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How Much do Forklift Operators Make?

Forklift operators are responsible for transporting materials in industrial sites and are payed will for it. In this day and age, they are essential members of the workforce, as they ensure the efficient flow of the supply chain. If you are interested in pursuing this employment opportunity, then make sure to read on. Here you can learn more about this career – as well as “how much do forklift operators make?”

Forklift Operator Job Description

As it has been established, a forklift operator is in charge of transporting goods to and from hard to reach areas.

While this is the most common responsibility, a forklift operator is in charge of the following as well:

  • Loading and unloading deliveries
  • Moving the items to the next destination in the supply chain (i.e. packaging.)
  • Recording inventories
  • Maintaining the forklift machine
  • Ensuring that items are not damaged throughout the aforementioned processes

Apart from the following duties, a forklift operator is also in charge of workplace safety. Since the forklift is a big machine, the operator has to be mindful about creating safe storage areas, as well as removing obstructions from high-traffic forklift paths.

How to Become a Forklift Operator

Before you read on about how much do forklift operators make, you first need to know what it takes to become one.

The basic requirement is age, as you need to be at least 18 years old to get a forklift operating job.

Of course, it is best if you have a high school equipment – or equivalent GED certification.

The most important requirement to become a forklift operator is certification. This is governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. You can take the week-long training program, offered online and in some vocational schools. Here you will learn about controlling the forklift, as well as navigating through obstacles, among many other pointers.

After passing the practical exam, you will then be OSHA-certified.

How Much do Forklift Operators Make on the Average?

Now that you are OSHA-certified, congratulations! And of course, you might be wondering how much do forklift operators make. According to, as of September 2014,$12.00 was the median hourly wage of forklift operators. This equates to as much as $33,004 a year, including tips, bonuses and overtime pay.

How Much do Forklift Operators Make, According to Experience?

Of course, the more experience you have, the better pay you can expect as a forklift operator. While $33,004 is the median yearly wage, salaries of forklift operators range anywhere from $21,401 to $52,456. The hourly rate starts at $9, and can get as high as $25.

If you are wondering about how much do forklift operators make – specifically the entry-level employees (0-5 years at the job), the average is $26,000 per year. Hourly rates for these operators range from $9 to $12 per hour.

Mid-career operators, who have 5-10 years of experience under the belts, can earn about $29,000 per year.

Experienced forklift operators, who have a decade/score of driving experience, take home as much as $31,000 yearly.

Those who have been operating forklifts for more than 20 years (Late-Career drivers) only get a $1000 raise. Annual pay for these veterans reaches about $32,000 annually.

How Much do Forklift Operators Make, According to Location?

Of course, location plays a role in how much do forklift operators make.

According to, the best pay for forklift operators comes from Alaska. The hourly mean wage is $25.52, and the annual mean wage is $53,090.

A distant second is the state of Wyoming, where forklift operators can earn as much as $20.56 per hour, or $42,770 per year.

District of Columbia pays its forklift operators an average of $19.49 per hour, or $40,530 yearly.

Not far from DC’s salary is North Dakota. Here, operators can take home $19.36 per hour or $40,270 every year.

At the fifth spot is New York, where employment is more than the four top-paying states combined. Its more than 450,000 forklift operators earn about $18.81 hourly, which is more or less $39,000 yearly.