WHAT DO MACHINE OPERATORS DO?
Machine operators, also knows as machinists or tool and die makers, work with heavy machinery from setup to operation. Machine operators might work with computer-controlled equipment or more mechanically based machines to make sure they are set up properly, working well, and producing quality product. Machine operators make sure their machines are working at full capacity, are stocked with needed materials, well-maintained and perform periodic checks on output.
Machine operators may work on many different machines, or specialize on one complex machine. They are builders, fabricators, mechanics, craftsmen and quality assurance all wrapped into one.
HOW MUCH DO MACHINE OPERATORS MAKE?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the median hourly income for machinists in 2010 was $19.19, or $39,910 annually.
WHAT ARE THE EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS?
Machine operators can gain skills through vocational schools, technical colleges or community college programs, or apprenticeships. Typically, it takes 4-5 years of combined education and on-the-job training to become fully trained. To excel, machine operators need many years of experience and must show aptitude for math, problem-solving and computer skills. Certification is available.
JOB SKILLS AND REQUIREMENTS
- Math Skills: Good math skills will help machine operators understand complex instructions, how schematics work and make sure items are designed and built correctly.
- Problem Solving Skills: Machine operators will need to know why machines are not at peak performance, how to increase output and how to fix errors.
- Attention to Detail: Machine operators will work with precision equipment. Being off by millimeters could be a critical error. Keen attention to detail is required.
- Mechanical and Technical Skills: Some machines are controlled by computers and operators will need to work with CAD/CAM technology. Others are highly mechanical and operators will need to know how and why they work.
- Stamina: Machine operators often work long hours doing repetitive movements.
- Analytical Skills: Machine operators will need to read and understand blueprints, schematics, models and other specifications.
THE FUTURE OF MACHINE OPERATORS
Job growth will be slow for machine operators over the next few years, according to the BLS. Mostly due to continued automation in the shop and foreign competition. But there will still be a need of machine operators with a broad range of skills that can work anywhere in a shop, and your best bet for employment is to learn as many skills as possible and not specialize on any one machine.