Become a Freight Dispatcher: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a freight dispatcher. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in the logistics field.

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Do I Want to Be a Freight Dispatcher?

Freight dispatchers are employed by trucking companies to coordinate shipping operations with drivers, suppliers and receiving customers. They may work with dedicated company drivers or may be tasked with coordinating with other carriers to find available drivers to cover loads of freight. A freight dispatcher schedules truck arrivals for product pickup and delivery, and tracks the progress of transit with truck drivers to ensure on-time deliveries. Dispatchers also work with trucking company customers to record freight orders and resolve billing issues. Some will work in an office environment, but others are required to help load or unload freight as needed, making the work more physically demanding.

Job Requirements

Although a degree is not typically required, many employers seek applicants who have an associate's or bachelor's degree in areas like logistics, transportation or supply chain management.

The following table describes the common qualifications and requirements that employers listed in online job postings for freight dispatchers during October 2012:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Degree not required, though many employers prefer an associate's or bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Transportation, logistics, supply chain management
Experience 1-3 years of transportation and customer service experience
Key Skills Written and oral communication, multi-tasking, organization, planning, customer service
Computer Skills Basic skills for scheduling, order entry, billing systems
Additional Requirements Heavy lifting sometimes required; many employers require pre-employment drug screening

Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree

While a degree isn't usually a requirement to become a freight dispatcher, many employers do strongly prefer that candidates have at least an associate's degree. Employers don't typically list a preferred degree field, though programs in transportation, logistics, or supply chain management are highly relevant to the industry. Curriculum coursework may include transportation and purchasing logistics, distribution management, import and export management, and economics. Students will also learn relevant computing skills, such as accounting spreadsheets and database fundamentals.

Step 2: Gain Industry Experience

Though an associate's degree teaches several skills required for a career as a freight dispatcher, many employers prefer one to three years of experience in transportation or customer service. Prospective freight dispatchers can gain relevant entry-level experience as a courier or as a customer service representative in a related field. Some companies also prefer that dispatchers have prior trucking experience, including knowledge of Department of Transportation (DOT) rules and safety regulations.

Success Tip:

  • Maintain a clean and healthy lifestyle. Since freight dispatchers and couriers work in a DOT-regulated industry, they're often subject to pre-employment drug screening and random on-the-job testing. Employees must pass these screenings to gain and maintain employment. Additionally, some dispatchers are required to handle freight as part of their job, and must have the physical ability to lift up to 50 lbs.

Step 3: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Many employers list a bachelor's degree as a preference in freight dispatcher job postings. In addition to strengthening a candidate's resume, a bachelor's degree can also be a good foundation for future career opportunities. Bachelor's degree programs in transportation or supply chain management include courses in advanced logistics issues, global logistics management, transportation and public policy issues, and traffic and transportation management.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in an internship. In addition to coursework, many colleges and universities offer internship opportunities for students seeking bachelor's degrees. These programs can provide college students with real-world experience and skills with cargo carriers and freight lines. Students may also make valuable networking contacts that can lead to employment after graduation.
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