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Transportation Agents

At a Glance

  • Arrange shipping for cargo on airplanes
  • Deal with airline passengers, freight shippers, and freight receivers
  • Work alone most of the time
  • Train on the job
  • May work part time or full time

Career summary

Transportation agents coordinate the movement of freight, mail, baggage, and passengers at airports.

Transportation agents may also be called air import or export clerks, ramp agents, or cargo and freight agents.

Transportation agents arrange shipping for cargo on airplanes. They accept freight from shippers and complete the paper work for shipment. They use computers and scanners to track and record shipments.

Transportation agents record crew names, passengers, flight numbers, and the amount of baggage and freight on a flight. They position ramps for boarding passengers and loading freight on the airplane. They check passenger boarding tickets.

Agents also check imports and exports for tax purposes. They load and unload freight and baggage, or supervise the loading.

After the loading of the airplane is complete, transportation agents verify the passenger and cargo load with the aircraft crew. They send a copy of the flight's contents to the destination airport. They also track shipments in progress.

Related careers

This career is part of the Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to transportation agents.

Common work activities

Transportation agents perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, transportation agents:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Transportation agents frequently:

It is important for transportation agents to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for transportation agents to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Transportation agents need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a transportation agent, you typically need to:

Education after high school

No formal education beyond high school is required for this occupation. However, courses in business practices, computer, and airline operations courses are valuable.

Training in a second language can be useful and is required in some jobs.

Work experience

Many transportation agents have worked their way up after working as freight dispatchers, airline ramp agents, or ticket agents. This may take a year or two.

On-the-job training

Transportation agents usually learn their skills on the job. You work with an experienced agent who oversees your work. For some tasks, you may receive classroom training. Training may last up to three to six months.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be transportation specialists. Training lasts six to nine weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer applicants who have some related work experience or training beyond high school. Exact requirements vary by employer and position. Some employers require only a high school diploma or equivalent. Others require an associate degree in aviation management. A bachelor's degree may be required for some positions.

Employers also look for applicants who can show they have the ability to solve problems and learn new concepts quickly.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


The minimum wage for Washington State as of January 1, 2020 is $13.50 per hour. Some areas of the state may have a higher minimum wage.

Cargo and freight agents (SOC 43-5011)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $15.75 $18.46 $23.82 $29.54 $40.01
Monthly $2,729 $3,199 $4,128 $5,119 $6,934
Yearly $32,760 $38,410 $49,550 $61,450 $83,230
    Bellingham Hourly $13.69 $15.33 $17.56 $19.68 $26.40
Monthly $2,372 $2,657 $3,043 $3,411 $4,575
Yearly $28,483 $31,900 $36,507 $40,925 $54,901
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $17.22 $20.38 $25.68 $30.56 $38.92
Monthly $2,984 $3,532 $4,450 $5,296 $6,745
Yearly $35,811 $42,388 $53,419 $63,582 $80,957
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
    Vancouver Hourly $15.63 $19.54 $23.98 $29.80 $36.62
Monthly $2,709 $3,386 $4,156 $5,164 $6,346
Yearly $32,507 $40,645 $49,868 $61,981 $76,161
    Yakima Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
United States Hourly $12.49 $16.29 $20.77 $26.65 $32.18
Monthly $2,165 $2,823 $3,599 $4,618 $5,577
Yearly $25,970 $33,870 $43,210 $55,430 $66,920

(1) Wage estimate is not available.

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The agent's level of experience and responsibility also affect wages.

Transportation agents who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

#Between 2014 and 2024, it is estimated that for cargo and freight agents there will be 36 openings annually due to new positions and 68 openings annually from workers leaving this career.

#Updated outlook 06.16 sd

Washington outlook depends on international trade and strength in the domestic economy. Shipping has become a complex national and international business activity. Modern transportation requires technical knowledge of custom laws, cargo regulations, and how cargo is transported.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Cargo and Freight Agents (SOC 43-5011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,983 21.2% 16.1% 261
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 14 14.3% 13.4% 1
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 41 17.1% 8.6% 5
    Benton and Franklin Counties 21 28.6% 15.0% 3
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 75 20.0% 15.2% 10
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 201 29.9% 14.6% 32
    King County 1,132 22.1% 19.6% 152
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 49 2.0% 13.8% 4
    Pierce County 213 -5.2% 15.2% 13
    Snohomish County 85 15.3% 12.4% 10
    Spokane County 74 25.7% 13.9% 10
United States 95,500 7.5% 5.2% 10,100

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is growing faster than average. Passenger and cargo traffic is expected to increase as a result of growth in the population. However, technological advances will limit the number of new jobs that are created. For example, cargo can be tracked more easily because of bar codes that are scanned every time a piece of cargo is moved. This allows customers to track their packages on the Internet instead of calling transportation agents. Customers can also complete their paperwork online which further reduces the need for agents.

Besides job openings created by employment growth, many openings will arise as current agents leave this occupation. Job opportunities may vary from year to year. This is because the demand for air travel changes depending on the strength of the economy.

Other resources

Airforwarders Association (external link)
529 - 14th Street NW, Suite 750
Washington, DC 20045
Airlines for America (external link)
1275 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 1300
Washington, DC 20004
The International Air Cargo Association (external link)
PO Box 661510
Miami, FL 33266-1510
The National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America (external link)
1200 - 18th Street NW, #901
Washington, DC 20036


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster