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How to Become a Hand Laborer or Material Mover

Generally, hand laborers and material movers need no work experience or minimum level of education. Employers require only that applicants be physically able to do the work.


Some employers may prefer to hire workers who have a high school diploma, although it is generally not required for these jobs.


Most of these positions require less than 1 month of on-the-job training. Some workers need only a few days of training. Certain hand freight, stock, and material movers and refuse and recyclable material collectors have up to 3 months of training. Most training is done by a supervisor or a more experienced worker who decides when trainees are ready to work on their own.

Workers learn a safety rules as part of their training. Many of these rules are standardized through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Workers who handle hazardous materials receive additional training.


Depending on the size of the truck, refuse and recyclable material collectors who drive the truck may have to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Getting a CDL requires passing written, skills, and vision tests.


Many of these workers advance to other jobs. Some become material-moving machine operators; others become construction laborers or production workers. In warehousing or retail, experienced workers can move to other parts of the company, such as sales.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Laborers and material handlers who work with the public, such as grocery baggers or carwash attendants, must be pleasant and courteous to customers.

Listening skills. Laborers and material movers often need to follow instructions that a supervisor gives them.

Physical strength. Some workers must be able to lift heavy objects throughout the day.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition