cities with access to ports and freight terminals.
Some warehouses are known as specialty warehouses. Examples include refrigerated warehouses, which are used to store frozen foods, and bonded warehouses,
which are owned by people who post bonds to ensure payment of import duties or internal revenue taxes that may be due on the stored merchandise.
The exact duties of warehouse workers vary depending on the place of employment. Generally handlers in the warehouse load and unload merchandise as it is received or when it is being shipped to customers. When merchandise arrives at the warehouse, it is unloaded from trucks, ships, or railroad sidings onto warehouse platforms. In some warehouses handlers load and unload merchandise by hand; in others workers operate forklifts, which are small trucks used to hoist and carry merchandise stacked on wooden platforms and pallets. Automated material-handling equipment, conveyor belts, automated high stackers, and guided vehicles help store and retrieve goods in larger warehouses. Groups of warehouse workers are supervised by individuals known as gang leaders. These gang leaders are generally in charge of all warehouse activities.
Warehouse stock clerks keep records as goods enter and leave the warehouse. Much of this information is contained in bar codes. Stock clerks use handheld scanners and readers to read the codes, which are then transferred to a computer that is used for inventory control. Checkers and shipping receivers make sure that merchandise arrives in good condition. They also make sure that the entire delivery, not just part of it, arrives intact.
Warehouse record clerks are responsible for keeping records of all incoming and outgoing shipments. They check each shipment against shipping invoices or bills of lading. In public warehouses record clerks prepare storage receipts for customers: this task is regulated by law, and the receipts can be used by the owner of the stored goods as security for loans.
Order fillers find and assemble the merchandise for outgoing shipments from the customer's itemized list. They sometimes deliver the goods to the shipping room or loading platform by truck. In the shipping room, shipping clerks pack, wrap, or crate the merchandise, write shipping orders, and also weigh, address, or attach postage or bills of lading to the packages.
Education and Training Requirements
Some employers prefer to hire workers who have a high school education. For jobs involving record keeping, applicants may be required to have legible handwriting, typing, or data-entry skills. Workers are generally trained on the job for several weeks. Because warehouse workers may be required to lift heavy packages, applicants must be fairly strong and in good health to get the job.
Getting the Job
Individuals interested in becoming warehouse workers can apply directly to the warehouses for which they would like to work. The state employment office, Internet career sites, and newspaper want ads may list openings for this position.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Warehouse workers who handle merchandise can become checkers or gang leaders. Some become warehouse supervisors, but supervisory jobs are quite scarce.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of warehouse workers is expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations between 2004 and 2014. The increased use of computers, automated handling equipment, and automated inventory-tracking technology will eventually eliminate some jobs. However, the warehousing industry grows with the economy. As consumers make more money and acquire more things, more warehouse workers will be needed to handle and store those things on their way to market. In addition, more warehouses will likely be needed to store the growing number of things bought over the Internet. High turnover in the field along with the retirement of experienced workers should also create some openings.
Warehouse work is physically strenuous. Workers are typically required to lift heavy packages, bend, stoop, or operate heavy equipment. Warehouses are often block-long buildings and some workers have to walk long distances repeatedly throughout the day. Depending on the type of merchandise stored, warehouses are fairly clean, well ventilated, and well lighted. However, warehouse workers who work on loading platforms may be exposed to all kinds of weather, and those who work in refrigerated plants must wear protective clothing. To reduce the risk of accidents, workers are required to follow strict safety regulations.
Warehouse workers generally work about forty hours a week. Overtime is often available at premium rates, and the work is usually steady all year. Many workers in this field are union members.
Where to Go for More Information
American Moving and Storage Association
1611 Duke St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses
1500 King St., Ste. 201
Alexandria, VA 22314
International Warehouse Logistics Association
2800 S. River Rd., Ste. 260
Des Plaines, IL 60018
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary depending on the location of the warehouse and the type of work performed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2004 warehouse stock clerks earned a median wage of $12.32 per hour, warehouse shipping clerks received a median wage of $12.47 per hour, and warehouse supervisors earned a median of $20.52 per hour. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations, health and life insurance, and retirement plans.