Cargo & Freight Agents

Cargo Agent

Cargo and freight agents receive and send shipments of freight and cargo by air, rail, truck, or water. They also handle the billing and collection of freight charges
Cargo Agent
Why Should You Consider This Career?

1. Flexible work schedule 2. Travel opportunities 3. Competitive pay

That's $3,300 per bi-weekly paycheck
That's 2000 new jobs in Utah per year (30% growth)
Less Physical                                         More Physical
Less Training                                          More Training
More Structure                                     Less Structure
Air Export Specialist, Drop Shipment Clerk, Freight Broker, Intermodal Dispatcher, International Coordinator, Load Planner, Logistics Coordinator, Logistics Service Representative, Ship Broker, Traffic and Documentation Clerk

Cargo Agent Career Guide: Salary Insights, Overview, and Steps to Join the Trade

In the world of logistics and transportation, cargo agents play a crucial role in the smooth movement of goods. They are the professionals who handle and manage shipping and receiving operations, ensuring that products are delivered safely and on time. If you are considering a career as a cargo agent, this comprehensive guide will provide you with valuable insights into the profession, including salary expectations, job responsibilities, necessary skills, training requirements, and more. So, let's dive in!

Overview of Cargo Agents | What do Cargo Agents do?

A cargo agent, also known as a freight forwarder or shipping agent, acts as the intermediary between shippers and carriers. Their primary responsibility is to coordinate the efficient transportation of cargo from its point of origin to its final destination. This involves arranging and monitoring shipments, preparing necessary documentation, negotiating rates, and ensuring compliance with customs regulations.

Cargo agents work closely with various stakeholders, such as manufacturers, exporters, importers, shipping lines, trucking companies, and customs authorities. They must have a keen eye for detail, excellent organizational skills, and the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

One of the key tasks of a cargo agent is to arrange shipments. This involves coordinating with shippers to determine the best mode of transportation for the cargo, whether it be by air, sea, or land. The cargo agent needs to consider factors such as the nature of the cargo, the destination, and any time constraints that may be in place. They must also negotiate rates with carriers to ensure that the transportation costs are reasonable and within the budget set by the shipper.

In addition to arranging shipments, cargo agents are responsible for monitoring the progress of the cargo throughout its journey. They track the cargo's movement, making sure it is on schedule and that there are no delays or issues along the way. If any problems arise, such as a missed connection or a damaged shipment, the cargo agent must quickly resolve the issue and communicate with all parties involved to minimize any disruptions to the transportation process.

Preparing necessary documentation is another important aspect of a cargo agent's role. They are responsible for ensuring that all the required paperwork, such as bills of lading, customs forms, and insurance certificates, are completed accurately and submitted on time. This documentation is crucial for the smooth movement of the cargo through customs and for the protection of the shipper's interests.

Compliance with customs regulations is a critical part of the cargo agent's job. They must stay up to date with the ever-changing customs laws and regulations of different countries to ensure that the cargo meets all the necessary requirements. This includes understanding import and export restrictions, duties and taxes, and any special permits or licenses that may be required for certain types of cargo.

Given the complex nature of their work, cargo agents need to have excellent organizational skills. They must be able to manage multiple shipments simultaneously, keeping track of all the details and ensuring that everything is running smoothly. They also need to be able to prioritize tasks and manage their time effectively to meet deadlines and handle any unexpected issues that may arise.

Furthermore, cargo agents need to have strong communication skills. They are constantly interacting with various stakeholders, including shippers, carriers, customs authorities, and other industry professionals. They must be able to clearly and effectively communicate information, instructions, and updates to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the transportation process is seamless.

In conclusion, cargo agents play a crucial role in the transportation of goods. They are responsible for coordinating and monitoring shipments, preparing documentation, negotiating rates, and ensuring compliance with customs regulations. Their attention to detail, organizational skills, and ability to handle multiple tasks make them an essential link in the supply chain, ensuring that goods are delivered safely and efficiently to their final destination.

