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From Picking to Packing: The Essential Role of Warehouse Associates

February 24, 2023 · 16 min read

General Information


Warehouse associates are an essential part of the supply chain. They work in a warehouse environment where they are responsible for ensuring that products are received, stored, and shipped in a safe and efficient manner. Warehouse associates may work in a variety of industries, such as retail, manufacturing, and distribution centers.


Interesting fact: Amazon's warehouses use robots to help move and sort packages, and they even have a competition called "Amazon Robotics Challenge" for inventors and engineers to design the best robotic solutions for their warehouses.






High school diploma or equivalent

Generally, a high school diploma or equivalent is required for warehouse associate positions. Some employers may prefer or require an associate's degree in logistics or a related field. Previous experience working in a warehouse or related industry can also be helpful.

Physical fitness

Warehouse associates are required to perform physical tasks such as lifting heavy items, standing for extended periods of time, and operating machinery. Physical fitness and stamina are important qualifications for this job.

Attention to detail

Warehouse workers must be able to pay attention to detail and follow instructions carefully to ensure that products are handled and stored correctly.

Teamwork and communication skills

Warehouse associates often work in teams and need to communicate effectively with coworkers and supervisors.

Basic math skills

Warehouse workers may need to perform basic math calculations, such as counting inventory or measuring product dimensions.

Safety training

Warehouse associates must be trained in safety procedures to prevent accidents and injuries on the job.

Forklift certification (if applicable)

Some warehouse associates positions require the operation of forklifts or other machinery. Certification in operating such equipment may be required.


Prior experience working in a warehouse or similar environment may be preferred, although some entry-level positions may not require previous experience.


Main Responsibilities


  • Receiving and inspecting incoming products: Warehouse associates receive and inspect incoming products, ensuring that they match the purchase order and are in good condition. They may also be responsible for labeling and barcoding products for inventory purposes.
  • Storing products: Warehouse associates must organize and store products in the warehouse, ensuring that they are in a safe and accessible location. They must also keep track of inventory levels and notify management when supplies are running low.
  • Picking and packing orders: Warehouse associates must fulfill orders by picking products from inventory and packing them for shipment. They must ensure that the correct products are picked, and they may need to weigh or measure products to ensure accurate shipment.
  • Shipping products: Warehouse associates are responsible for shipping products to customers, ensuring that they are packaged correctly and shipped on time. They may use various shipping methods, such as UPS, FedEx, or a company's own delivery service.


Additional Duties


  • Cleaning and maintaining the warehouse: Warehouse associates must keep the warehouse clean and organized, including sweeping floors, cleaning shelves, and disposing of trash.
  • Assisting with inventory management: Warehouse associates may be responsible for counting inventory and updating inventory records in the company's computer system.
  • Operating warehouse equipment: Warehouse associates may need to operate equipment such as forklifts, pallet jacks, or hand trucks to move products within the warehouse.
  • Communicating with customers and colleagues: Warehouse associates must communicate with customers and colleagues regarding order status, shipping details, and other relevant information.




Skills for a Warehouse Associate


Hard Skills
  1. Ability to operate warehouse equipment such as forklifts, pallet jacks, and hand trucks
  2. Basic computer skills for inventory management and shipping software
  3. Knowledge of proper storage and handling of products to prevent damage
  4. Ability to perform basic math, such as counting and measuring products

Tip: Warehouse Associate should keep the warehouse clean and organized to ensure efficient workflow and easy access to products and materials.eep the warehouse clean and organized to ensure efficient workflow and easy access to products and materials.


Soft Skills
  1. Attention to detail to ensure accurate product labeling and order fulfillment
  2. Physical stamina and strength to lift heavy objects and work on your feet for long periods of time
  3. Teamwork skills to collaborate with colleagues in a fast-paced environment
  4. Effective communication skills to interact with customers, colleagues, and managers
  5. Time management skills to meet deadlines for order fulfillment and shipping
  6. Adaptability to changes in inventory, products, or shipping methods.


Salary for a Warehouse Associate


The average salary for a Warehouse Associate in the United States is around $31,000 to $36,000 per year, with variations based on location, company, and experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for a warehouse worker in the United States is $15.85 per hour.


