Becoming a Freight Agent: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a freight agent career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a freight agent is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Freight Agent Career

Freight agents are individuals who help to organize and execute the transportation of goods for various businesses and clients. Read on to consider both the pros and cons of a freight agent career and decide if it's the right fit for you.

Pros of a Freight Agent Career
Fast as average employment growth (14% from 2012-2022)*
Only a high school education is required*
Jobs could offer benefits (vacation time, insurance, 401k plan and paid training)***
Advancement of responsibilities is accomplished through work experience*

Cons of a Freight Agent Career
Slightly below-average income (about $41,000 in 2014)*
Physically demanding (job tasks include lifting and bending)*
Overtime hours may be required*
Environment may be fast-paced and stressful**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online, ***2012 job postings.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Freight agents work in the transportation and logistics industry managing customer and vendor shipments. Agents work with inbound and outbound shipments transported on planes, trains and trucks. The duties of agents include planning a route, calculating shipping costs, negotiating with transportation businesses, preparing documentation and arranging for pickup and delivery of shipments. Freight agents maintain records of shipments and deliveries that include information such as the weight and size of the package, condition of the shipment and shipping costs. Agents keep customers updated on the status of shipments and expected delivery times.

Freight agents also check and prepare import and export documentation for shipments overseas. The documentation provides information on the content of the shipment and must comply with state, federal and international regulations.

Job Prospects and Salary

According to the most recent job outlook information available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), freight agents are expected to experience a 14% growth in employment from 2012-2022. The BLS further reported that online shopping and faster delivery expectations are responsible for some of the job growth in the field. The annual median income for freight agents in 2014 was $41,380, according to the BLS. This same year, the BLS reported that the top ten percent of freight and cargo agents earned $65,000 or more, while the bottom ten percent earned $23,000 or less.

What Are the Requirements?

To become a freight agent, you'll typically only need a high school diploma. Many employers provide on-the-job training to teach new employees how to prepare the documentation and how to arrange, track and expedite shipments. Some freight agent positions require knowledge and training in state, federal and international regulations regarding overseas shipments and the handling of dangerous goods. This training may be completed after being hired.

Freight agents are commonly required to possess a skill set that is conducive to performing the necessary job tasks. Some of these qualities could include:

  • Being detail-oriented
  • Having customer-service skills
  • Knowledge of computers
  • Bookkeeping skills
  • Organizational skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

Freight agents perform a variety of duties that include preparing shipments and communicating with customers. Employers prefer job candidates with experience using the equipment and processes that the transportation, warehousing and logistics industry uses to ship and deliver cargo. Below are some examples of freight agent job postings available in early 2012:

  • An Illinois employer in the aviation industry is seeking a part-time cargo agent to prepare shipments, load and unload cargo and communicate with customers. The employer requires a valid driver's license and reliable transportation to qualify for the position. Upon being hired, you would be expected to complete dangerous goods and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security training.
  • An employer in California is looking for an export agent to take bookings from customers, prepare documentation, negotiate trucking rates and provide status updates on delivery times for customers. Candidates must have a high school diploma and 1-3 years experience in exports, logistics or transportation to qualify.
  • A Pennsylvania freight forwarder is looking for a freight forwarding and logistics operation agent. This full-time position calls for three years of experience in the field and would require you to book and route international shipments, research best pricing and routing options for customers, and perform customer service.
  • An international freight forwarding company in California is seeking an air export agent with a high school diploma and proficiency in Microsoft Word. The position requires tracking and coordinating shipments, filing invoices and checking inventory.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

According to the BLS, employers of freight agents prefer job candidates who have experience using computers and the software used in the transportation industry. Candidates with experience maintaining records and in clerical positions may stand out in the field. Written and verbal communication skills and customer service experience can also help you gain an edge in the job market.

Other Careers to Consider

Production, Planning and Expediting Clerk

If a position tracking deliveries and shipments is interesting, but you're interested in a slightly higher salary, a career as a production and planning expediting clerk may be a better fit. Expediting clerks work in a production environment to ensure materials, supplies and equipment are available for production workers. Clerks track and order materials, supplies and equipment when needed and set production schedules to make sure customer orders are shipped on time. The annual median salary in 2011 was $43,000, according to the BLS.

Purchasing Agent

If you're interested in the exchange and transportation of goods but would like to actually control the buying and selling of a corporation, you may consider becoming a purchasing agent. Like freight agents, purchasing agents can typically find employment with only a high school diploma. While the job growth for purchasing agents, buyers and purchasing managers is expected to be slower than average from 2010-2020, the median annual salary for purchasing agents in 2011 was between about $56,000 and $58,000, according to the BLS.

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Featured Schools

Florida Tech

  • MS in Supply Chain Management

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Liberty University

  • DBA: Supply Chain Management & Logistics

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Purdue University Global

  • BS in Business Administration - Supply Chain Management and Logistics
  • BS in IT - Supply Chain Management

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Fortis College

  • Advanced Tractor Trailer Driving

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Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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Wytheville Community College