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Be a Basic Machine Operator: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a basic machine operator through this video. Learn about the job description and duties, and see the step-by-step process to start a career in machinery. View article »

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  • 0:04 Basic Machine Operators
  • 0:49 Acquire Relevant Education
  • 1:14 Get On-the-Job Training
  • 1:56 Obtain Certification

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Video Transcript

Basic Machine Operator

Machine operators run tools and equipment in manufacturing plants, often adjusting machine settings, lifting material onto machines, and testing finished products.

The majority of machine operators work in the manufacturing industry, often working in factories. The job can be dangerous because of the heavy machinery involved. Risks include loud noises, heavy objects, air-borne debris, and open fires, though risks and injuries can be minimized by using safety gear and adhering to safety policies.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that metal and plastic machine workers earn a median salary of $34,080 per year as of May 2015.

Degree Level Employers typically prefer a high school diploma
Licensure/Certification Voluntary certification is available from various organizations
Experience Entry level; on-the-job training is common
Key Skills Physical strength and stamina; mathematical skills; ability to operate machines and robots
Salary (2015) $34,080 (median annual salary for all level 1 machine operators)

Source: U.S. Labor of Bureau Statistics

Step 1: Acquire Relevant Education

Employers generally prefer workers who have a high school diploma, although a diploma is not always required. Workers who have completed a formal training program may be preferred by some employers. Individuals who would like to advance their knowledge may consider enrolling in community colleges and other schools that offer certificate programs in metal and plastic machine operation.

Step 2: Get On-the-Job Training

Most basic machine operators learn their skills from experienced workers, typically through informal apprenticeships. A few weeks of on-the-job training usually gives new machine operators the foundation needed to perform basic duties, such as starting and stopping machines. Trainees gradually advance to more difficult tasks, such as changing cutting tools.

A year or more of training is typically needed to become skilled machine operators. Some employers prefer candidates who have completed a formal training program. Postsecondary training programs in basic machine operation cover topics such as safety, print reading and machine shop.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

Obtaining a certification shows employers that workers are capable of handling machines correctly and safely. Typically, candidates must pass exams to qualify for certification. Basic machine operators can obtain certifications from many sources, depending on the number of skills they have.

For example, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills offers certifications for various levels of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) operators. Precision Sheet Metal Operator (PSMO) certification is available from the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA). FMA recertification requirements can be met by taking continuing education courses and participating in other professional activities.

In summary, a high school diploma, on the job training and official certification are needed to be a successful machine operator.

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