A freight forwarder is a role, combining a passion for travel, business and languages, and working with others. As the freight agent who acts on behalf of importers, exporters and other companies, your role is to reduce the stress of international shipping.It’s all about having a calm approach and being an efficient team member to ensure the transportation of goods runs smoothly.
What is a freight forwarder?
Freight jobs collaborate with importers, exporters and other organisations. Their role is to essentially be the person who organises an efficient, safe and cost-effective transportation of goods for everyone involved. The transformation of goods you’re managing can be shipped across the UK or overseas. This can either be via rail, air, sea or road for the goods or cargo to arrive at their destination.
University degrees aren’t essential to becoming a freight worker for some employers who prefer practical experience in related areas.
Computer systems are essential to organise the best mode of transport, learning the customer’s delivery requirements and understanding the type of goods. You’ll also work with their services including road and rail freight operators, and many carriers.
The responsibilities of a freight forwarder are dependent on the size and type of employer, but usually include:
- Researching, investigating and planning the best-suited route for shipment.
- Organising appropriate packing, considering the terrain, climate, cost, weight, nature of goods and also the delivery, ensuring they reach their destination.
- Considering the hazardous nature of the goods, the security and transit time.
- Negotiating with others regarding transportation, contracts and handling costs.
- Organising insurance for the client and helping in the event of a claim.
- Preparing and checking documentation to meet customs, insurance requirements, and packing specifications and ensure it complies with other countries’ regulations.
- Organising payment for freight and other collections of payment for the client.
- Ensuring cost-effective solutions for small shippers who have insufficient cargo to require stand-alone units.
- Providing IT solutions and electronic data interchange (EDI).
- Managing and arranging air transport for urgent and expensive freight.
- Using various technologies to enable real-time tracking of goods.
- Being the role of a broker when making custom negotiations worldwide.
- Managing special arrangements for crucial transports such as medical supplies and livestock.
- Strong communication skills for all phases of the journey, including reports and analysis.
- Maintaining and developing knowledge on the movement of freight.
- Advise others on secured arrangements.
- General administrative tasks such as filing and organising client details.
The freight forwarder salary varies depending on your experience, level of expertise and employer. The average salary is around £30,393 for a freight worker. As an entry-level position, it’s estimated between £18,000 to £28,000 and can increase to £34,000+ with more experience. Working up to senior roles or management positions can see you earning the higher end and beyond of the salary scale. Employers can also offer you many benefits from bonus schemes to boost your salary a little bit more.
Alternatively, if you set up your business as a forwarder, your salary can go beyond this, depending on the rates you charge for your work.
University degrees aren’t essential to becoming a freight worker for some employers who prefer practical experience in related areas. Although, a degree is useful for helping you enter a career at a higher level or joining a graduate scheme with a large organisation across the UK and beyond.
The training and development depend on your employer and their continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities.
Postgraduate qualifications are also not required for this role, yet can come in handy for progression later on in your career, especially for reaching a management position. There are relevant Master's degrees with logistics degrees or supply chain management degrees for example.
Useful degree subjects can vary from economics, geography or supply chain management, and accounting to transport, distribution and logistics. A Higher National Diploma (HND), the equivalent to the first year of university or a full degree in one of these subjects can prove beneficial. HNDs can be acquired at college, whilst you’ll need to attend university for a full degree. There are only a select few degrees which focus on logistics and transport, and why you’ll need to go for one of the other subjects if they don’t offer it at your chosen university.
As a student, you can gain student membership with The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) which can provide up-to-date news in the industry, and relevant resources and helps you work your way up the membership grades when employed.
Training and development
The training and development depend on your employer and their continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities. For graduate schemes in larger companies, you’ll spend that time learning across the entire business, working in the different departments, developing experience and studying relevant professional qualifications.
For smaller companies, training isn’t as consistent. Regardless, the company will provide an induction process and on-the-job training, which can be updated when needed.
Work experience is always valued by employees and crucial for freight forwarding jobs.
Many organisations offer courses to get involved with, either externally, on your own accord or through your employer. The CILT UK provides many such as Level 3 Certificate in Logistics and Transport, Level 5 Professional Diploma in Logistics and Transport and more, increasing into the higher-level skills within the industry.
As a job which involves people, geography and IT knowledge, the skills you should have can vary. They include:
- Strong communication skills, to help collaborate and liaise with several people.
- Good at organisation and planning for client’s needs.
- Easy to communicate with when a problem arises.
- Sensitive toward a diverse range of cultures and religions.
- Strong knowledge within the industry and geographically.
- The clarity in communication to prevent inaccuracy from occurring.
- Working well within a team and having good interpersonal skills.
- Good understanding of numbers and computers.
- Flexibility in your day-to-day tasks and easily adaptable to new changes.
- Good with working under pressure and solving different problems.
- Great with attention to detail and accuracy.
- Bonus - language skills to help with positions abroad.
Work experience is always valued by employees and crucial for freight forwarding jobs. This experience doesn't necessarily need to be within freight forwarding, but in relevant areas which can offer useful skills for this profession. Experience within IT, planning, customer service or even general office work can play a part in your future as a freight forwarder.
Work experience can be gained through voluntary work or a part-time position when studying. Whether doing some shadowing work to see what happens in the workplace, offering a helping hand within a company or for a longer period, choosing an internship. Internships are found by contacting the company and seeing if they have any positions available and learning trade skills first-hand.
Freight forwarder jobs’ progression can mean gaining more responsibilities as you learn about international shipping work and working your way up to senior positions such as senior freight forwarders. You can then lead towards managerial roles including import-export manager and shipping manager, as well as specialising in international trade law.
Freight jobs collaborate with importers, exporters and other organisations.
For jobs in freight forwarding, progression can depend on the type of company you’re working for. If a company has a team of staff, there may be limited moves for progression, however, if there are lots of different departments, you can move up the career ladder easier.
The professional development you study throughout your career can also help you in moving forwards. The chartered membership of CILT UK is useful to reach higher levels in senior positions or management. To achieve chartered status, you can either gain an accredited degree with four years of experience in logistics or transport. Alternatively, if you already have the CILT UK advanced diploma or a non-accredited degree, your years of experience may differ but it’s still possible.
Within freight forwarding services, your knowledge and experience will grow and can be applied to numerous procedures such as insurance services, supply chain management, and many more. This knowledge can be developed to diversify your career and go down the route of other industries. For example, entertainment and sports for transportation of film, trading companies that deal with imports and exports, and even heavy industries such as aerospace. The diversity is endless in the transport and logistics sector of where you can next take your career.
- Average Freight Forwarder salary in the UK — Reed.co.uk. Retrieved 2nd September 2022.