The air freight/delivery services industry has connected all corners of our globe together in ways few people could have expected 50, 60, or 70 years ago.
Today packages from all over the planet – 131 billion of them in 2020 alone – move across our skies, are unloaded from planes and then loaded on trucks, and find their way to our doorstep every day.
If you’ve been looking for an exciting new career that helps connect people to their purchases as efficiently as possible, you’ll want to check out the top 15 best-paying jobs in air freight/delivery services we highlight below.
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What is a Job in Air Freight/Delivery Services?
Jobs in the air freight/delivery services industry run the gamut from folks packing and loading airplanes with packages to the people responsible for flying them, guiding them down when it’s time to land, and every single professional responsible for their piece of the logistical chain.
That’s a big part of what makes jobs in air freight/delivery services so intriguing.
With so many different ways to get involved in this industry and so many unique jobs with unique skill sets (and fantastic pay), there’s almost always going to be a job in air freight and delivery that feels purpose-built for you!
Are Air Freight/Delivery Service Jobs a Good Career Path?
You bet it is!
Right now, air freight/delivery services are operating at about a 50% load factor – and are still handling north of 131 billion packages every single year.
That number continues to grow year after year, especially with the explosion in popularity for e-commerce and global trade.
The 15 best-paying jobs in air freight/delivery services are about as future proof as they get. There’s always going to be a demand for packages to move clear across the world as quickly and as efficiently as possible. And there’s always going to be air freight services to move those packages!
On top of all that, because there are so many different kinds of careers available in our list of the 15 best paying jobs in air freight/delivery services there are opportunities for everyone – regardless of past experience, education, etc.
The almost unlimited amount of opportunities also means it’s easy to move from one air freight career field to another, leveraging the experience you’ve built up in the past to secure bigger paydays while taking on more responsibility and new challenges.
Top 15 Best Paying Jobs in Air Freight/Delivery Services
Median Salary – $46,258 per year (roughly $22.25 an hour)
Education – High school diploma (or equivalent) for most positions, with some specialized certifications and training for more technical-focused careers
Projected Growth – After a slight dip in growth during the pandemic this industry has come roaring back. The global air freight market was valued at $270.2 billion in 2019 and is projected to hit almost $377 billion by 2027.
1. Pilots, Co-Pilots, and Flight Engineers
If there’s one job in the world of air freight and delivery that everyone aspires to it has to be the pilot and flight crew positions.
These pilots have a tremendous amount of responsibility (and must have necessary flight training and real-world flight time under their belt), but have the opportunity to earn quite a bit of money while flying around the country – and sometimes around the world.
It doesn’t hurt that the median salary for cargo pilots in the US sits at around $100,000 per year, either.
With the global air freight fleet expected to expand by up to 70% by 2035 (according to the folks at Boeing) there are going to be a ton of new opportunities for air freight and delivery pilots in the years to come.
2. Air Traffic Controllers
Air traffic controllers might not have as glamorous a job as a pilot, but their job is even more stressful, even more responsibility filled, and a critical component in getting planes down on the ground safely with their cargo intact.
While the air freight industry doesn’t have its own air traffic controllers separate from “traditional” ATC professionals, these jobs are still a huge piece of the air freight industry puzzle.
Air traffic controller salaries can range from between $50,000 a year and $130,000 a year (and often even more).
3. Aircraft Mechanics
Few positions in our breakdown of the 15 best-paying jobs in air freight delivery services are in as high demand as aircraft mechanics are.
Responsible for making sure that all aircraft are safe to fly and transport their goods, but also responsible for maintaining and upgrading those aircraft as necessary, it’s not at all uncommon for even entry-level aircraft mechanics to be pulling down six-figure salaries.
This career is incredibly technical and requires people that are especially detail-oriented. There’s a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of professional aircraft mechanics. Even just a single, small mistake can turn into a deadly catastrophe.
4. Postal Service Employees
It’s impossible to overlook the important role that Postal Service employees (federal government employees) play in the air freight and delivery services industry.
These employees aren’t just responsible for delivering mail to people’s mailboxes, after all.
