Transportation - Career Information

Transportation picture    Transportation image

The field of transportation encompasses a broad range of specialized positions that are responsible for moving goods, as well as people, via surface roads or air travel. Airlines transport passengers and freight via regularly scheduled routes or on "charters" designed for a group of travelers or goods. Companies who transport cargo via trucks provide a link between manufacturers of goods and consumers who needs these items. Businesses and individuals contract with trucking and warehousing companies to transport and deliver items including food, household items, and cars. The trucking industry includes freight trucking, warehousing, and storage. Buses and trains transport passengers for various travel purposes, and are operated by local, state, and federal governments, as well as private businesses.

An individual who works in any transportation-related occupation can hold a variety of jobs during their career. The occupations in the transportation industry vary for air, truck, and bus transportation, but can include the following:

  • Management of storage, distribution, human resources, training, and labor relations.
  • Airline pilots, copilots, flight engineers, truck drivers, and bus drivers.
  • Service providers who work directly with passengers or cargo such as flight attendants, baggage and cargo/materials handlers, and packers.
  • Office and administrative support, including customer service representatives, reservations and ticket agents, cargo and freight agents, stock and office clerks, and dispatchers.
  • Installation, maintenance, and repair technicians ensure that the truck, tractor-trailer, bus, or airplane is in top operating condition.

The principle tasks for individuals who work in the transportation field vary greatly depending on the type of work. However, all workers in transportation careers work together to produce the end result or successful outcome of moving cargo/freight or passengers from one destination to another. While each occupation in the transportation field is unique, they all require workers to share these common traits or characteristics:

  • Strong customer service skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Aptitude for geography and ability to read maps/charts
  • Specialized knowledge and abilities, i.e. management, finance, and mechanics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects relatively slow growth for many transportation careers over the next decade when compared to all occupations combined. This prediction of limited growth is mainly due to increased efficiency and improved routing due to GPS technology. The following list includes the most popular transportation careers currently available:

  • Air Traffic Controllers
  • Airline and Commercial Pilots
  • Delivery Truck Drivers
  • Excavating and Loading Machine Operators
  • Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers
  • Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators
  • Bus Drivers
  • Hand Laborers and Material Movers
  • Material Moving Machine Operators
  • Railroad Occupations
  • Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs
  • Water Transportation Workers

Top Careers in Transportation (BLS, 2013)

CareerNumber of Workers Nationally in 2013Job DescriptionDegree Requirements
Air Traffic Controllers23,060Air traffic controllers manage all air traffic in their region with the main goal of ensuring passenger and cargo safety. They issue flight and takeoff instructions, monitor all aircraft in the sky, and manage ground traffic at airports.The BLS says the government mandates that all air traffic controllers complete a two-year or four-year Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative, or the AT-CTI program.
Airline and Commercial Pilots73,030Airline pilots and copilots fly and operate a wide range of aircraft. They check aircraft for issues before takeoff, monitor the aircraft for safety, fuel consumption, and other issues during flight, and land safely and carefully.According to the BLS, airline pilots need to complete a Bachelor's degree and an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate from the FAA.
Driver/Sales Workers and Truck Drivers2,758,700These workers pick up, transport, and deliver a wide range of packages and commercial goods. They load and unload cargo, accept payments, and keep records of their deliveries.These workers typically only need a high school diploma and less than one month of job training, according to the BLS.
Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers1,585,300Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport large quantities of goods long distances, often traveling through several states and over long periods of time. They load and unload materials, deliver cargo successfully, and keep a log of their activities.According to the BLS, these workers must have a high school diploma and commercial driver's license (CDL).
Bus Drivers653,940Bus drivers transport people from place to place for a variety of purposes. In addition to their main role as a driver, they make sure maintenance is performed on their bus or vehicle, help disabled passengers get on and off, follow all traffic signals, and ensure passenger safety at all times.The BLS reports that bus drivers usually need a high school diploma, a commercial driver's license (CDL), and complete a training program.

Transportation Career Education

All positions in this field require a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. However, there is a new emphasis on postsecondary training for non-skilled positions due to increased technology in this industry. In addition, many transportation careers require a professional license, such as a CDL, in order to gain employment.

Although a college degree isn't required for many transportation careers, some do require extended training or postsecondary education beyond what can be learned on-the-job. The following table uses BLS data to outline the different degree options in this field and what kind of career they may help you qualify for:

Degree TypeTimeline for CompletionPossible Careers
Associate or Two-Year DegreeAssociate degrees can typically completed with two years of full-time study. However, programs completed on a part-time basis may take longer.Air Traffic Controller
Bachelor's or Four-Year DegreeBachelor's degree programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.Air Traffic Controller, Airline and Commercial Pilots


"Bureau of Labor Statistics," May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates,

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Air Traffic Controllers,

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Airline and Commercial Pilots,

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Delivery Truck Drivers and Drivers/Sales Workers,

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers,

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bus Drivers,

Schools for Transportation are listed in the column to the left.

Careers and Salary Data

This table shows summary data on occupations in the US. Clicking on any occupation name brings you to a page showing job prospects and salaries for that occupation in hundreds of metro areas across the country, with data updated through 2022.(Where data is denoted by an asterisk (*), summary info was not available.

Click each Occupation title for more details.

Transportation and Material Moving

Median Pay
% Growth
Air Traffic Controllers22,090    $122,990    1.3%
Airline and Commercial Pilots84,520    $147,220    4.6%
Bus Drivers179,510    $43,030    6.1%
Delivery Truck Drivers923,050    $34,730    4.4%
Excavating and Loading Machine Operators44,090    $44,800    7.4%
Hand Laborers and Material Movers2,953,170    $29,510    4.9%
Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers1,856,130    $45,260    5.1%
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators629,270    $36,200    4.4%
Material Moving Machine Operators28,240    $31,770    4.7%
Railroad Occupations45,710    $65,990    -1.2%
Taxi Drivers and ChauffeursN/A    N/A    N/A
Water Transportation Occupations75,180    $57,330    -2.1%
Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Selected Schools for Transportation (including any online schools)

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