Cargo Agent Salary | How much do Cargo Agents make?

Salary is often a crucial factor when considering a career path. As a cargo agent, your earning potential will depend on factors such as experience, location, level of responsibility, and company size.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for cargo and freight agents was around $45,000 in May 2020. Entry-level positions typically start with salaries ranging from $30,000 to $40,000 per year, while experienced cargo agents can earn upwards of $60,000 annually.

It's important to note that these figures are estimates and can vary based on geographic location and market demand. Additionally, cargo agents may have the opportunity to earn commissions or bonuses based on the volume of shipments they handle or the profitability of their operations.

When it comes to the factors that influence a cargo agent's salary, experience plays a significant role. As cargo agents gain more experience in the industry, they often acquire specialized knowledge and skills that make them more valuable to employers. This increased expertise can lead to higher pay and more opportunities for career advancement.

Location is another crucial factor that can impact a cargo agent's salary. In major metropolitan areas with high volumes of cargo and freight activity, such as New York City or Los Angeles, salaries may be higher due to the increased demand for cargo agents. On the other hand, in smaller towns or rural areas where there is less demand for cargo services, salaries may be lower.

The level of responsibility also plays a role in determining a cargo agent's salary. Cargo agents who are responsible for managing a team or overseeing complex logistics operations may earn higher salaries compared to those in entry-level positions. This is because the level of responsibility and decision-making required in these roles is greater.

Company size is another factor that can affect a cargo agent's salary. Larger companies with extensive cargo operations may offer higher salaries and more comprehensive benefits packages compared to smaller companies. This is often due to the increased resources and revenue generated by larger companies, allowing them to invest more in their employees.

Aside from base salaries, cargo agents may have the opportunity to earn additional income through commissions or bonuses. Some cargo agents receive commissions based on the volume of shipments they handle. The more shipments they process, the higher their commission earnings. Additionally, cargo agents who are able to optimize operations and improve profitability may be eligible for performance-based bonuses.

In conclusion, while the median annual wage for cargo agents is around $45,000, there are several factors that can influence a cargo agent's salary. These factors include experience, location, level of responsibility, and company size. Cargo agents may also have the opportunity to earn additional income through commissions or bonuses. It's important to consider these factors when evaluating the earning potential in this career field.

A Day in the Life of a Cargo Agent

The life of a cargo agent is dynamic and fast-paced. Their daily tasks revolve around managing shipments and ensuring a seamless flow of goods. A typical day might involve:

  • Receiving and processing shipment requests
  • Coordinating with carriers and other stakeholders to schedule pickups and deliveries
  • Preparing shipping documentation, such as bills of lading and commercial invoices
  • Tracking the movement of cargo and providing status updates to clients
  • Handling customs procedures and ensuring compliance with import/export regulations
  • Negotiating rates with carriers and optimizing transportation costs
  • Resolving issues and addressing customer inquiries or complaints

Each day brings unique challenges and opportunities for growth, making the career of a cargo agent both rewarding and exciting.

As a cargo agent, you will start your day by checking your email and reviewing any new shipment requests that have come in overnight. You will carefully examine the details of each request, such as the type of goods, dimensions, and destination, to determine the most suitable carrier and transportation method.

Once you have selected the appropriate carrier, you will reach out to them to schedule the pickup and delivery. This involves coordinating with multiple parties, such as truck drivers and warehouse personnel, to ensure that the cargo is collected and delivered on time.

After the pickup has been scheduled, you will begin preparing the necessary shipping documentation. This includes creating bills of lading, which serve as a contract between the shipper and the carrier, outlining the terms and conditions of the shipment. You will also generate commercial invoices, which detail the value of the goods being transported for customs and tax purposes.

Tracking the movement of cargo is a crucial aspect of your role as a cargo agent. You will use various tracking systems and software to monitor the progress of each shipment. This allows you to provide regular status updates to your clients, keeping them informed about the whereabouts of their goods and ensuring transparency throughout the transportation process.

