Last Updated on 2023-11-03

The Amazon Sortation Center Associate Job Explained

We worked with these active, experienced gig-workers to write this article and bring you first-hand knowledge.

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Phil Grossman

Experienced writer/researcher in the gig industry working alongside our gig-workers

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Stephanie Paige

T1 Asssociate with 2+ years of experience working in the Receive Dock, Inbound Flats, Material Handler, Unloader, Scanner, Stager, Splitter, Goalie, and Jackpot roles.

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James Enright

L5 having worked in a Fulfillment Center, Sortation Center, and in Reverse Logistics with 6+ years of experience across Receive Dock, Decant, Waterspider, Stower, Picker, Count, Packer, SLAM Operator, Problem Solver, and Unloader roles

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Dustin Stowell

T2 in a Sortation Center with 3+ years of experience working in the Problem Solver, Scanner, Stager, Picker, Stower, Waterspider, Material Handler, and Unloader roles

Amazon sortation centers (SCs) are large warehouses where Amazon packages are sorted and consolidated by final destination to improve delivery speeds. SCs are intermediary stops between fulfillment centers (FCs), where orders are packed, and delivery stations (DSs), where packages are loaded on trucks for final delivery. 

Sometimes, you may see sortation centers grouped in with FCs for expediency’s sake, but SCs are not the same as FCs or DSs. However, some SCs are located inside FCs.

Sortation centers are one of the primary reasons that Amazon is able to get orders to you so quickly. The sortation process groups packages together by delivery destination so that they can be sent to the optimal delivery station, ensuring fast delivery times. 

As an Amazon sortation center associate, you’ll be assisting in this by unloading and scanning packages, placing them on pallets and cages, wrapping groups of packages, and ensuring they get to the customer as fast as possible. Some sortation centers have started using automation to help improve efficiency, but the overall job description remains the same.

What is an Amazon sortation center associate?

An Amazon sortation center associate is someone who works at an entry level position at an Amazon sortation center. 

Amazon breaks jobs into different levels, called tiers. The lowest level is called Tier 1 (T1), and the highest level is called Level 12 (L12). Associates are T1 employees. Andy Jassy, the current CEO of Amazon, is an L12 employee. 

As a T1 employee, you’ll automatically enter into the Step Plan, which means you’ll receive pay raises after 6, 12, 18, 24, and 36 months on the job.. You can apply for a T3 job (there is no T2 in warehouse work) at any time, but you are most likely to get hired after you have at least one year of experience working in a T1 position. 

James Enright, an L5 employee who has been working at Amazon warehouses for 6 years, says, “the last few years, Amazon has tried to keep their wages competitive and as a result there has been a yearly cost of living adjustment as well. Most recently everyone who is hourly in the company got at least a dollar raise.”

What do you do at an Amazon sortation center?

When you work at an Amazon sortation center, your overall job description is to make sure packages get routed to the right delivery station. But you’re not in charge of the package from start to finish. Instead, you’ll be responsible for one specific part of this process, such as scanning packages or unloading them from trucks.

Most roles at SCs require you to be on your feet and move around, but you won’t need to do any really heavy lifting. You’ll never be asked to lift more than 49 lbs unless you work in non-con (non-conveyables), in which case you’ll be required to do team lifts.

Roles at SCs are broken up into direct and indirect roles. Direct roles are jobs where you need to meet specific benchmarks (“making rate”). For example, you might need to scan 70 packages per hour. Indirect roles do not have metrics you need to meet. 

Here are some of the roles you might find yourself in:

Unloaders (Receive Dock)

Unloaders (receive dock workers) unload packages from Amazon trucks and place them on conveyor belts. From there, they’ll make their way over to scanners. 

This is a direct role.


Splitters sort (“split”) the packages coming from receive dock onto the right conveyor belt. This position doesn’t exist at ARSCs (Amazon Robotics Sort Centers), a type of SC that uses automation. 

This is a direct role. 


All SC associates start out as scanners. Scanners take packages off conveyor belts, scan their customer-facing label, and place them on pallets according to the lettering on their labels. You’ll need to stack packages six feet high, so this role can be a bit strenuous. 

This is a direct role.


Waterspiders wrap the stacked packages with clear plastic wrap to make sure they stay together as they’re moved through the sortation center and onto the truck. Waterspiders also close and scan the containers that have been filled with packages and take them to buffer zones where they’ll be picked up by stagers. 

James says, “this is a versatile role across the SC. These are the folks who feed processes work, move the outbound work, and keep the gears to the machine going.”

This is an indirect role. 


Stagers use go-karts and pallet jacks to take the wrapped stacks of packages and bring them to the staging area of the outbound dock. 

This is a direct role. 

Container Loader

Container loaders take the containers that have been laid out in the staging area and place them onto trucks that will bring them to delivery stations. 

This is a direct role. 

Problem Solver

Problem solvers step in whenever a problem arises — that could mean finding a misplaced package, figuring out what to do about a damaged package, or fixing a package that won’t scan properly. This is a highly sought after role as it requires critical thinking to solve problems — plus, you get to use a computer, which allows SC associates to rest more instead of moving around all day. 

James says that problem solvers “are typically people who have not only been trained in multiple paths but have shown to excel in them. When we look to promote people, problem solve experience is something that weighs heavily in someone's favor, especially if they stood out while on that path.”

He also notes that it’s a particularly arduous role, saying that the problem solvers under his management “are some of the busiest and hardest working associates I have.” And when it comes to training, he says, “the average training for any given path is usually 2-4 days. Problem solve training for the “base” problem solve (think college course level 101) is 2 weeks. If you want CSC(300s), ISS(400s), IOL(500s), you're talking an additional 4-6 days for each type of problem solve.”

Dustin Stowell, who has been working in an SC for three years, adds that “there is also comprehensive Hazmat training required. The learning and safety teams coordinate the execution of that plan.”

This is an indirect role. 


Decant is a relatively rare role in SCs. Decanters break down master packs, which are boxes or bags that contain a large quantity of a certain item, so that their contents can be sorted. 

This is a direct role.


Sweepers are problem solvers that go to designated areas where items are left for them. They collect the items, put them in totes, and move them to the appropriate location.

This is an indirect role. 

How much do you get paid at Amazon sortation centers?

Pay at SCs varies depending on the location and how long you’ve been working there. However, you can generally expect to earn about $17 per hour. 

Is working at an Amazon sortation center hard?

Generally, Amazon SC associates that have also worked as FC associates and DS associates find working at an SC to be a middle ground — it’s easier than working at an FC, but harder than working at a DS. Overall, FCs tend to be more strict, while SCs and DSs have more relaxed environments. SCs also have shorter shifts than FCs.

James says, “SCs have shorter shifts, but given the higher production goals, there's an immediate trade off between the amount of 'labor' required and how long one can actually work. FC shifts are a marathon whereas SC shifts would be like a track meet.”

What are shifts like at Amazon sortation centers?

At an SC, you can typically expect to have shifts that last three to five hours, with the option to double up shifts. You can work either early mornings, days, nights, or weekends. 

Most SC associates work on fixed schedules, but there’s also a sizable amount of workers on flex schedules. Workers on fixed schedules have set shifts, i.e. Sundays-Wednesday from 12-5pm, whereas flex workers have a set minimum number of weekly hours they need to work and choose their shifts each week on the Amazon A to Z app (you’ll sign up for this once you’re hired). 

Your shifts can also flex up or down by an hour without advance notice — that means that you may be expected to work an hour more or less than you planned. You’ll be notified of this during your shift.

Get started as an Amazon Sortation Center Associate

Ready to get started with Amazon? Apply now to become a sortation center associate. 

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