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Manufacturing Careers: Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to have a career in manufacturing. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and programs to find out if this is the career for you.

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A career as in manufacturing can be pursued with a high school diploma or GED. Experience using tools is typically required, and those who enter this field will have to complete workplace safety courses and other training through their employer.

Essential Information

The manufacturing industry is a diversified field that includes jobs ranging from production workers to purchasing agents. The top two occupations in manufacturing are team assemblers and machinists. The third most populous occupation, which may be thought of as quality control employees, includes inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers and weighers.

Required Education High school diploma or GED
Other Requirements On-the-job training and voluntary certifications available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for machinists and tool and die makers; 10% for machinists
Median Salary (2015)* $40,550 annually for machinists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Hazardous Materials Information Systems
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Manufacturing Career Options

Team assemblers

Team assemblers fabricate or construct products on an assembly line. In order to respond to demand shifts, these workers rotate on different assignments throughout the production process. By doing this, they become well-versed in all stages of assembly and are able to adjust to worker absences and supply chain issues. Team assemblers may also be responsible for quickly scanning parts, removing faulty parts and determining the source of a defect.

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment growth for assemblers and fabricators is projected to decline one percent from 2014 to 2024. This job decline is due to an increase in productivity with fewer workers in many manufacturing companies. In May 2015, the BLS stated that team assemblers earned a median annual salary of $29,080.

Machinists

Machinists use specialized tools, including computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines, to create or assemble parts, mechanisms and products. Machinists begin by consulting blueprints or instructional guides to determine the equipment to use and actions to take. These professionals then perform the required work and follow-up by inspecting products for structural integrity and accuracy to specifications.

Machinists could see ten percent employment growth between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. A continuing need for machinists despite advances in technologies is expected. As of May 2015, the BLS says, machinists earned a median yearly salary of $40,550.

Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers and Weighers

This group ensures quality control by checking products for specification and functional conformance. This may include verifying weights and measures, as well as testing and sending back defects. Additional duties may include reviewing products for durability and fixing minor problems.

The BLS indicates that as of May 2015, 508,590 employed inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers and weighers earned a median annual salary of $36,000. Employment for quality control inspectors, which includes those that inspect manufacturing equipment and products, is expected to see no job growth during the 2014-2024 decade.

Requirements

Prospective candidates may enter the manufacturing field after completing high school. These new hires may receive on-the-job training on handling power tools, assembling parts and using specific quality-control instruments to verify dimensions. Additionally, new employees may participate in employer-sponsored classroom assignments on topics ranging from occupational safety to assembly line controls.

Some positions may ask for postsecondary education. For example, inspectors may benefit from having earned a certificate in computer-aided design. These 6-12 month programs may include instruction on design setup, scaling and modification. Similarly, machinists may be required to have completed a 2-year associate's degree program or 4-year apprenticeship. Apprentices may receive training on reading mechanical drawings, setting up equipment and operating specialized machinery, such as CNC machines.

Certification

Manufacturing employees may seek voluntary certifications from credentialing organizations, including the American Society for Quality (ASQ). These certifications, while not required, may enhance employment and advancement opportunities. For example, quality control inspectors may seek to be certified by the ASQ as a Certified Quality Inspector. Certification requirements include a GED or high school diploma, two years of experience and the passage of a certification exam.

A manufacturing career can mean working as a machinist, a team assembler, or an inspector, tester, sorter, sampler or weigher. Manufacturing encompasses making products as well as ensuring the safety and quality of those products before they reach consumers. Although it is possible to enter this field with a high school diploma, an associate's degree or apprenticeship in a related field may be an asset.

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