If you’re looking for an industrial job, you may have stumbled across listings for machine operators. For many, the job title itself is intriguing. However, it also isn’t uncommon to not know precisely what these roles involve.
By learning more about what machine operators do, you can figure out if it’s a career direction you want to explore. With that in mind, here is an overview that can help bring some clarity to the situation.
Machine Operator Core Duties
Machine operators – which may also be called tool and die, makers, fabricators, machinists, or several other titles – work with certain types of heavy equipment, usually in a production setting. This can include mechanically-operated machines as well as computer-controlled versions, like a CNC machine.
Regardless of the equipment involved, a machine operator’s primary function is to create high-quality products, parts, or components based on company-provided specifications. Along with a critical role in the manufacturing process itself, machine operators also have to make sure that the equipment is well-maintained, adequately stocked, and working at peak efficiency.
Other Machine Operator Responsibilities
Most machine operators spend the majority of their time using heavy equipment. However, they typically have other duties as well.
For example, they may need to assist with supply, product, parts, or components inventories. Some machine operators may also have warehousing, packaging, or shipping duties. Qualities assurance responsibilities are also a common feature of these jobs.
Additionally, it’s normal for machine operators to have some cleanup tasks on their plate, particularly when it comes to their work area. This can include removing scrap pieces, cleaning machines, and similar assignments.
Must-Have Training and Skills for Machine Operators
In many cases, people interested in becoming machine operators complete vocational, trade, or technical school programs focused on the field. Alternatively, they might become apprentices, allowing them to gain the proper knowledge and machine operation skills.
Additionally, when it comes to the technical aspects of the role, most machine operators get more training on the job. This allows them to learn the nuances of each piece of equipment, advance their capabilities, and become more valuable workers overtime.
However, beyond skills that let them use heavy equipment, machine operators also need additional skills. For example, math, analytical, and problem-solving skills are all essential. Having great attention to detail and physical stamina is also vital.
Other Machine Operator Job Details
Since machine operators work in industrial environments, they may get hired by employers who have multiple shifts. Some companies run 24/7, so they might need machine operators for second and third shifts as well as day shifts. Additionally, weekend work might not be uncommon. However, some businesses use a more traditional Monday through Friday, day shift schedule only, so you might encounter those opportunities as well.
Salaries for machine operators tend to be competitive. Since some degree of education or training is needed before a person can work in the role, pay rates reflect that. On average, machinists earn nearly $45,000 a year, though the top 10 percent can bring in $76,900 or more.