How to Become a Cargo Agent

Cargo is goods and equipment that is transported for commercial reasons by truck, van, train, aircraft, or ship. Cargo agents are trained workers that assist transportation companies in the management of incoming and outgoing shipments.

What does a cargo agent do?

Cargo agents work for trucking, train, airline, and shipping companies to help manage a variety of shipments. They arrange and track shipments via road, rail, air, and sea and expedite the process by determining the fastest route, preparing all required documents, and arranging for pickup of the cargo and its proper delivery. They also arrange the cargo according to destination and they calculate shipping rates and other charges. Some cargo agents take orders directly from customers. Cargo agents must keep records of cargo and document detailed information such as quantity, type, dimensions, weight, destination, and shipment time. They keep track of missing items and document the conditions of items that are damaged.

What kind of training does a cargo agent need?

Cargo agents must have at least a high school diploma or GED. Most cargo agents learn their skills and duties throughout informal on the job training. They typically start out performing simple tasks such as checking items to be shipped and ensuring addresses are correct. They move on to more advanced tasks as they gain the necessary skills and experience. Cargo agents must also have a solid knowledge of bookkeeping, filing, and other clerical skills. Cargo agents complete additional training as needed to keep up with advancements in the field and to become educated on the use of new automated equipment.

What are the prospects for a career as a cargo agent?

Employment of cargo agents is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 24% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growth of the economy and increase in cargo traffic will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be good especially for cargo agents with extensive experience. Many job openings will stem from the need to replace cargo agents that retire, transfer, or leave the occupation for other reasons.

How much do cargo agents make?

As of December 2009, cargo agents with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $29,786 and $40,695. Those with 5 to 9 years experience earn average annual salaries between $35,000 and $60,058 (2).

A career as a cargo agent is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in performing a variety of tasks related to the import and export of cargo. Cargo agents must have a thorough knowledge of shipping policies and procedures, methods of transport, and documentation requirements for shipments. Physical stamina, patience, detail orientation, and critical thinking are necessary characteristics. Cargo agents must have good communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to interact with a variety of other workers, clients, and customs inspectors. They must be able to work under stress and pressure to meet strict deadlines.

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