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Plenty of manufacturing and logistics pros probably think they take a "hands-on approach" at the worksite, but that description fits materials handlers literally. Sometimes hired under more generalist job titles like “Warehouse Associate,” these workers are the circulatory systems of factories, warehouses, manufacturing plants, distribution centers — and any number of other industrial sites.

Wherever items need to be inventoried, pulled, assembled or shipped off to customers, materials handlers are involved. They're essential to day-to-day operations at many worksites. Small wonder, then, that materials handlers are highly in demand.

What are the big-picture responsibilities of materials handlers? There are many, but here are a few:

  • monitoring and maintaining inventory
  • supporting the production and distribution of products
  • assisting in the staging of finished products
  • maintaining a culture of safety

Day-to-day tasks frequently assigned to materials handlers include:

  • moving and sorting goods
  • unloading product deliveries
  • moving products in storage areas
  • loading and unloading goods and materials
  • pulling items from inventory based on orders
  • delivering production materials and other supplies to different areas of the worksite
  • pulling materials from trucks and transferring them to the appropriate onsite location
  • locating goods, products and other materials, wrapping them and moving them to forklifts, delivery trucks and more

how do you become a materials handler?

If you're looking to move into a new role in the manufacturing and logistics space, becoming a materials handler might be the savvy way to go. Why? For starters, there are relatively few barriers to entry. Better yet, some kind of formal on-the-job training is provided by most employers.

What about the qualifications and requirements needed to become a materials handler?

  • physical strength and stamina (you may be asked to pass a physical exam in order to be hired)
  • valid driver's license (a commercial driver's license may be needed in some cases)

Bear in mind, however, that if you're looking at positions in which you could be handling hazardous materials, you may need certification from one of the following agencies:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • Mine Safety and Health Administration

Just scan the job description to be sure of the qualifications for the role.

what are the key skills of a materials handler?

Most materials handlers are on their feet for a lot of the day, so physical strength, grit and stamina are going to be "must haves" for this role. That's a no-brainer. But for those who handle materials using machinery, technical expertise as well as hand-eye coordination are required as well.

Beyond those, other key skills that will prove useful to materials handlers include:

  • ability to follow written and verbal communication instruction
  • core communication skills and the ability to read
  • basic math competency
  • attention to detail
  • self-motivated
  • time management
  • safety-focused
  • organized
  • troubleshooting ability

how much does a materials handler make?

From a salary standpoint, materials handlers will find a lot of variation: Average hourly wages range from $15.03 to $20.87 or more, with the national average pay around $18.10 per hour. Key factors that can definitely lead to a bump in pay include:

  • if the role involves handling hazardous materials
  • if the role requires operating specialized machinery

With that in mind, you can also head on over to our free salary comparison tool, which will help you discover at-a-glance data about pay rates across roles and markets. Plus, since it's always up to date with the latest figures, you can be sure that you'll always get timely and accurate information.

key takeaways

Materials handlers are highly in-demand professionals at many industrial worksites today. Whether they work with machines or by hand, you'll find them at the center of the action — and as such, they're also exposed to abundant opportunities for learning and growth.

Ready to take the next step? Start searching for materials handlers jobs today. Alternately, if you're considering a career change, be sure to check out these in-depth breakdowns of highly in-demand jobs in the manufacturing and logistics space. There, you'll find actionable guidance on exactly what steps you need to take to make the move today.