When dealing with international shipments, you will need to navigate complex customs procedures and ensure compliance with import/export regulations. This involves preparing the necessary documentation, such as customs declarations, and working closely with customs officials to facilitate the smooth clearance of goods.

One of the key responsibilities of a cargo agent is to negotiate rates with carriers to optimize transportation costs. You will leverage your industry knowledge and relationships with carriers to secure competitive rates for your clients. By carefully analyzing different options and considering factors such as transit time and reliability, you will be able to recommend the most cost-effective transportation solutions.

As with any customer-facing role, part of your day will involve addressing customer inquiries or complaints. Whether it's a question about the status of a shipment or a concern about damaged goods, you will need to promptly and effectively resolve any issues that arise. This requires strong communication and problem-solving skills, as well as a customer-centric approach.

Each day as a cargo agent brings new challenges and opportunities for growth. The logistics industry is constantly evolving, with technological advancements and changing market dynamics shaping the way goods are transported. As a cargo agent, you will need to stay updated with industry trends and regulations to ensure that you can provide the best possible service to your clients.

In conclusion, the life of a cargo agent is filled with diverse tasks and responsibilities. From managing shipments and coordinating with carriers to handling customs procedures and resolving customer inquiries, every day offers a chance to make a meaningful impact in the world of logistics.

Ideal Traits and Skills for a Cargo Agent

Being a cargo agent requires more than just a basic understanding of the industry. It demands a unique combination of industry-specific knowledge and personal qualities that enable individuals to excel in their role. In order to thrive in this challenging and dynamic field, cargo agents must possess a range of essential traits and skills.

Organizational Skills: One of the most crucial traits for cargo agents is exceptional organizational skills. As they manage multiple shipments, documents, and deadlines simultaneously, cargo agents must be adept at maintaining order and ensuring efficient operations. From coordinating logistics to arranging transportation, their ability to stay organized is paramount.

Attention to Detail: Filling out accurate paperwork, tracking shipments, and complying with customs regulations require meticulous attention to detail. Cargo agents must have an eagle-eye for spotting errors and discrepancies, ensuring that every piece of information is correct and complete. By paying close attention to the smallest details, they can prevent potential issues and maintain a smooth flow of operations.

Communication Skills: Effective communication is essential for cargo agents, as they regularly interact with clients, carriers, and colleagues. Whether it's providing updates on shipment statuses, addressing customer inquiries, or negotiating with carriers, cargo agents must possess excellent written and verbal communication skills. Clear and prompt information exchange is crucial to ensure that everyone involved in the shipping process is well-informed and on the same page.

Problem Solving: The fast-paced logistics industry is filled with unexpected challenges and obstacles. Cargo agents must possess strong problem-solving abilities to think critically and resolve issues efficiently. Whether it's finding alternative routes for shipments affected by unforeseen circumstances or resolving disputes between clients and carriers, cargo agents must be quick on their feet and able to come up with creative solutions.

Flexibility and Adaptability: The shipping industry is constantly evolving, with updated regulations, changing market conditions, and unforeseen challenges. Cargo agents must be adaptable to these ever-changing circumstances. They must be able to adjust their plans and strategies accordingly, ensuring that shipments are delivered on time and in compliance with the latest requirements. Flexibility and adaptability are key traits that allow cargo agents to navigate through the complexities of the industry.

Developing these traits and skills will greatly enhance your prospects as a cargo agent and contribute to your success in this career. By continually honing these qualities, you will not only excel in your role but also establish yourself as a valuable asset in the logistics industry.

How long will it take to become a Cargo Agent | Training and Educational Path for Cargo Agents

Becoming a cargo agent generally doesn't require extensive formal education. However, relevant training and education can significantly boost your employability and advancement opportunities within the industry.

Many vocational schools, community colleges, and trade organizations offer certificate programs in transportation and logistics, providing you with a solid foundation in the industry. These programs typically cover topics such as supply chain management, transportation regulations, and freight documentation.