Factors that influence earnings


  1. Location: Salaries for Warehouse Associates can vary depending on the location. Wages are typically higher in cities and areas with higher living costs, such as New York or California, compared to smaller towns or rural areas.
  2. Company size: Larger companies often offer higher salaries and benefits compared to smaller companies. Larger companies have more resources and may have a greater need for skilled workers, making them more willing to offer competitive compensation.
  3. Experience: The more experience you have as a Warehouse Associate, the higher your salary may be. Experienced workers are often valued for their ability to work efficiently and safely, reducing the risk of accidents and loss of products.
  4. Industry: The type of industry in which you work can affect your salary. Some industries, such as e-commerce or logistics, may offer higher wages due to the demand for skilled workers in these fields. On the other hand, industries such as retail or manufacturing may offer lower wages for Warehouse Associates.


Ways to improve earnings for Warehouse Associates


  1. Gain additional skills: Consider learning new skills such as forklift operation or computer inventory management, which can increase your value and earning potential. Additional skills can make you a more valuable asset to your employer, potentially leading to higher wages or promotions.
  2. Seek out higher-paying companies or industries: Research companies and industries that offer higher salaries for Warehouse Associates and consider applying for positions in those areas. Be willing to relocate if necessary to increase your earning potential.
  3. Negotiate salary: When negotiating your salary during the hiring process, be prepared to discuss your experience, skills, and qualifications. Do your research and come prepared with a realistic salary range based on your experience and the job market.
  4. Seek promotions: Warehouse Associates may be able to move up to supervisory or management positions with higher salaries. Look for opportunities to take on additional responsibilities and show your employer that you are capable of taking on a higher-level role.


Additional benefits


  1. Health insurance: Some companies offer health insurance benefits to their Warehouse Associates.
  2. Retirement plans: Many employers offer retirement plans such as 401(k) plans with employer matching contributions.
  3. Paid time off: Warehouse Associates may receive paid vacation days, sick leave, and holidays.
  4. Training and development opportunities: Some companies provide training and development opportunities for their employees to improve their skills and advance their careers.
  5. Employee discounts: Some companies offer employee discounts on products sold by the company or partner companies.

Job Environment, Tools, and Work Schedule for Warehouse Associates


Warehouse associates work in a variety of settings, such as distribution centers, manufacturing plants, retail stores, and other businesses that require the storage and movement of goods. The job environment for a warehouse associate can be fast-paced and physically demanding, with a focus on efficiency and accuracy.

Some common tools and equipment used by warehouse associates may include:

  1. Hand trucks and pallet jacks: Used for moving heavy items and pallets around the warehouse.
  2. Forklifts: Used for lifting and moving heavy loads, such as pallets or boxes.
  3. Conveyor belts: Used for transporting items from one area of the warehouse to another.
  4. Scanners and barcode readers: Used for tracking inventory and ensuring accurate product labeling.
  5. Computer software: Used for managing inventory, tracking orders, and communicating with other departments.

The work schedule for a warehouse associate can vary depending on the company and industry. Some warehouses may operate on a 24/7 schedule, with workers required to work different shifts, including overnight and weekends. Other warehouses may have more traditional hours, with workers typically working during daytime hours.

Due to the nature of the job, warehouse associates may be required to work in a variety of conditions, such as cold or hot temperatures, depending on the type of products being stored or handled. It's important for warehouse workers to be able to work safely and effectively in these different environments.



Interesting fact: The term "supply chain" was first used in the early 1900s by American engineer and management consultant Frederick Winslow Taylor, who emphasized the importance of coordination and efficiency in production processes.




Education requirements for warehouse associates typically do not require a Bachelor's, Master's, or Ph.D. degree. Most warehouse associate positions only require a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some employers may prefer or require some college education or technical training in areas such as logistics, supply chain management, or inventory control.

Professional associations such as the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA) and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) provide resources and networking opportunities for professionals in the logistics and supply chain industry.


Licenses and certifications


Licenses and certifications are not typically required for warehouse associate positions, certifications such as Certified Forklift Operator or Certified Logistics Associate can provide additional training and skills to warehouse associates, making them more competitive in the job market and potentially leading to higher-paying positions.

