What Is the Difference Between a Custom Broker and an Expeditor?

Customs brokers and expeditors focus on different areas of moving freight.
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Customs brokers and expeditors both handle shipments for others. Companies depend on them to ensure freight moves smoothly through the supply chain and delivers on time. While some of the customs broker and expeditor job duties overlap, they each specialize in different areas. A customs broker primarily handles customs clearance. An expeditor is a type of freight forwarder who concentrates on moving cargo as quickly as possible to meet their client's deadlines. In today's competitive, just-in-time business environment, customs brokers and expeditors both strive to process shipments as fast as possible.

Job Requirements

    In order to be a customs broker, you must have a customs broker license. U.S. Customs and Border Protection issues a license when applicants meet the eligibility requirements of having good moral character, being a U.S. citizen and proving their knowledge on customs laws and regulations by passing the customs broker exam. An expeditor does not need a license or certification to make arrangements for expedite shipments. However, if the shipment is an import the expeditor cannot handle the customs clearance process herself without a customs broker license. The expeditor can contact the importer's customs broker to submit the customs entry. Once Customs clears the freight, the expeditor can arrange for delivery.

Work Duties

    Custom broker work duties are very broad and complex. They must review shipping documents and commercial invoices to prepare accurate customs entries. It is their responsibility to correctly classify goods and determine customs duties and fees. They often consult with their clients to advise them on import and export regulations. An expeditor focuses on finding fast and efficient ways to move freight. She will contact different transportation providers for quotes and get approval from the customer. The expeditor will monitor the movement of the freight and try to avoid any delays. Because the expeditor is dealing with time sensitive material, she operates in a very fast-paced environment.

Job Outlook

    Careers as a customs broker or expeditor both have positive outlooks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that customs broker jobs will grow from 10 to 19 percent until 2020. The BLS expects freight forwarding jobs to grow 29 percent or higher over the same time period. Having experience as an expeditor can help you pass the customs broker exam and become a customs broker. Experience as a customs broker may make you a strong candidate for a management position.


    Because customs brokers have more requirements and responsibilities than expeditors, they usually earn more money. In 2012, the median salary for customs brokers was $65,120, according to the BLS, while freight forwarders made $39,720. Starting out in the freight forwarding field is a great way to learn about logistics and make contacts that can help you along your career path.

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