In addition to formal education, gaining hands-on experience through internships or entry-level positions can provide invaluable practical knowledge and help you build connections within the industry.

The exact duration of your training and educational path will depend on factors such as program length and your personal circumstances. However, dedicating a year or two to obtain relevant qualifications can significantly enhance your employability as a cargo agent.

During your training and educational path to becoming a cargo agent, you will delve deep into the world of transportation and logistics. You will learn about the intricacies of supply chain management, understanding how goods are transported from one location to another, and the various processes involved in ensuring smooth logistics operations.

One aspect that you will explore is transportation regulations. As a cargo agent, you will be responsible for ensuring that all shipments comply with local and international regulations. This includes understanding customs requirements, import and export laws, and any specific regulations related to hazardous materials or perishable goods.

Freight documentation is another crucial area that you will become well-versed in during your training. You will learn how to accurately prepare and process various types of freight documents, such as bills of lading, customs forms, and shipping manifests. Understanding the importance of proper documentation is vital in ensuring the efficient movement of goods and minimizing potential delays or complications.

While formal education provides a strong foundation, hands-on experience is equally valuable. Internships or entry-level positions allow you to apply the knowledge you have gained in a real-world setting. You will have the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals, learning from their expertise and gaining practical insights into the day-to-day operations of a cargo agent.

Moreover, these practical experiences can help you build a network of industry contacts. Establishing connections with professionals in the field can open doors to future job opportunities, mentorship, and valuable advice. Building a strong professional network is an essential aspect of career development in the transportation and logistics industry.

Considering the various aspects of training and education, the duration of your path to becoming a cargo agent may vary. Factors such as the length of the program, your availability for full-time or part-time studies, and any prior knowledge or experience you bring to the table will influence the timeline. However, dedicating a year or two to obtain relevant qualifications is a reasonable estimate.

Necessary Certifications for Cargo Agents

While certification is not always mandatory, obtaining industry-recognized credentials can further validate your competence and demonstrate your commitment to professional growth.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) offers the IATA Cargo Introductory Course, which covers essential topics such as cargo acceptance, documentation, and handling requirements. This certification is highly regarded within the industry and can enhance your career prospects.

Additionally, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) certification demonstrates your commitment to supply chain security, which can be an advantage when seeking employment with international freight forwarders or logistics companies.

Career Advancement in Cargo Management

The field of cargo management offers various opportunities for career advancement and specialization. As you gain experience and expand your knowledge, you can progress into roles such as senior cargo agent, logistics coordinator, or freight operations manager.

Continuing education and staying up-to-date with industry trends and regulations are crucial for career growth. Pursuing advanced certifications, such as the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) certification or becoming a licensed customs broker, can open doors to higher-level positions and increased earning potential.

Additionally, networking within the industry and actively seeking mentorship opportunities can provide valuable guidance and open doors to new career prospects.

Why Choose a Career in Cargo Handling?

Cargo handling offers numerous advantages as a career choice. Here are a few reasons why you should consider pursuing a career as a cargo agent:

  • Job Stability: As global trade continues to grow, the demand for cargo agents remains steady. The transportation and logistics industry plays a vital role in the global economy, making job stability a significant benefit.
  • Diverse Opportunities: The field of cargo handling provides a wide range of opportunities, including working for shipping lines, freight forwarders, customs brokerage firms, and international trade organizations.
  • Global Connections: Working in cargo handling exposes you to an international network of professionals and allows you to be part of the global supply chain.
  • Rewarding Work: Facilitating the timely delivery of products and ensuring customer satisfaction can be personally fulfilling and rewarding.

