Jobs for cargo and freight agents are expected to grow by 29 percent between 2010 to 2020, which is 14 percent greater than the average projected rise across all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It may be just the thing if you don't want to go to college but are looking for a profession with good, medium-term prospects. Growth is being driven in part by companies outsourcing their shipping and logistics work to third-party firms, a trend that's likely to continue if the economy stays on track.
Make an honest assessment of whether you have what it takes to be a freight agent. You'll need to be able to work well with numbers, possess good organizational and customer services skills and be IT literate. You'll also need to be physically fit and prepared to work in all weather conditions. Freight agents spend much of their time standing, walking, bending and stretching, according to the BLS, and often work in areas that are not temperature controlled or outside.
You'll need a high school diploma or equivalent. Although it's possible to land an entry-level freight agent job without a diploma, most employers prefer prospective workers to have one. You won't need a degree or a vocational qualification, as freight agents are usually trained on-the-job.
Search for freight agent opportunities on general jobs boards and in local papers. Check out your area's business listings for companies that might require freight agents, such as logistics and shipping firms, and apply. You may stand a better chance of success if you have some experience with bookkeeping or working in a customer service role.
Learn your trade under a senior freight agent. Trainee freight agents learn alongside experienced colleagues and are gradually given more autonomy and responsibility over time. You'll stand a better chance of progressing if you can quickly demonstrate you have sound computer and customer services skills.
Attend software and regulatory courses, as required. You may be asked to attend training programs before using new systems or prior to a change in the law. Depending on the precise nature of your role, you may also need to learn how to use equipment, such as a forklift truck. Freight agents don't need to be licensed.
Michael Roennevig has been a journalist since 2003. He has written on politics, the arts, travel and society for publications such as "The Big Issue" and "Which?" Roennevig holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the Surrey Institute and a postgraduate diploma from the National Council for the Training of Journalists at City College, Brighton.