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Occupation Profile for Shipping, Receiving, and Traffic Clerks

Verify and keep records on incoming and outgoing shipments. Prepare items for shipment. Duties include assembling, addressing, stamping, and shipping merchandise or material; receiving, unpacking, verifying and recording incoming merchandise or material; and arranging for the transportation of products.


Significant Points

  • Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks generally are entry-level workers who need no more than a high school diploma.
  • Slower-than-average employment growth is expected as a result of increasing automation; many additional job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.
  • Because of increasing automation, employers prefer to hire those familiar with computers and other electronic office and business equipment.


$26,070.00 Median Annual Wage 21,000 Average Job Openings Per Year
6.3 Average Unemployment Percentage 64.3 Percentage That Completed High School
769,000 Employment Numbers in 2006 29.6 Percentage That Had Some College
797,000 Employment Numbers in 2016 (est.) 6.1 Percentage That Went Beyond College Degree

Sample Job Titles
Booking Clerk
Break Out Man
Break Out Worker
Car Checker
Cloth Booker
Container Coordinator
Disposition Clerk
Distributing Clerk
Express Clerk
Fish Receiver
Freight Breaker
Freight Clerk
Freight Forwarder
Freight Separator
Fruit Express Agent
Fruit Receiver
Fuel Oil Clerk
Garment Sorter
Grain Elevator Clerk
Gun Repair Clerk
Incoming Freight Clerk
Industrial Order Clerk
Logistics Coordinator
Material Control Associate
Material Handler
Milk Receiver
Package Sorter
Paper Control Clerk
Piggyback Clerk
Print Traffic Manager
Receiving Associate
Receiving Clerk
Receiving Manager
Reconsignment Clerk
Return to Factory Clerk
Route Delivery Clerk
Routing Clerk
Sheet Writer
Ship Runner
Shipper Receiver
Shipping Checker
Shipping Clerk
Shipping Coordinator
Shipping Manager
Shipping Order Clerk
Shipping Packer
Shipping-Order Clerk
Shipping/Receiving Clerk
Sorter Pricer
Station Agent, Baggage
Stock Receiver
Store Receiver
Switching Clerk
Traffic Assistant
Traffic Coordinator
Traffic Manager
Traffic Recorder
Traffic Worker
Transformer Stock Clerk
Truckload Checker
Vault Person
Vault Worker
Warehouse Manager

  • These occupations often involve using your knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include sheet metal workers, forest fire fighters, customer service representatives, pharmacy technicians, salespersons (retail), and tellers.
  • These occupations usually require a high school diploma and may require some vocational training or job-related course work. In some cases, an associate's or bachelor's degree could be needed.
  • Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience may be helpful in these occupations, but usually is not needed. For example, a teller might benefit from experience working directly with the public, but an inexperienced person could still learn to be a teller with little difficulty.
  • Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees.

Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks generally are entry-level workers who need no more than a high school diploma. Because of increasing automation, however, employers prefer to hire those familiar with computers and other electronic office and business equipment.

Education and training. Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks usually learn the job by doing routine tasks under close supervision. They first learn how to count and mark stock, and then they start keeping records and taking inventory.

Training in the use of automated equipment usually is done informally, on the job. As these occupations become more automated, however, workers may need longer periods of training to master the use of the equipment and technology. Because of increasing automation, employers prefer to hire those familiar with computers and other electronic office and business equipment.

Other qualifications. Strength, stamina, good eyesight, and an ability to work at repetitive tasks, sometimes under pressure, are important characteristics. Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks who handle jewelry, liquor, or drugs may need to be bonded.

Advancement. Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks are commonly promoted to head clerk, and those with a broad understanding of shipping and receiving may sometimes become purchasing agents or enter a related field, such as industrial traffic management. The Warehousing Education and Research Council offers online courses in distribution and logistics, which may enhance a clerk’s potential for advancement.

Nature of Work

Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks keep records of all goods shipped and received. Their duties depend on the size of the establishment they work for and the level of automation used. Larger companies typically are better able to finance the purchase of computers, scanners, and other equipment to handle some or all of a clerk’s responsibilities. In smaller companies, a clerk maintains records, prepares shipments, sorts packages, and accepts deliveries. In both environments, shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks may lift cartons of various sizes.

Shipping clerks keep records of all outgoing shipments. They prepare shipping documents and mailing labels and make sure that orders have been filled correctly. Also, they record items taken from inventory and note when orders were filled. Sometimes they fill the order themselves, taking merchandise from the stockroom, noting when inventories run low, and wrapping or packing the goods in shipping containers. They also address and label packages, look up and compute freight or postal rates, and record the weight and cost of each shipment. In addition, shipping clerks may prepare invoices and furnish information about shipments to other parts of the company, such as the accounting department. Once a shipment is checked and ready to go, shipping clerks may sort and move the goods from the warehouse—sometimes by forklift—to the shipping dock or truck terminal and direct their loading.

