How To Become A Garbage Collector

Garbage collectors require no formal education or training. To work as a driver you will need some training and a CDL in most places.

garbage collector working

What Does A Garbage Collector Do?

A garbage collector (or garbageman or garbage woman) is responsible for removing garbage, waste, recyclables, and more.

They make work for the local municipalities or private waste companies and can have routes in residential areas or commercial areas.

The role of a garbage collector is important to our society and is a respectable career choice. You are making a difference in your community by helping us manage our waste!

Some of the responsibilities can include:

  • Driving the truck
  • Placing garbage in the truck
  • Operating the hydraulic lift if the truck has one which places the trash in the truck
  • Use signals to communicate with the driver or other helperstruck
  • Complete logs and records of pickups

Working as a garbage collector is a risky job. It falls in the top 10 of the most dangerous jobs in America.

How To Become A Garbage Collector

Becoming a garbage collector is one of the easier career options to consider. Actual requirements may vary depending on potential employers, but the below is what is typically required.

Drug testing and background checks are typical for prospective employees.

1 | Education

A high school diploma or GED is required for most employers.

2 | Commercial Driver License

If your goal is to drive a garbage truck, then obtaining your commercial driver’s license is a must. These licenses require the passing of an exam and training course.

3 | Training

Many employers will provide on the job training so you can learn all aspects of the job.

4 | Hazardous Option

Some garbage collectors can choose to work in hazardous materials which typically entail picking up garbage from industrial or medical facilities. This would require additional training so an employee can earn special credentials to handle these materials.

Recommended Skills For Garbage Collectors

No formal skills are needed for this career, but that does not mean you should not have some other skills! Below are some recommended skills that will typically make someone more successful as a garbage collector.

Teamwork Skills

Most garbage collectors work as part of a team of 2 or 3 people. One may drive the truck and the other two may place the garbage in it. So it is important to be able to communicate and get along with others.


Definitely not a job for the weak! Having some strength will go far with this job. Many of the items you will place in the truck may be very heavy.

People Skills

While not often, you may occasionally have to deal with the public. Whether a business owner or homeowner, being able to effectively speak to them is important.

Time Management

You will have a lot of stops in a day and being able to manage your time at each location will help ensure your duties are completed in a timely fashion.

Pros & Cons Of Being A Garbage Collector


  • Easy career to get into
  • Usually off on holidays and weekends
  • Good work-life balance
  • You are helping your community
  • You can find cool stuff


  • Physically demanding
  • Loud truck can harm hearing
  • Work needs to be done in all weather conditions
  • You will get very dirty
  • Traffic can be stressful
  • Typically very early morning hours are required
  • Limited growth opportunities

How Much Does A Garbage Collector Make?

For a job that has no skill or educational requirements, the salaries for a garbageman can be good.

The current median annual salary for garbage collectors is $30,320, or per hour.

Salaries can range depending on your experience and location with some making as much as $100,000 a year or more. If you work for a private waste disposal company versus a city public works department will also greatly vary your salary and benefits.

Garbage Collector Job Outlook

There is an expected 3% growth through in jobs through 2032.

As the population grows, more trash will be created which makes this a solid career choice for stability. But if you are looking for a career with a lot of growth options, this job may not be a good fit for you.

There is not much opportunity for growth or advancement.