Production Operator: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Production operators require no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties, and certification or licensure possibilities to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

A production operator, also known as a machine operator, uses equipment to assist with manufacturing, packaging, and other steps along a production line. While the exact duties may vary from company to company, a production operator may be expected to handle heavy machinery, such as forklifts. On-the-job training may be available.

Required Education High school diploma or GED; more extensive training may be needed to handle high-tech equipment or machinery
Other Requirements Helpful to show expertise with career skill sets
Projected Job Growth/Decline (2012-2022)* -6% for metal and plastic machine workers
Median Salary (2013)* $29,950 (cutting, punching, and press machine setters, operators and tenders); $35,900 (computer-controlled machine tool operators); $34,330 (multiple machine tool setters, operators and tenders)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for Production Operators

In order for products to make it to market, a number of specific steps must be followed repeatedly to properly assemble, pack, and ship them. Production operators work along the assembly path performing a specialized task that helps move a good towards the consumer market. Job postings for production operators on in March 2011 indicated that this position might be performed in shifts. Production operators adhere to safety guidelines and ensure that final products meet high-quality standards.

Production Operator Job Duties

While a production operator can work for a wide variety of companies, the job itself usually involves some aspect of the manufacturing process. Whether working in construction or packaging, a production operator maintains the machinery necessary to perform a specialized task. Additionally, the operator must have an understanding of industry standards and regulations in order to safely and efficiently operate the machinery. Production operators may also be asked to keep records of their output and compare it with an appropriate production schedule.

Job Requirements for Production Operators

Education Requirements

An employer generally requires applicants to have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( However, more specialized training may be necessary if the job demands working with high-tech equipment or machinery. Some companies provide on-the-job training.

Certification and Licensure Requirements

While not always necessary, having licensure or certification can demonstrate a potential production operator's abilities to future employees. They prove that the designated party possesses a particular range of skills in one or more subjects. For example, experience with forklifts was mentioned in some job postings, so applicants may want to consider earning a forklift operator's license.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, employment of metal and plastic machine workers is expected to decline by six percent between 2012 and 2022. The BLS indicated that the annual salaries earned by such workers can vary, depending on the particular kind of machines used and materials manipulated. The BLS reported the following median annual salaries, per occupation title: cutting, punching, and press machine setters, operators, and tenders, for both metal and plastic, $29,950; computer-controlled machine tool operators, metal and plastic, $35,900; and multiple machine tool setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic, $34,330.

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