What is a warehouse loader?

Whether you're curious about a career in logistics or are just looking for a side-hustle, a warehouse job could be a good option for you. There are a lot of different roles in a warehouse, including warehouse loader. But what is a warehouse loader exactly?

Read on to learn about what a warehouse loader is, what they do, how to find a job as one, and more. And if you think you might be interested in warehouse work, make sure to check out Instawork for well-paying shifts that fit your schedule!

Responsibilities of a warehouse loader

The short answer to the question "what is a warehouse loader" is that they're the people who load and unload trucks at a warehouse.

The warehouse loader role is an entry-level position in the warehouse. Warehouse loaders are usually part of big teams organized in shifts. A manager/supervisor is in charge of leading the team.

Warehouse loaders receive orders as they arrive, or prepare them to go out. They often work with warehouse associates, forklift drivers, and pickers to get orders out the doors. They're pretty much the link between deliveries and the warehouse.

Some of the daily tasks you might do as a warehouse loader:

  • Receive orders as they arrive, or see them off
  • Take products out of containers or vehicles, or pack them in
  • Check to make sure that products are in good condition
  • Check that the quantities delivered/received match the order
  • Keep the loading area clean and organized
  • Keep a detailed record of daily activities and data about each shipment. You may track the time of shipment, the amounts in the order, and where the products come from or go

Warehouse loader certifications

If you've found yourself asking "what is a warehouse loader," you may also want to know what it takes to become one. Luckily, there aren't too many strict requirements for the job. Most warehouse jobs will want you to have a high school diploma or GED, but not necessarily all of them.

There's no standard certification required to become a warehouse loader, but industry certifications may help you find a job or earn more. After all, having extra skills makes you a more attractive candidate.

Licenses and certifications that might be useful for potential warehouse loaders include:

  • Industry-specific certifications, depending on the warehouse — for example, a food safety manager certification if you wanted to work at a meal kit company warehouse
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certifications
  • Mechanical or technical education for warehouses — a good example is forklift maintenance
  • Warehouse management software (WMS) — learn to use tools like Excel and WMS if you're looking to work in a warehouse long-term. These programs are critical for warehouse operations. Experience with WMS can help you get better roles and higher pay
  • Forklift operations license — you'll need one of these to operate a forklift in any warehouse. As a warehouse loader, a forklift license is valuable
  • Logistics and distribution certification — it's great to have certificates like this if your long-term goal is a career in warehousing or logistics

Warehouse loader skills & qualifications

So what is it that makes a great warehouse loader? Here are a few of the top skills and qualifications you'll need:

  • Physical strength: Strength is crucial to the job — most job descriptions will list how much weight you should be able to carry
  • Computer literacy: Most modern warehouses rely on technology to keep inventory and record data. You may need to input incoming and outgoing orders when they arrive as a loader
  • Basic math: Your main role will be loading and unloading products and supplies, but you may be required to do some simple math when recording information or figuring out how to best organize packages.
  • Organization: As with your math skills, organization skills help you manage loads and shipments. An organized work area is safe and helps prevent damage to people and products
  • Teamwork: Warehouse work requires coordination and cooperation, so you need to be able to work well with others to get the job done
  • Problem-solving skills: Warehouses are busy, especially during peak times like the holidays. You'll need to think on your feet and act fast to solve problems as they happen
  • Flexibility and speed: In a warehouse, you want everything to move at a steady pace. But orders can change, and shipments can get behind or shift around — so you may need to adapt quickly and correct course to finish the job

Average warehouse loader salary

After "what is a warehouse loader," the next question is usually "how much does a warehouse loader make?"

According to Salary.com, warehouse loaders make an average of $16 per hour — similar to what other entry-level warehouse workers make. The average salary for a full-time warehouse loader, meanwhile, is $33,176 according to Salary. Glassdoor reports a bit higher pay at $34,618 average for full-time roles.

But remember, salaries for warehouse loaders depend heavily on location and experience. For example, Indeed puts the average yearly salary for a warehouse loader in Los Angeles at $42,254, which is a lot higher than the national average of ~$33k.

The great thing about picking up warehouse shifts on Instawork is that it's simple, flexible, and well-paying. If you're interested in a career in warehousing, you can test out the industry while getting paid to do so. But if you just want to pick up a few shifts now and then to make a little extra income, that's fine too!

Tips for succeeding as a warehouse loader

To succeed as a warehouse loader, keep these tips in mind:

  • Wear appropriate clothing: The clothes you should wear will depend on what kind of warehouse you're working at — if it's refrigerated, you may want a warm jacket and gloves, for example. But in general, it's a good idea to have comfortable jeans or other work pants, basic cotton shirts, and boots. Avoid loose-fitting clothing that could get snagged or caught in equipment.
  • Take care of yourself: Warehouse jobs are demanding, so you’ll need to rest enough and eat well to stay healthy. It can be tempting to sign up for back-to-back shifts to earn more, but don't push yourself too far — you need time to recover, too.
  • Learn how to lift heavy objects: As a warehouse loader, you’ll need to move lots of heavy stuff around, so you should learn the right way to lift and carry loads. Proper lifting will help you prevent back pains and injuries.
  • Get to work early: Give yourself time to find your workplace, park, and get a feel for the warehouse and team before you jump right into work. Even if you’ve worked there before, you may need to hear important updates on how things are going or what needs to be done. You don’t want to show up right as your shift starts — or worse, late.
  • Bring water and food: Get in the habit of drinking water throughout the day — warehouse shifts are a workout! Many warehouses will have a breakroom where you can eat during your break, so bring a snack or meal if you need it.

Warehouse jobs by experience

Now that you know the answer to "what is a warehouse loader," you may also be wondering what the other roles in a warehouse are.

The good news is, there are plenty of positions you can do in a warehouse. The hierarchy in a warehouse goes from entry-level to upper management:

Entry-level warehouse jobs


The picker/packer selects the products from the warehouse to fulfill an order.

Warehouse associate

The warehouse associate is in contact with providers or manufacturing plants. They also organize the facilities and handle storage for incoming and outgoing products.

Mid-level warehouse jobs

Forklift operator

Warehouses need forklifts to transport products to and from the delivery areas. They also use forklifts to organize inventory by type, size, fragility, etc.

Most warehouses need to hire someone who has a license to drive a forklift. The forklift operator has special training and a certificate to operate a forklift.

Forklift technician

A forklift technician has specialized mechanics training. Forklift technicians are in charge of maintenance and equipment repair within the warehouse.

Warehouse supervisor

A warehouse supervisor works with forklift operators, pickers/packers, and associates. They keep operations running in the warehouse. They also communicate with the manager. And there's usually at least one supervisor on every shift.

Senior warehouse jobs

Warehouse manager

This role is in charge of the facility's performance. Warehouse manager duties include safety standards, team responsibilities, and efficient processes. A warehouse manager also communicates with HQs and higher-ups.

Logistics director

The logistics director role is a step above the manager. A logistics director creates strategies to meet internal requirements and partners' needs. 

Production lead

Some warehouses have a production lead. The person in this role is in charge of the entire production process from start to finish.

Finally, the upper management in a warehouse can include titles like Chief Logistics Officer. You may also find a  Head of Warehouse Operations or Chief Operations Officer. You'll need a college education and many years of experience before you're ready for these jobs.

Find warehouse shifts with Instawork

Instawork makes it easy to find flexible shifts and reach your financial goals — all you need to do is create a profile. You can pick a shift here and there for extra cash, or work full time on the platform. It's all up to you!

Sign up now to get started.


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