What Is the Average Salary of a Machine Operator?

Machine operators operate, inspect and maintain machines that cut, drill, press, punch, grind, forge and more. Keep reading to learn more about this occupation, including salary information. Schools offering Machining & Manufacturing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Average Salary Information for Machine Operators

In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported machine operators' salaries based on areas of specialization, counting them along with machine tool setters and tenders who also work on metal and plastic materials within each specialty (www.bls.gov).

Cutting, punching and pressing machine operators earned a mean annual income of $32,430. Those who did drilling and boring machine work earned a mean salary of $36,280 yearly. Forging machine operators were paid mean annual wages of $35,120. The mean annual salary of machine operators who did buffing, polishing, lapping and grinding machinery work was $35,480. Extruding and drawing machine operators earned a mean annual salary of $33,800.

Important Facts about This Occupational Field

Job Outlook (2012-2022) -6% (for metal and plastic machine workers)
Required Education High school diploma (for construction equipment operators)
Similar Occupations Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, material moving machine operators, hand laborers
Key Skills Visual, dexterity, alertness, mechanical (for material moving machine operators)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary Based on Location

Your salary working as a machine operator can also vary based on your geographic location. The BLS ranked the top five highest-paying states for machine operator occupations along with corresponding mean annual wages. For example, according to the BLS in May 2014, cutting, punching and pressing machine operators earned the highest average annual salaries in Washington, Louisiana, South Carolina, Kentucky and Wyoming, ranging from $38,870 to $36,710 when ranked from highest to lowest. Drill and boring machine operators in South Carolina, Oregon, Nevada, Maine and Louisiana earned the highest annual mean salaries, ranging from $49,350 to $43,510.

Salary Based on Experience

While BLS reports do not include average salary based on experience, Salary.com reported in 2015 that machine operators with up to two years of experience earned a median annual income of $30,704. With two to five years of experience, this median salary increased to $36,143 annually. Finally, machine operators with more than five years of experience had a median annual salary of $42,245.

Job Overview

Machine operators work with a variety of different machines depending on the industry. Machine operators may work with construction equipment, in a factory or in warehouses. Most machine operator jobs require applicants to have at least a high school diploma, and many jobs include on-the-job training. Depending on the individual position, machine operators may need to be licensed, and certification may be available.

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