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Working as a Customs Broker or Freight Forwarder

Job Description

Working as a Customs Broker you will perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Answer questions about tax and duty requirements for shipping in or out of the country
  • Arrange shipping and ensure the correct customs forms are filled out properly
  • Sign import/export documents on behalf of clients, using power of attorney
  • Arrange for payment of duties, taxes, storage, and transportation of imported goods and bonds to cover duty goods

Source: NOC, 1236

Working as a Freight Forwarder you will perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Represent companies that export and import products or services to and from foreign countries
  • Estimate or quote: prices, contract terms, warranties, and delivery dates
  • Prepare or oversee preparation of sales or other contracts and provide ongoing support

Source: NOC, 6411

Industry Overview

Importers dealing with the Canada Border Services Agency rely on a licensed customs broker to manage the documents necessary to get their shipments processed.

Employment as a customs broker in BC is almost entirely (90%) concentrated in the Lower Mainland.

This is a steady occupation sector with no dramatic change in demand expected prior to 2022. According to industry sources, finding qualified workers to fill openings in this field is difficult. Customs brokerage firms regularly train and promote existing staff and allow them to perform brokerage work once they are qualified.

Source: Canadian Society of Customs Brokers

Freight forwarding is one of the common activities falling within the Canadian logistics industry. This industry is experiencing growth due to globalization.

In BC, the majority of freight forwarding jobs are in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.

Source:  Canadian Trade Commissioner Services

Job Outlook in BC

Customs, Ship and other Brokers (NOC 1315)

job outlook for customs, ship and other brokers

Chart from WorkBC (NOC 1315)

Freight Forwarder, Sales Representatives –Wholesale Trade (NOC 6411)

job outlook for freight forwarder, sales representatives - wholesale trade

Chart from WorkBC (NOC 6411)

The Employment Outlook for BC provides job openings projections for customs brokers and sales representatives, wholesale trade (non-technical) within the BC regions:

customs broker sales representative regional outlook

Source: Regional Employment Projections, BC Stats. Projections for development regions. [accessed October 2014]

You can learn more about working in this industry from Work BC Career Profiles.

Types of Employers

Customs Brokers

Most customs brokers work for brokerage or importing firms that offer services on a contract basis. Others work for private companies or organizations. Some are self-employed and work on contracts made directly with clients. These services are in highest demand in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

Source: Career Cruising database (Profile for Customs Broker).

Freight Forwarders

Sales representatives, wholesale trade (non-technical), including freight forwarding services sales representatives, work for wholesalers, producers of commodities, manufacturers, business service firms, hotels, and transportation companies.

Source: NOC

Salary

Customs Brokers

In BC, the average annual salary for Customs, Ship and other brokers is between $44,000 and $53,000. Salaries vary depending on experience, education, and employer. Brokers employed by private companies may earn more than those who work for brokerage firms.

Many salaried brokers receive benefits, such as dental plans and sick days. Self-employed brokers must provide their own benefits.

Source: Career Cruising database (Profile for Customs Broker).

In BC, Customs Brokers (NOC 1236) can expect to earn:

customsbroker_wages

Source: Job Bank Canada

Freight Forwarders/Sales Representatives

Salaries for sales representatives depend on the industry and employer, as well as the location. The average annual salary for Sales Representatives in BC is between $53,000 and $66, 000. Many sales representatives are paid through a combination of salary and commission, or salary plus bonus.

Source: Career Cruising database (Profile for Sales Representative).

In BC, Wholesale Trade (non-technical)NOC 6411, which includes freight- forwarding services sales representatives in BC.

frieghtforwarder_wages

Source: Job Bank Canada

Working Hours

Most customs brokers work a standard 40-hour work week, although they may need to be available on weekends and evenings to meet scheduled shipments. At border crossings, they often work in shifts in order to provide 24-hour service to clients.

Most freight forwarders work a standard 40-hour work week.

Skills, Education, and Experience

Skills for Customs Brokers

  • Communication skills
  • Computer skills
  • Enjoy working with numbers
  • Detail-oriented
  • Organized

Skills for Freight Forwarders

  • Determined
  • Persuasive
  • Good with people
  • Communication skills

Source: Career Cruising database (Profile for Customs Broker)

Education and Experience

Customs Brokers

  • Completion of secondary school is required
  • Some post-secondary education in commerce or a related field may be required
  • Customs brokers require several years of on-the-job training and completion of a customs brokers training program through the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers
  • A customs broker licence, issued by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, is required for an individual or company to operate a customs brokerage business.

Source: NOC,1236

Freight Forwarders

  • Completion of secondary school is required
  • A university degree or completion of a college or other program may be required
  • Experience in sales or in an occupation related to the product or service is usually required
  • Fluency in a foreign language and/or foreign country work or travel
  • Voluntary certification is available from the Canadian Professional Sales Association.

Source: NOC, 6411

Qualifications

Licensing Requirements for a Customs Broker

This profession is not regulated in British Columbia

Licensing Requirements for a Customs Broker

Customs brokers who open their own brokerage business must be licensed by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

While in most cases any duly authorized agent may transact business with the CBSA on behalf of clients, only a licensed customs broker may account for goods and pay duties under Section 32 of the Customs Act as an agent of an importer or owner.

For information on the Customs Brokers Professional Examination, see:
Customs Brokers Professional Examination and
Customs Brokers Professional Examination: Memorandum D1-8-3

For more information on licensing requirements, see:
Licensed Customs Brokers

Finding Jobs

You’ll find job advertisements in local newspapers, electronic sources, and through professional associations.

Local Newspapers

You can look at the Vancouver Sun and The Province at Vancouver Public Library for free. Check the job postings daily, the careers section in the Vancouver Sun on Wednesdays and Saturdays and in The Province on Sundays.

Job White Pages

  • Available online or in print at the Central Library
    NOTE: Access at VPL locations only

Online Job Postings

  • Indeed.com
    Find jobs posted on a multitude of company career sites and job boards.

Professional Associations’ Career Resources

Identifying the Right Position

When you browse job advertisements, you’ll find a range of different job titles that are relevant.

For Customs Brokers (NOC 1236), look for these and other related job titles :

  • cargo broker
  • licensed customs broker

For Freight Forwarders (Sales Representatives – Wholesale Trade (Non-Technical, NOC 6411) look for these and other related job titles:

  • freight sales agent
  • freight forwarding sales representative
  • supervisor, wholesale trade representatives
  • transfer company agent

Creating a List of Potential Employers

You can use directories to produce lists of companies in the Lower Mainland or BC in the customs brokerage and freight forwarding industry. Contact them directly to find out if they’re hiring.

  • Materials Management and Distribution
    Central Library, 658.7805 M425
  • Reference Canada
    Click on “Start Search” beside Canadian Businesses, then select the “Advanced Search” button.
    Select both “Keyword/SIC/NAICS” under Business Type and “City” under Geography.
    In the top search box enter “Customs Brokers” or “Freight Forwarding” and click LOOKUP.
    Select the appropriate headings.
    Lower down, select the Province, choose the cities, and click the “View Results” button.
    NOTE: You can access this database from a Library computer. If you are using a computer from outside the Library, you will need a Vancouver Public Library card to login to this database. After clicking on the database name, you will be asked to enter your library card number and PIN (usually last four digits of your telephone number).

Applying for a Job

In Canada, employers usually expect to receive a resume or curriculum vitae and a cover letter that identifies the position you are applying for and summarizes your relevant experience.

Use the library catalogue to find books on writing resumes and cover letters specific to your industry.

To learn about applying for jobs in Canada, use the following pathfinders:

Getting Help from Industry Sources

Industry Associations

There are associations for customs brokers in BC and Canada. These associations provide assistance to organizations and individuals working in this sector.

  • Supply Chain & Logistics Association Canada (SCL)
    A non-profit organization whose purpose is to advance business professionals interested in improving their supply chain and logistics skills through communication, networking, education, training, knowledge, and leadership.

Industry Journals

Search the Vancouver Public Library catalogue for journals related to your profession. . Examples at the Central Library:

  • Materials Management and Distribution
    Central Library, 658.7805 M425