Machine Operator: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a machine operator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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Operators of machinery tinker with its functioning and work its controls, typically in a manufacturing factory. They must possess technical skills, as precision and safety are vital. A high school education, physical stamina, and ability to work under time constraints are needed.

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Essential Information

Machine operators work at a fast pace on projects that require precision. Jobs in manufacturing involve exposure to chemicals, loud noises, and equipment that is both automated and manual. Operators are expected to follow employee safety standards by adhering to both environmental and Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) regulations. On-the-job training is prevalent in this career field, and a high school diploma is needed for entry-level jobs.

Required Education A high school diploma and on-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -13% for metal and plastic machine workers
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $29,340 for metal and plastic molding, coremaking, and casting machine setters, operators, and tenders

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Outlook Description for Machine Operators

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects a modest decrease in the employment of metal and plastic machine operators of 13% from 2014-2024 ( Opportunities for skilled workers will still arise as more individuals retire in the years to come. As of May 2015, the mean hourly wage for metal and plastic molding, coremaking, and casting machine setters, operators, and tenders was reported by the same source as $15.15.

Job Duties

Some machine operators are responsible for one function, while others are responsible for a variety of steps, utilizing different equipment for each. Because of the potential for danger from working close to large machines, safety and cleanliness in the workplace are extremely important.

Due to production line requirements, machine operators work in an environment where teamwork is important. They look over and measure parts with precision tools in order to make sure certain parts meet pre-determined quality and cosmetic standards. When parts have passed inspection, the parts go on to the next phase of production.

Machine operators are expected to meet production quotas. The level of documentation required varies, depending on the degree of precision needed for the finished product. Machine operators also need to keep track of the number of units that are scrapped due to various errors.

Education and Performance Requirements

Machine operators are required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Two years of experience working in a similar shop is a common requirement. Machine operators need to be able to lift 50 pounds and work on their feet, while using tools to perform repetitive actions, for a 10-hour shift. Due to the time-sensitive nature of manufacturing, some workplaces have overtime requirements. In order to abide by certain OSHA and local environmental agency regulations, mandatory safety training, protective gear, and chemical handling procedures are required.

A machine operator works in a quick-paced, physically demanding environment where they control various machines and equipment. No professional education is required, as training is provided on the job.

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