What is a warehouse associate?

If you’ve looked into warehouse work before, you may have a few questions. What is a warehouse associate? What does a warehouse associate do? And what’s the difference between warehouse associates and warehouse workers?

In practice, these two terms mean basically the same thing. A warehouse associate is someone who works in the company’s warehouse. They organize products and report inventory for stores, manufacturers, and wholesalers. They may also coordinate order shipping or delivery to keep up with demand.

Below, we’ll dive into what a warehouse associate’s day-to-day job looks like, how much they make, what skills you need to become one, and more.

Responsibilities of a warehouse associate

You can’t answer the question “what is a warehouse associate?” without talking about what a warehouse associate does. At a high level, a warehouse associate handles warehouse organization and inventory for sales. Some of a warehouse associate’s tasks may include:

  • Receiving shipments from providers or manufacturing plants
  • Receiving products from customers’ returns
  • Packing outgoing orders with the correct items and safely packaging them for transit
  • Keeping the warehouse organized
  • Storing the inventory to keep it safe from damage
  • Keeping updated records of stock, including daily changes
  • Verifying that everything is in good condition and quantities match the orders

An experienced warehouse associate may also be responsible for training new team members. This training might include giving a rundown on the software they’ll use, their daily functions, warehouse best practices, or technical skills.

Career opportunities for warehouse associates

The one-sentence answer to “what is a warehouse associate?” is that warehouse associates are entry- to mid-level workers in a warehouse. You may start as a warehouse clerk or packer and move up to associate, or you could be named a warehouse associate right off the bat.

Warehouse clerk

A warehouse clerk handles a lot of the logistics in a warehouse. Their job is to take orders from suppliers or customers. Warehouse clerks are crucial to coordinate that things are moving as they should. This role is usually less physical than a warehouse associate.

Warehouse packer

Also called a picker or picker/packer, the packer is the person in charge of packaging orders for shipment. They go through the inventory and collect the items to fulfill each order, then prepare it for delivery. A packer needs to be in good shape as this is one of the most physical jobs in a warehouse. They also need to be organized and detail-oriented.

Warehouse associates often work in groups. The size of the group depends on the warehouse’s needs and the volume of orders going in and out. These warehouse associates usually report to a warehouse supervisor. At bigger facilities, there may be several supervisors reporting to a warehouse manager.

If you stick with a warehouse associate position long enough and do a great job, you may be able to work your way up to warehouse supervisor or warehouse manager over time.

Warehouse supervisor

The warehouse supervisor reports directly to the manager. They put the manager’s plans in place and help manage the staff in alignment with their goals.

Warehouse manager

Warehouse managers oversee operations and the staff. Warehouse managers come up with strategies and supervise safety guidelines. They may communicate with the main office as well.

A warehouse manager may have a college education. They may be experts in finance, IT, logistics, or similar areas.

Other roles you can find in a warehouse include:

Forklift driver

Not all warehouse associates can operate the equipment. To be a forklift driver, you may start as a warehouse associate and get training to operate machinery.


A warehouse technician is the one responsible for maintaining all of the equipment.

What’s the best way to find work as a warehouse associate?

A common frustration of job seekers is that they can’t find a job without experience, but they can’t get experience without a job. The good news is that being a warehouse associate doesn’t always require previous experience. Having relevant skills from other jobs can help, as can doing specific training for warehouse work

If you’re interested in giving warehouse work a try, consider signing up for Instawork. If you’re capable of physical work, can learn to use software, and are willing to put in the effort, you’ve got a good chance of being selected for shifts.

Warehouse associate skills & qualifications

If you’re wondering “what is a warehouse associate,” you may also be wondering what it takes to become one. The most important skills for a warehouse associate include organization and people skills. Physical fitness is also important since a lot of the work is on your feet and you’ll be frequently moving items, some of which might be heavy. 

It also helps to have a basic understanding of how a typical warehouse works. Check out this training guide to learn some common warehouse terminology, layout, processes, and more.

Other skills you’ll need as a warehouse worker may include:

  • Being able to carry a heavy load (the weight may vary depending on the warehouse)
  • Knowing (or learning) how to use warehouse management systems
  • Having a basic understanding of math for inventory and reports
  • Using basic computer programs like Excel
  • Working well under pressure and in team environments
  • Being comfortable communicating with new people and supervisors
  • Organizing spaces effectively
  • Thinking on your feet and responding quickly if problems arise
  • Being detail-oriented and having a good memory

Besides these skills, some (but not all) employers may require other qualifications, such as:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • Some past experience working in a warehouse
  • A driver’s license
  • Safety and compliance training

Certifications for warehouse associates

You don’t need a special certification to be a warehouse worker. Most warehouse workers have a high school diploma or a GED and hands-on experience. But having complementary skills can give you a leg up when it comes to getting picked for a job. For example, warehouses need someone with a forklift license to manage heavy machinery. As a warehouse worker, getting this training can make you a more attractive candidate. If you want to become a warehouse manager, you may need a bachelor’s degree or technical training to move higher up — but again, that can vary from place to place.

Where to find work as a warehouse associate

One of the great things about warehouse work is that it’s critical to a number of different industries. From e-commerce giants to mom-and-pop shops, any business that sells products at a high enough volume will need warehouse support.

Instawork also makes it easy to connect with local warehouses and start working right away. All kinds of Partners use Instawork to look for hard workers with a can-do attitude that is interested in helping out in their warehouses. And with Instawork, you can pick up as many or as few shifts as you want, offering you flexibility and control over your own schedule. And if that weren’t enough, Instawork shifts often pay above the industry average!

What does a warehouse associate make?

One of the most common questions that go along with “what is a warehouse associate” is “what does a warehouse associate make?”

According to Salary.com, the average US warehouse associate makes an average of $16 per hour. Of course, this full-time salary will depend on the location and size of the company. Your experience in the field and how long you’ve been working there can make a difference as well.

To bump up your earnings even higher, you can try taking some technical classes with your local community college or get an industry certification like a forklift license.

Get started as a warehouse associate with Instawork

Warehouse associates are highly in-demand right now, so there are tons of jobs available — and the pay is rising fast. Plus, as a warehouse associate, you can choose in a wide variety of industries since so many different types of companies need inventory management. In many cases, all you need to be a warehouse worker is a can-do attitude, a GED, and some basic computer skills to pick up your next shift.

If you’re ready to dip your toes into warehouse work, pick up a shift on Instawork to test it out. With Instawork, you can work as much or as little as you want to meet your income goals.

To get started now, sign up for a worker account and start applying to shifts in your area. Whether you want to work a couple of shifts per week between classes or make a full-time living on Instawork, it’s up to you. Learn more about getting started with Instawork here!


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