If you enjoy problem-solving, working in a fast-paced environment, and have a passion for logistics, a career in cargo handling may be an ideal fit for you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cargo Agents

Here are some frequently asked questions about cargo agents:

  1. How do I become a cargo agent? To become a cargo agent, you typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. However, obtaining relevant training and certifications can significantly enhance your employability within the industry.
  2. What is the difference between a cargo agent and a freight forwarder? While the terms cargo agent and freight forwarder are often used interchangeably, a freight forwarder may offer a broader range of services beyond cargo handling, such as supply chain management and customs brokerage.
  3. Is experience necessary to become a cargo agent? While experience is not always mandatory, gaining practical experience through internships or entry-level positions can strengthen your understanding of the industry and improve your job prospects.
  4. What is the career outlook for cargo agents? The career outlook for cargo agents is positive, with steady demand expected due to ongoing global trade. However, staying abreast of technological advancements and industry trends is essential to remain competitive.
  5. Can cargo agents work remotely? In some cases, cargo agents may have the flexibility to work remotely, especially when utilizing digital tools and communication platforms. However, the nature of the job often requires on-site presence for coordination and oversight of shipments.

These are just a few of the common questions aspiring cargo agents may have. If you have any specific queries or concerns, it is always best to conduct thorough research or seek guidance from industry professionals.


A career as a cargo agent offers a compelling blend of challenges and rewards. From coordinating shipments and managing logistics to navigating complex customs regulations, cargo agents play a crucial role in the global movement of goods. By acquiring the necessary qualifications, developing essential skills, and staying informed about industry advancements, you can embark on a fulfilling career in cargo handling. So, if you have a passion for logistics and a desire to be a part of the global supply chain, consider exploring the exciting world of cargo agents!

At A Glance in US
Wage loader
398,000 (35%)
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398,000 (35%)
398,000 (35%)
Air Export Specialist, Drop Shipment Clerk, Freight Broker, Intermodal Dispatcher, International Coordinator, Load Planner, Logistics Coordinator, Logistics Service Representative, Ship Broker, Traffic and Documentation Clerk
A Typical Day Icon

Your Typical Day:

  • Negotiate and arrange transport of goods with shipping or freight companies.
  • Determine method of shipment and prepare bills of lading, invoices, and other shipping documents.
  • Track delivery progress of shipments.
  • Advise clients on transportation and payment methods.
  • Estimate freight or postal rates and record shipment costs and weights.
  • Keep records of all goods shipped, received, and stored.
  • Notify consignees, passengers, or customers of freight or baggage arrival and arrange for delivery.
  • Retrieve stored items and trace lost shipments as necessary.
  • Enter shipping information into a computer by hand or by a hand-held scanner that reads bar codes on goods.
  • Prepare manifests showing numbers of airplane passengers and baggage, mail, and freight weights, transmitting data to destinations.
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Wages in the US:

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Per Hour Base Income
Total Compensation
Your Responsibilities Icon

Your Responsibilities

  • Coordinate operational activities.
  • Negotiate financial arrangements.
  • Analyze shipping information to make routing decisions.
  • Track goods or materials.
  • Maintain operational records.
  • Recommend packing or shipping methods.
  • Arrange insurance coverage.
  • Package objects for shipping.
  • Calculate shipping costs.
  • Provide notifications to customers or patrons.
Your Knowledge Icon

Knowledge You Will Learn

  • Transportation

Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits. 89/100

  • Geography

Knowledge of principles and methods for describing the features of land, sea, and air masses, including their physical characteristics, locations, interrelationships, and distribution of plant, animal, and human life. 88/100

  • Public Safety and Security

Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions. 76/100

  • English Language

Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar. 73/100

  • Administration and Management

Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources. 72/100

  • Education and Training

Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects. 62/100

  • Law and Government

Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process. 61/100

  • Telecommunications

Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems. 61/100

  • Administrative

Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology. 60/100

  • Customer and Personal Service

Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction. 60/100

Tools of the Trade Icon

Tools of the Trade

  • Ground power units for aircraft
  • Air conditioners
  • Wrapping machinery
  • Cargo trucks
  • Pry bars
  • Radio frequency scanners
  • Hand trucks or accessories
  • Metal cutters
  • Laser fax machine
  • Aircraft pushback or tow tractors
  • Two way radios
  • Staple guns
  • Hammers
  • Forklifts
  • Laser printers
  • Desktop computers
  • Wheel chocks
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