What Is a Flagger in Traffic Control? (Plus How To Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

September 2, 2021

Flaggers perform a crucial role in traffic, as they manage the flow of vehicles around construction sites. If this role sounds appealing to you, you may benefit from learning what a flagger is and how to find a job as one. In this article, we define the role of a flagger, explain what they do and how to become one, list other traffic control-related roles and explore the work environment, salary and job outlook for flaggers.

What is a flagger in traffic control?

A traffic control flagger is a government agency or construction company employee who controls vehicle traffic flow around construction sites. They do so with the help of special equipment, such as traffic cones, warning signs and barricades. Besides managing traffic, flaggers also help construction workers and motorists avoid any danger associated with the construction site.

Related: 11 Construction Positions With Salary Expectations and Job Details

What does a flagger do?

Some of the most common duties for a traffic control flagger include:

  • Directing traffic around construction sites: They use signs and hand signals to manage the flow of vehicles around construction sites that affect traffic.

  • Informing motorists regarding detours: In some instances, flaggers have to inform motorists about detours or other relevant traffic-related information.

  • Placing construction signs and traffic cones: At the beginning of a project or workday, flaggers place specific signs around the worksite, such as ones that say "Road Work Ahead," "End Road Work" and "Road Closed."

  • Communicating with construction workers and flagger colleagues: They direct two-way traffic on single-lane roads by coordinating with other flaggers placed at different locations around the construction site, and they inform construction workers regarding any traffic issues that may affect the construction or worker safety.

  • Working with the construction crew on various tasks: Flaggers also assist the construction crew when they need to remove various debris and rubble off the road.

  • Keeping records regarding undisciplined drivers: Flaggers observe any driver who doesn't obey construction signs or other specific directions and submit the information to their supervisors, who usually send them to law enforcement officers.

How to become a flagger

Consider taking these steps to work as a traffic control flagger:

1. Earn a high school diploma

Although having a high school diploma is not an official prerequisite for all flagger jobs, it can help set you apart from other candidates. It can also help you acquire useful skills for the role, such as communication skills. If you haven't graduated from high school, earning an equivalency diploma like a GED is equally valuable.

Related: 13 Entry-Level Construction Jobs With Salaries

2. Acquire the necessary soft skills for the role

Although most employers who hire flaggers offer on-the-job training, preparing for the role in advance can help convince hiring managers that you're appropriate for the position. Some of the specific skills you can work on to improve your odds of getting a job as a flagger are:

  • Physical skills: Flaggers need to stand for long periods of time and sometimes carry heavy equipment. Being in good physical shape is therefore important for the role.

  • Communication and interpersonal skills: Flaggers provide directions and safety instructions to motorists, both verbally and nonverbally. They also sometimes have to deal with irritated drivers and interact with pedestrians, and interpersonal skills can help them accomplish these tasks.

  • Self-reliance: As a flagger, you need to be able to direct traffic for long periods of time with minimal or no supervision. Being able to make your own decisions in accordance with procedures is a crucial quality for the job.

3. Choose a flagger certification program

Becoming a certified flagger can improve your odds of getting a flagger job, as most job openings require it, and it's mandatory in some states. When looking for a certification program, it's important that you choose one with instructors certified by the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA). They also have their own flagger certification courses, both online and offline. Online courses, however, are only available for recertification in some states.

4. Complete your flagger certification training and pass the test

The specific training for flaggers involves learning a variety of specific procedures that you would be using in real-world scenarios. Once you complete the classes, you're eligible to take the flagger certification test. You have to recertify every four years after that to ensure you're always updated on the latest industry and regulatory changes.

Related: 17 Certificates for Construction Professionals

5. Apply for jobs as a flagger

Once you're certified, you can start applying for flagger jobs. One of the best ways to find open positions is by browsing job websites and specific state institutions, like departments of transportation. Some jobs require you to submit a resume, while others allow you to apply using a form directly on their website.

What other roles are involved with traffic control?

There are a few other jobs that involve controlling traffic. Most of them represent advancement opportunities for flaggers. Some of them include:

  • Traffic control technician

  • Yard supervisor

  • Team support specialist

  • Crew chief

Flagger work environment

Flaggers spend most of their time outdoors at roadway construction sites. This means that they often have to deal with moderate physical demands, like standing up for several hours at a time and working in hot or cold temperatures. They also need to perform other moderately challenging physical tasks, such as lifting and carrying various objects that usually weigh up to 10 pounds. Depending on the exact location of the road construction site, flaggers may also need to operate dangerous equipment and expose themselves to various other safety hazards.

Related: 5 Degrees in Construction

Flagger salary and job outlook

According to Indeed Salaries, flaggers in the United States can expect to earn an average salary of $28,918 per year. In addition to the base salary, flaggers may also be able to earn an average of $4,875 per year in overtime compensation. Some of the most common job benefits for flaggers are a flexible schedule, health and dental insurance and the employer matching their 401(k) contribution.

Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of construction laborer and helper jobs, which includes flaggers, is likely to rise by 5% between 2019 and 2029. This is slightly higher than the average national job growth.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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