Certified Forklift Operator certification is typically offered by organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the National Safety Council. The certification process typically involves completing a training program and passing a written and practical exam. Forklift operators who are certified have demonstrated their ability to operate a forklift safely and efficiently, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries in the warehouse.

Certified Logistics Associate (CLA) is a certification offered by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) that demonstrates a worker's knowledge and skills in logistics and supply chain management. The certification process involves completing a training program and passing an exam that covers topics such as logistics and supply chain management, material handling equipment, inventory control, and transportation. Warehouse associates who are certified as CLAs have demonstrated their knowledge and skills in the logistics industry, which can help them advance to higher-paying positions.

Other certifications in the logistics and supply chain industry include Certified Logistics Technician (CLT), Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), and Certified in Transportation and Logistics (CTL). Each certification provides training and knowledge in different areas of the industry, allowing individuals to specialize in specific areas and increase their earning potential.


Career Paths 


Ways of career development


There are various ways for warehouse associates to develop their careers and advance to higher-paying positions in the logistics and supply chain industry. 

Gain additional skills and experienceLearn new technologies, master new inventory management systems, and operate various equipment to develop skills and experience. This can increase their value to the company and lead to promotions or higher-paying positions.
Seek promotionsDemonstrate leadership skills, take on more responsibilities, and showcase readiness for a higher role to seek promotions to supervisory or management positions.
Pursue education and certificationsPursue additional education and certifications to gain knowledge and demonstrate expertise in the field. Certifications such as the Certified Logistics Associate or Certified Forklift Operator can provide specialized training that can lead to higher-paying positions.
Build a networkNetwork with other professionals in the industry to provide opportunities for career development, such as learning about new job openings or receiving mentorship from experienced professionals.
Look for new job opportunitiesSeek out new job opportunities with higher pay or better benefits by researching companies or industries that offer higher salaries for warehouse associates and applying for positions in those areas.




Subfields in the logistics and supply chain industry offer warehouse associates opportunities to specialize in specific areas of the industry. Some subfields include:

  1. Inventory Control: Warehouse associates who specialize in inventory control are responsible for managing inventory levels and ensuring that the warehouse has the right amount of stock to meet customer demand. This involves tracking inventory levels, forecasting demand, and analyzing data to optimize inventory levels.
  2. Distribution: Warehouse associates who specialize in distribution are responsible for ensuring that products are distributed to customers in a timely and efficient manner. This involves coordinating with transportation companies and logistics partners to ensure that products are delivered on time and in good condition.
  3. Transportation: Warehouse associates who specialize in transportation are responsible for managing the transportation of goods and materials. This involves coordinating shipments, negotiating rates with carriers, and ensuring that shipments are delivered on time.
  4. Supply Chain Management: Warehouse associates who specialize in supply chain management are responsible for overseeing the entire supply chain process, from raw materials to finished products. This involves coordinating with suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to ensure that products are delivered to customers in a timely and efficient manner.


Alternative Careers and Similar Jobs


Some alternative careers and similar jobs to warehouse associate include:

  1. Material Handler: Material handlers are responsible for moving, packing, and storing materials in a warehouse or distribution center. This job requires physical labor and may involve operating equipment such as forklifts or conveyor systems.
  2. Logistics Coordinator: Logistics coordinators are responsible for managing the transportation and distribution of goods and materials, ensuring that they are delivered on time and within budget. This job requires strong organizational and communication skills.
  3. Purchasing Agent: Purchasing agents are responsible for buying goods and services for a company or organization. This job requires negotiation skills and knowledge of the industry and market trends.
  4. Operations Manager: Operations managers are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of a warehouse or distribution center, ensuring that all processes run smoothly and efficiently. This job requires leadership skills and knowledge of logistics and supply chain management.
  5. Supply Chain Analyst: Supply chain analysts are responsible for analyzing data and identifying opportunities to optimize the supply chain process. This involves collecting and analyzing data on inventory levels, transportation costs, and customer demand to identify areas for improvement.


Job Market 


Demand for warehouse associates


The demand for warehouse associates has been increasing in recent years due to the growth of e-commerce and online retail, which has led to an increase in demand for workers to manage inventory, process orders, and handle shipments. Additionally, the rise in manufacturing and production has also increased the need for workers to handle materials, manage inventory, and operate equipment. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of warehouse workers in maintaining supply chains and fulfilling orders for essential goods.


Outlook for warehouse associates


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of material moving occupations, which includes warehouse associates, is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.The projected job growth is expected to be driven by factors such as the growth of e-commerce, advances in technology and automation, and increasing demand for goods in emerging markets. However, the outlook for warehouse associates can vary depending on the industry and region, with some areas and industries experiencing higher demand than others. For example, regions with large ports or transportation hubs may have a higher demand for warehouse associates due to increased shipping and logistics activity.


 Job satisfaction 


Job satisfaction for warehouse associates can vary depending on personal preferences and the specific job duties and work environment. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of being a warehouse associate:

  • Job stability: Warehouse associates are often employed by large companies with stable operations, which can provide job security.
  • Physical activity: For those who enjoy physical activity, working as a warehouse associate can be an advantage as the job often involves moving and lifting materials and equipment.
  • Opportunity for growth: With experience and additional training or certifications, warehouse associates can often advance to higher-paying supervisory or management roles.
  • Physical demands: The physical demands of the job can be challenging for some, especially if they are required to lift heavy objects or stand for long periods.
  • Repetitive tasks: Some warehouse associate jobs can involve repetitive tasks, which can become monotonous and tedious over time.
  • Safety concerns: Working in a warehouse environment can be hazardous, with potential risks such as slips, falls, and injury from operating equipment.


Government Program


There are several government programs that may be relevant to warehouse associates or those interested in pursuing a career in warehousing. 

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): This federal program provides job training and education services to help individuals improve their skills and find employment, including in the warehousing industry. 

Apprenticeship programs: The Department of Labor offers apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, allowing individuals to gain valuable experience and earn a paycheck while learning new skills. 

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA): TAA provides assistance to workers who have lost their jobs due to foreign trade, including training and reemployment services to help them transition to new careers in growing industries such as warehousing and logistics. 

CareerOneStop: This program, sponsored by the Department of Labor, provides career resources and information to job seekers, including information on training and education programs, job openings, and career paths in the warehousing industry.

By taking advantage of these government programs, individuals can gain the skills, knowledge, and support they need to succeed in the warehousing industry and advance their careers.

  • Warehouse associates play a critical role in the logistics and supply chain industry, responsible for receiving, storing, and shipping products and materials.
  • Warehouse associate jobs typically require a high school diploma or equivalent, with on-the-job training provided.
  • Warehouse associates must be physically fit and able to lift and move heavy objects, and may be required to operate equipment such as forklifts and pallet jacks.
  • Certification programs such as Certified Forklift Operator or Certified Logistics Associate can help individuals gain specialized skills and increase their earning potential.
  • The job outlook for warehouse associates is positive, with steady demand for workers in this field as e-commerce and online shopping continue to grow.
  • While the physical demands of the job and safety concerns can be drawbacks, warehouse associate jobs offer job stability, physical activity, and opportunities for growth and advancement.
  • Government programs such as WIOA, apprenticeship programs, TAA, and CareerOneStop can provide valuable resources and support to individuals interested in pursuing a career in warehousing.


What are the typical responsibilities of a warehouse associate?

Typical responsibilities include receiving and processing incoming stock and materials, picking and filling orders from stock, packing and shipping orders, managing inventory levels, and keeping the warehouse clean and organized.

What skills are required to become a warehouse associate?

Good communication skills, attention to detail, physical stamina, and the ability to operate equipment such as forklifts and hand trucks. Some employers may also require basic computer skills.

What are the typical work hours for a warehouse associate?

Some employers may require warehouse associates to work regular daytime hours, while others may require evening, overnight, or weekend shifts.

What are the education requirements for a warehouse associate?

Most employers require a high school diploma or equivalent for warehouse associate positions. Some employers may also require additional training or certifications.

What is the typical salary range for a warehouse associate?

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for material moving occupations, which includes warehouse associates, was $32,990 as of May 2020.

What are some common challenges that warehouse associates face?

Physically demanding work, long hours on their feet, working in noisy environments, and potentially dangerous equipment and materials. Proper training and adherence to safety protocols can help mitigate these challenges.

by Yevheniia Osmakova

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