Receiving clerks perform tasks similar to those of shipping clerks. They determine whether orders have been filled correctly by verifying incoming shipments against the original order and the accompanying bill of lading or invoice. They make a record of the shipment and the condition of its contents. In many firms, receiving clerks either use hand-held scanners to record barcodes on incoming products or manually enter the information into a computer. These data then can be transferred to the appropriate departments. An increasing number of clerks at larger, more automated companies use radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanners, which store and remotely retrieve data using tags or transponders. Clerks then check the shipment for any discrepancies in quantity, price, and discounts. Receiving clerks may route or move shipments to the proper department, warehouse section, or stockroom. They also may arrange for adjustments with shippers if merchandise is lost or damaged. Receiving clerks in small businesses may perform some duties similar to those of stock clerks. In larger establishments, receiving clerks may control all receiving platform operations, such as scheduling of trucks, recording of shipments, and handling of damaged goods.

Traffic clerks maintain records on the destination, weight, and charges on all incoming and outgoing freight. They verify rate charges by comparing the classification of materials with rate charts. In many companies, this work may be automated. Information either is scanned or is entered by hand into a computer for use by the accounting department or other departments within the company. Traffic clerks also keep a file of claims for overcharges and for damage to goods in transit.

Work environment. Most jobs for shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks involve frequent standing, bending, walking, and stretching. Lifting and carrying smaller items also may be involved, especially at small companies with less automation. Although automated devices have lessened the physical demands of this occupation, their use remains somewhat limited. The work still can be strenuous, even though mechanical material handling equipment, such as computerized conveyor systems, is used to move heavy items at a rapid pace.

The typical workweek is Monday through Friday; however, evening and weekend hours are common in some jobs and may be required when large shipments are involved or during major holiday periods.

Related Occupations

Sources: Career Guide to Industries (CGI), Occupational Information Network (O*Net), Occupation Outlook Handbook (OOH)

Median annual earnings of wage-and-salary shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks in May 2006 were $26,070. The middle 50 percent earned between $20,670 and $32,840. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,970, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $40,590.

These workers usually receive the same benefits as most other workers. If uniforms are required, employers generally provide them or offer an allowance to purchase them.

For the latest wage information:

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following pages:

  • Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks
  • Job Outlook

    Slower-than-average employment growth is expected as a result of increasing automation. However, many additional job openings will result from the need to replace shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks who leave the occupation.

    Employment change. Employment of shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks is expected to grow 4 percent between 2006 and 2016, more slowly than the average for all occupations. Job growth will continue to be limited by automation as all but the smallest firms move to reduce labor costs by using computers and high-technology scanners to store and retrieve shipping and receiving records.

    Methods of handling materials have changed significantly in recent years. Large warehouses are increasingly becoming automated, with equipment such as automatic sorting systems, robots, computer-directed trucks, and programmed data storage and retrieval systems. This automation, coupled with the growing use of hand-held barcode and RFID scanners in shipping and receiving departments, has increased the productivity of shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks.

    Job prospects. In addition to some openings from employment growth, many job openings will occur because of the need to replace shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks who leave the occupation. This is a large entry-level occupation, and many vacancies are created each year as workers leave as part of their normal career progression. Because smaller warehouses, distribution centers, and trucking terminals will continue to rely on sorting and moving goods by hand, job opportunities at those facilities may be better than at larger, more automated centers.


    Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks held about 769,000 jobs in 2006. About 71 percent were employed in manufacturing or by wholesale and retail establishments. Although jobs for shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks are found throughout the country, most clerks work in urban areas, where shipping depots in factories and wholesale establishments usually are located.

    • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
    • Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
    • Sales and Marketing — Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
    • Medicine and Dentistry — Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
    • Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
    • Equipment Maintenance — Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
    • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
    • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
    • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
    • Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
    • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
    • Stamina — The ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time without getting winded or out of breath.
    • Explosive Strength — The ability to use short bursts of muscle force to propel oneself (as in jumping or sprinting), or to throw an object.
    • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
    • Hearing Sensitivity — The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
    • Core — Prepare documents, such as work orders, bills of lading, and shipping orders to route materials.
    • Core — Determine shipping method for materials, using knowledge of shipping procedures, routes, and rates.
    • Core — Contact carrier representative to make arrangements and to issue instructions for shipping and delivery of materials.
    • Core — Record shipment data, such as weight, charges, space availability, and damages and discrepancies, for reporting, accounting, and recordkeeping purposes.
    • Core — Confer and correspond with establishment representatives to rectify problems, such as damages, shortages, and nonconformance to specifications.
    • Monitoring and Controlling Resources — Monitoring and controlling resources and overseeing the spending of money.
    • Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
    • Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
    • Repairing and Maintaining Electronic Equipment — Servicing, repairing, calibrating, regulating, fine-tuning, or testing machines, devices, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of electrical or electronic (not mechanical) principles.
    • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
    Related College Curriculum
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