what is a material handler?

As a material handler, you deal with everything on the warehouse floor. At a basic level, this means processing shipments and using machinery to load products onto the shelves. You also take items down when a customer places an order, get them ready for shipping, and load them onto a truck. When your warehouse accepts a return, you process it and put it back on the shelves.

Most material handlers are licenced to use equipment like forklifts, pallet trucks and stackers. You are responsible for obeying safety protocols, using the equipment correctly, and inspecting it to ensure it's still operable.

If you receive a damaged shipment, you work with the office to secure a refund or replacement. You also report issues like missing products or shipments that you didn't order. You keep your workspace free of obstacles and debris that might be a trip hazard. At the end of your shift, you sweep, dust, straighten shelves and store equipment.

Would working as a material handler suit your interest in using machinery? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a material handler role.

material handler jobs

average material handler salary

According to ONS, a material handler earns an average salary of £22,913 per year or an hourly rate of £11.75. Entry-level positions attract a compensation package of £21,350 annually due to the limited experience required. After working for a few years, your skills and experience improve your earnings. Material handlers with exceptional credentials earn over £26,855 per year.

what affects the salary of a material handler?

As a material handler, your salary depends on your experience and skills. While most employers don't demand academic qualifications, having post-secondary education gives you a competitive advantage. For instance, you can negotiate a higher salary if you have a forklift licence. Your work experience also improves your compensation prospects. New material handlers lack the experience and skills to complete most tasks. However, with over five years of experience, you are familiar with the procedures and can demand a higher salary.

Sometimes, the company size and industry also influence your salary. For instance, if you work in a small warehouse, you are likely to earn less, whereas large industries pay higher salaries due to the complexity of the role.

male working in a warehouse
male working in a warehouse

types of material handlers

Material handlers are classified based on the materials they use. Some of the types of material handlers include:

  • manual material handlers: your job is to load, unload and move materials by hand in a warehouse or industrial setting. You move household appliances and furniture from the warehouse to moving trucks. You also perform other material handling tasks like sorting, packing and weighing.
  • forklift operators: as a forklift operator, you move materials in a warehouse using specialised equipment for lifting and moving heavy objects. Your job is to safely unload and load cargo onto the forklift and operate it to move materials.

working as a material handler

Working as a material handler involves operating multiple machines and coordinating activities with co-workers to complete tasks on time. If you want to pursue the role, here are the specific duties, work environments and career prospects.


education and skills

Material handlers typically need GCSEs to get employment. However, post-secondary education improves your job prospects. You can complete a diploma course in warehouse management or material handling to qualify for the position.

Most companies provide on-the-job training on warehouse management software and operating equipment's health and safety standards. However, if your role involves using machines like forklifts, you may require additional certifications and licences.

material handler skills and competencies

Some of the skills for success as a material handler include:

  • communication skills: as a material handler, you constantly communicate with your team, suppliers and supervisors. Good communication skills help you relay information clearly and improve your active listening skills.
  • problem-solving skills: material handlers ensure the production team has a constant supply of materials. Problems usually occur due to miscommunication or improper storage. You can rely on problem-solving skills to resolve issues that arise in the warehouse.
  • physical strength: as a material handler, you manually move materials and operate machines. These strenuous tasks require physical stamina and capabilities. You also need physical strength to stand for long hours.
male busy with parcels in a distribution center/warehouse.
male busy with parcels in a distribution center/warehouse.


FAQs about working as a material handler.

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