Many of these professionals are also on the hook for logistical management, package sorting and delivery, customer service, and so much more.
Those interested in working for the Postal Service are encouraged to pursue City Carrier Assistant (CCA) positions. These are entry-level positions open to pretty much anyone and everyone and practically guarantee the first crack at all new “traditional” Postal Service employee positions as they open up.
Not only do postal employees make about $55,000 a year on average, they also collect fantastic benefits straight from the federal government – and job security that’s almost impossible to beat.
5. Transport Management
Transportation management professionals are responsible for handling the logistical side of getting packages from one location to another at scale.
Many transportation management experts aren’t just involved in the air freight and delivery side of things, either. These professionals work with air, ship, and rail operations – as well as traditional “over the road” transportation – to figure out the fastest, most efficient, and most profitable way to get packages from Point A to Point B.
Those interested in pursuing this kind of career are going to need to have a mind for order and logistics. That’s a huge piece of the success puzzle here.
On top of that, scheduling should be a strong suit, troubleshooting and problem-solving is a must, and clear, open, and transparent communication skills are critical for success.
Usually, only a high school diploma is necessary to get involved at the ground level of transportation management with lots of opportunities to build a career.
The median salary for transportation management professionals in the US today sits at around $73,000 a year (give or take).
6. Aircraft Load Masters
Nothing happens with a load of cargo being brought onto an airplane until an aircraft loadmaster gives it the green light.
This job has the sole responsibility for the loading and unloading of the aircraft, but not just in a physical sense. These professionals are responsible for the safety of the aircraft, the cargo, and the crew as well.
As you might imagine, getting an airplane filled with cargo up off the ground and into the sky is always a modern miracle. Keeping it there – and keeping it safe and stable during flight – is something that loadmasters make possible.
The median salary sits at about $45,000 a year, though the top 83% of all aircraft loadmasters make at least $75,000 and up.
7. Air Cargo Handlers
Air cargo handlers are going to get tremendous pay, fantastic benefits, and the added benefit of a great daily workout.
As physically demanding a job as there is in our breakdown of the 15 best-paying jobs in air freight/delivery services, this career field is usually filled with younger people that are up to these physical demands.
Cargo handlers not only need to physically move the cargo that has to be loaded and unloaded, but are also responsible for inspecting cargo and following the directions of the loadmasters explicitly so that the plane is safe during transit.
These jobs pay $35,000 a year to $50,000 a year (on average), with lots of opportunities for promotion and even better salaries.
8. Air Cargo Reps
Air cargo representatives (commonly referred to as “reps”) handle pretty much everything on the ground operations side of things when it comes to the air freight and delivery industry.
These pros work with the logistical experts to come up with efficient schedules, coordinate with loadmasters and the cargo handling crew, communicate with the flight crew, and act as a liaison for the air cargo company itself.
Reps don’t need a tremendous amount of formal education to secure these lucrative positions, either. A high school diploma (or equivalent) is generally all that’s necessary to get a foot in the door.
These positions pay pretty well (between $36,000 and $43,000 a year at the entry-level positions), with ample opportunities to make fantastic bonuses and get great benefits as your career grows.
9. Warehouse Managers
Somebody has to be responsible for organizing, tracking, maintaining, and securing all of the cargo that air freight operations are going to move before that cargo finds itself on the airplane itself.
This is where warehouse managers come into play.
Logistical wizards, and warehouse managers are able to keep cargo loads coming and going throughout their facilities without getting mixed up, without getting lost in the shuffle, and without getting delayed.
These managers aren’t just responsible for looking after the cargo itself, though.
They are almost always also responsible for managing the rest of the warehouse team that handles the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to transporting cargo on the ground and to the airplane.
Warehouse managers can expect to make between $77,000 and $107,000 a year, on average.
10. Inventory Specialists
Inventory specialists are a warehouse manager’s “right-hand”, keeping close track of all the inventory in a warehouse at any one particular point in time.
Attention to detail is a major part of success in this career field. Detailed record-keeping, the ability to efficiently multitask, and crystal-clear communication are critical, too.
Pay for inventory specialists can vary from one operation to another, but those new to the industry can expect to make about $36,000 a year.
