Jobs for shipping agents, or freight and cargo agents, are expected to increase 29 percent through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate of growth is much faster than the national average of 14 percent for all occupations, making this a smart and exciting choice for those with customer service, organizational and computer skills. As a shipping agent, you would facilitating shipments of products through airlines, trucks and ships within specified time periods.
Shipping and Freight Responsibilities
Shipping agents determine the methods of shipping to use and the most efficient routes -- for either clients or their employers. Upon initial contact, you may discuss various options with clients and help them calculate their costs. A number of things are factored into the costs, including postal rates, load sizes and types of cargo to be shipped. Tax rates for items can also vary, which you must also include in the overall cost. You will handling multiple shipments and deliveries each day, so you must keep recipients apprised of delivery times and delays.
A shipping agent also has certain administrative duties, such as preparing bills of lading, invoices and other shipping documents. You must also record the products, dimensions and weights of all cargo and times the items shipped. At times, you may also need to trace and recover lost items through a network of manufacturers, warehouses or shipping and receiving departments. As you gain proficiency in your job, you may be required to train assistant agents on operations and procedures.
Most shipping agents work Monday to Friday during the day, but evenings and weekends are not uncommon with larger shipments. You may work in either a warehouse, stockroom or shipping and receiving office. Temperatures can vary depending on the types of products you're shipping or receiving. For example, you may be exposed to cold temperatures when working with refrigerated or frozen goods. Additionally, expect to spend hours on your feet, with some occasional bending and lifting of cases. Shipping agents are also prone to more accidents and injuries than other professionals, according to the BLS.
Education and Training
Most shipping agents have high school degrees or GEDs. Some also take computer software and database management courses, which are necessary on the job. Training is mostly done on the job. You may start out working as an assistant to another shipping agent, performing basic tasks such as weighing packages and organizing stockrooms. Once you can handle the more difficult tasks of routing and calculating shipping costs, you will be on your own as a shipping agent.
Average Salary Ranges
Cargo and freight agents, including shipping agents, earned average annual salaries of $40,680 as of May 2011, according to the BLS. Your earnings may exceed $59,960 per year if you are among the top 10 percent in earnings. You would earn the most working for an agency that handles support activities for water transportation -- $55,030 per year. Your salary at a wholesale electronics firm would be $54,010. And you would make $52,460 per year working for the federal executive branch of the government. The top-paying states for shipping agents were Connecticut, Washington and Oregon - $55,170, $50,490 and $49,530 per year, respectively.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Cargo and Freight Agents
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Cargo and Freight Agents
- MyMajor: Shipping Agent
- CareerPlanner.com: Cargo and Freight Agent
- Education-Portal.com: Freight Agent: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
- U.S. News & World Report: Money: Cargo and Freight Agents Jobs - Earnings Information, Career Video and Jobs Outlook