What Is a Production Operator? - Job Description & Salary

Explore the day-to-day tasks of a career as a production operator. Learn about the requirements and benefits of a position in this field to learn if it's a career that suits you. Schools offering Global Operations & Supply Chain Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At A Glance

It is the production operator's job to support the operation of production machinery, ensuring that it works safely and effectively. The production operator sets up, monitors, adjusts, and repairs machinery so it can be used efficiently to created manufactured materials, especially metals and plastics. The chart below illustrates the specifics for this career, including requirements such as education and skills, as well as opportunities for growth.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent
Training Required One year of on-the-job training
Key Skills Ability to problem solve, mechanical skills, hand-eye coordination, strength, and stamina
Job Growth (2016-2026) -9%* (all metal and plastic machine workers)
Median Salary (2017) $35,400* (all metal and plastic machine workers)

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Do Production Operators Do?

Production operators are tasked with setting up, monitoring, and maintaining machines and equipment used in production lines. They're responsible for feeding raw materials into machines, operating machines, making minor repairs, replacing parts, and testing finished materials for compliance. Problem-solving is a key element of this position, as production operators are expected to effectively diagnose and treat machinery malfunctions as well as adjust equipment so that it is operating at maximum efficiency. They may have to read blueprints, perform tests, and install tools. They may also operate computer-controlled machine tools.

What Education Do I Need to Become a Production Operator?

This position requires a minimum of a high school diploma. College-level technical courses may be required for those who intend to operate computer-controlled machine tools. A background in computer-aided drafting (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) may be helpful. Work experience is the key to career advancement.

What Skills are Necessary for a Career as a Production Operator?

Production operators should have strong technical understanding and expertise and be able to quickly and effectively diagnose and treat mechanical problems. Good hand-eye coordination and steady hands are important. Adhering to safe practices is a must for the health and well-being of the production operator as well as those they work with. Physical strength and stamina also factor into working with raw materials on a production floor.

How Much Can I Make as a Production Operator?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that all metal and plastic machine workers earned a median income of $35,400 annually as of May 2017. Those earning in the highest ten percent saw an annual income of $55,770 or more. Overtime work and weekend/evening hours are common since manufacturers often push production.

What Other Jobs are Similar to a Production Operator?

The skill set required for a career as a production operator is applicable to a variety of other job positions. Being able to diagnose and repair equipment lends itself well to industrial machinery mechanics and millwrights, who install and perform major repairs on factory equipment. Assemblers and fabricators use hand tools to create finished manufactured goods. Plumbers, pipe fitters, welders, and cutters are other options for those with mechanical and repair skills.

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