11. Director of Flight Ops
The Director of Flight Operations has to keep their finger on the pulse of every aspect of air freight and delivery operation.
These are the professionals responsible for scheduling flights, planning flights, assembling and managing flight crews, coordinating with pilots and flight crews, and hiring and training flight crew employees – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Other responsibilities that fall squarely on the shoulders of the Director of Flight Ops include things like maintaining aircraft and flight records, managing maintenance, coordinating with all other areas of the air freight business, and so much more.
It should come as no subprime, then, that a position with this kind of responsibility would have a pretty hefty annual salary to match. The median annual salary for this position sits at about $143,000 per year.
12. Air Freight Forwarders
Forwarders are the air freight/delivery personnel that make sure cargo gets delivered safely at every single stop along its logistical journey.
These professionals check cargo setups physically, arrange for storage or expedited shipping whenever necessary, and often handle making sure that the tracking information for these cargo shipments is up to date and as accurate as possible.
Because these jobs are so critical to the success of an air freight operation, and because they are often so tech-heavy, most employers like to see a degree in business administration or something similar as well as very strong logistics and shipping skills.
The median salary for this career, though, sits at about $69,890 per year. Not bad, right?
13. Freight Brokers
Anyone interested in getting into a commissioned position in the air freight world will want to look closely at becoming a freight broker.
Freight brokers basically buy freight space and time directly from the air freight companies themselves and then sell that same space and time to forwarding firms – collecting a percentage of what they sell at the same time.
Getting into these kinds of positions can be a bit of a challenge, just because commission checks can be so big. The best freight brokers build relationships with both air freight firms and forwarding operations, have a real feel for logistics and scheduling, and are masterful communicators.
Base pay for a freight broker averages out to about $65,000 a year, but percentage-based bonuses and commissions can make a good freight broker a whole lot more.
14. Ground Ops Managers
Your ground operations manager is usually employed by the airport itself, though sometimes air freight operations also hire their own ground ops managers to handle their physical space at the airport, too.
Making sure that cargo is handled safely and efficiently, that it is stored and loaded properly, that aircraft maintenance is taken care of, and that the physical operation for the air freight business is well maintained are all responsibilities of the ground ops manager.
If it happens on the ground, these managers are responsible for it.
This position pays (on average) about $58,000 a year in the US.
15. Import Managers
All goods that are being imported into a country need to clear customs, and need to have proper documentation, and these kinds of shipments (almost always) involve a mountain of paperwork, too.
The only way to make sure that important air freight operations run smoothly – and that things move quickly through the red tape and bureaucracy – is to have high-quality import managers on board.
Air freight import managers do not need to have a ton of formal education or even a lot of experience in this area. They need a willingness to be trained, the ability to be organized and communicate well, and a general feel for how these processes work to be successful.
Salaries start at about $55,000 a year.
So there you have it, our breakdown of the top 15 best-paying jobs in air freight/delivery services today!
As you can see, there is a lot of diversity in the kinds of jobs available in this industry today. The pay is pretty solid regardless of the position you are most interested in, with a number of the top 15 best-paying jobs in air freight making it easy to clear six figures a year (and then some).
All in all, those looking for a unique challenge, great pay and excellent benefits, and to be part of the huge logistical network that connects our world like never before should look into some of the jobs we highlighted above.
What kind of qualifications do you need to get a job in air freight/delivery?
The specific qualifications you’ll need for each job in the air freight/delivery industry vary from one position to another (obviously), but many positions only require a high school diploma or an equivalent to get started.
Specialized positions – like pilots, mechanics, etc. – will require a lot more than just a diploma, though.
Can you make six figures a year in the air freight industry?
Not only do a number of air freight industry jobs pay six figures a year as the median salary nationwide, but many of these high-salary careers don’t require a ton of specialized knowledge, years of experience, or gruelling hours and tasks. There’s a lot of opportunity in this industry today.
How can I find air freight service jobs?
The best place to start looking for air freight service jobs is with the biggest air freight companies in the country. FedEx, DHL, UPS, XPO Logistics, and JB Hunt Transport Services are all great companies to start your search.