Cargo or Baggage Handler
How to Become a

Cargo or Baggage Handler

The complete career guide to be a Cargo or Baggage Handler: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $27,840
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 5.1%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Don't Take Work Home
    Career Attribute

A baggage handler forms a part of an airline’s on-ground ramp crew, and is in charge of securely loading and unloading baggage or cargo on a flight.


Recommended Schools

What is a Cargo or Baggage Handler?


To be successful as a baggage handler, you must perform the following duties:

  • Actively work towards keep a clean and organised office, warehouse and counter space, which also involves removing snow or ice on walkways and docks.
  • Monitor the activities of staff members, contractual workers and visitors with an eye on any security breaches, non-compliance with site security protocols or suspicious behaviour.
  • Operate, drive or maintain various equipment such as tow bars, conveyor belts, lavatory service trucks, aircraft ground power units, baggage carts, passenger vans and air stairs.
  • Provide assistance to ramp service staff by ensuring the availability of special assistance vehicles like wheelchairs, strollers and check-in luggage at the time of departure and delivery to passengers on arrival.
  • Day In The Life

Working in the role of a baggage handler can mean different kinds of duties based on the company or airport you work for. As a valuable part of the grounds crew, all baggage handlers receive training to work alongside large and small teams to ensure that airline baggage is safely loaded or unloaded from specified aircraft either by manually hauling baggage or driving baggage carts.

If you join work at a smaller airport, additional tasks may involve meeting the airplane, directly communicating with the pilot via wireless radio to bring it to a parking area and towing the aircraft if necessary. Strong communication skills, advanced English skills and the ability to handle multiple priorities is essential, since you will sometimes interact with various passengers and pilots to relay important communication. If you are directly employed by a ground services company, you may have to provide assistance with regard to de-icing and cleaning airplanes, as well as keeping runways clear of any debris or snow.

Work Schedule

Working as a baggage handler requires you to be flexible and adapt easily to irregular hours and last-minute schedule updates. Most positions require shift work and you need to be on call whether it is day, evening night or weekend, depending on the assigned shift. In case you are lucky and become part of a union, you will work shifts ranging between 8 to 11 hours long in a compressed work week period. Thus, you would be working three days then taking another three off or something similar.

Much of the work requires being outdoors in all types of weather, and you will be moving between buildings around an airport, warehouses, aircraft holds, etc. Most baggage handlers have to wear protective gear like safety footwear, high visibility clothing and ear defenders.

Growth Of The Job

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job opportunities in the hand labourer and material movers’ industry, including baggage handlers, will be at an average rate of 5% between 2014-2024. Due to rising number of people using airports and their associated baggage or cargo, work opportunities are expected to greatly increase overtime. Once you gain enough experience, you will quickly progress to positions in supervisory management or passenger handling, such as a lead ramp hand or baggage handler supervisor. Some airline companies often promote internally, providing a managerial role to existing employees that display superior leadership and management skills.

Typical Employers

In general, baggage handlers work directly for different airlines, airports or government authorities.

Recommended Schools

How To Become a Cargo or Baggage Handler

The role of a baggage handler is an entry-level position which requires an aspiring candidate to hold at least a high school diploma. You require very little or no previous training. However, many employers have a preference for applicants that have a post-secondary education in academic or vocational areas.

You should be at least 20 years of age and have a valid driver’s license since some of the work involves driving vehicles like baggage carts. Baggage handlers must be in good physical health and able to lift heavy objects. To become an employee at an airport, you need to be cleared of a background check that may go as far back as 10 years. Typically, candidates may also need to take a drug test in order to qualify for the role. Baggage handlers have to perform their day to day duties while wearing an appropriate airline uniform, thus being professional and maintaining a clean appearance is a must at all times.

Cargo or Baggage Handler Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Cargo or Baggage Handler salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Cargo or Baggage Handler's can make an average annual salary of $27,840, or $13 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $20,270 or $10 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #731 Nationally for All Careers

Highest Education Among Cargo or Baggage Handlers

  • 0.2%   Doctorate
  • 0.7%   Masters
  • 5.2%   Bachelors
  • 5.2%   Associates
  • 21%   College
  • 48.2%   High School
  • 19.6%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Cargo or Baggage Handler job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 125,100 jobs for a total of 2,566,400 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 5.1% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #434 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Cargo or Baggage Handlers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Temporary help services 435,500 74,800 75%
Warehousing and storage 190,200 9,200 9%
Department stores 80,200 -16,400 -16%

Want To Be a Cargo or Baggage Handler? Get Started!

Generate your free SmartPlan™ to identify colleges you like, and potential ways to save on a degree or certification program toward your career with courses, offers, and much more!

Enroll Now and Get Started

or Learn More →