If you’re a technically-minded person, you may be interested in becoming a machine operator. Machine operators specialize in the operation of complex machines for industrial, manufacturing, and other employers. They make good money and will always be needed for their unique area of expertise.
But it can be tough to determine whether a new career path is the right one for you to follow. One way to figure that out is to take a look at what an average day looks like for someone who’s in the position that you might want to be in one day.
That’s why we put together the following guide. It covers a day in the life of a machine operator and some related information that you should know before pursuing the career. Keep reading to learn more.
Machine operators can work in several different settings based on their specialization. For example, certain types of machine operators will work on mining sites. Others will work on construction sites. But the most common settings for machine operators are manufacturing facilities and factories.
The setting that’s right for you will depend on your priorities. For example, if money matters most, then you should be able to make more of it while working at a mining or construction job site. That’s because you may have to travel to these sites and they can be a bit more dangerous.
But if you might prefer stability if you have a family or ties to a particular area. In that case, working at a factory or a manufacturing facility would likely be a better option. You’ll be able to work at the same place each day so no traveling will be required.
As a machine operator, you’ll be working directly with heavy machinery. There are some risks associated with this that you should be aware of. For example, workers can have body parts get stuck in these machines and crushed if proper safety procedures aren’t followed.
But lots of companies have invested in machines with built-in safety features. These reduce the risk of injury and keep you safe.
Now let’s take a look at what a machine operator does on an average day. We can split the day up into the following three parts.
Machine operators are like most workers in that they begin their shift by clocking in and gearing up for the day. This is a process that involves putting on safety gear to protect the body from the dangers of the manufacturing floor. Machine operators typically wear at least safety glasses and cut-resistant gloves.
Once the machine operator has clocked in and put on their gear, the day continues. They’ll typically begin by reviewing how the machines functioned during the previous shift. The employee will take note of any potential issues and make plans to resolve them if necessary at some point during their shift.
A machine operator may also receive instructions to complete a specific task from a supervisor when they clock in. This can impact what the employee’s day looks like.
After the machine operator has started their day, they’ll begin working on the tasks that they have to complete during their shift. These can be quite varied from day-to-day, but some of the most common responsibilities of a machine operator are:
A typical machine operator will complete at least several of these tasks each day. But their days can also be unpredictable. If a machine stops working, it could grind the factory or manufacturing facility to a halt.
At that point, the machine operator will have to drop everything they were doing to attempt to repair the malfunctioning machine. They may even have to work late until they can fix the machine.
Finishing up the day as a machine operator is a fairly straightforward process. It might involve shutting down machines and getting them ready to be used again during the following shift. Or it could involve leaving the machines running and explaining any issues that they had to the machine operator who’s coming in for the next shift. The machine operator will also need to clean up their area before going home.
Once tasks like these are completed, the employee is free to take off their protective gear and clock out. Most machine operators go home at a normal time of evening, such as 5:00 or 6:00. But some employees in this role work odd hours at factories and manufacturing facilities with 24-hour operations.
Becoming a machine operator starts with earning a high school diploma or GED certificate. That might be all that you need to get hired in your first machine operator roles. Once you get hired, you would then spend your initial employment period completing some on-the-job training.
But many machine operators also decide to pursue advanced education before entering the workforce. Associate’s degrees and technical certifications are two of the most common academic qualifications that aspiring machine operators pursue.
These will teach you how to operate special types of machinery, such as CNC machines. They’ll also give you a chance to learn about important things like mechanical theory, safety procedures, machine operation math, and blueprint reading. You may find it easier to get a job if you complete one of these programs.
Some machine operators take things a step further by also pursuing certifications after they’ve completed an advanced academic program. These can be a good way to showcase specific skills that matter to employers. Some of the most commonly pursued certifications for machine operators are:
Here are four different things for you to consider while deciding whether this role is the right one for you.
Machine operators make an average of $34,476 in the United States. But there are also many opportunities to earn more in the industry. You can increase your salary potential by pursuing additional certifications and gaining experience so that you can qualify for more advanced machine operation roles.
But you need to consider whether this baseline number is going to cut it for you or not. You will likely need to spend at least a few years making this amount before you can begin qualifying for higher-paying positions. Take some time to think about whether or not that will work for you.
You should also consider the conditions that you’d like to work in before becoming a machine operator. Factory floors can be noisy and even chaotic. Are you someone who thrives in that kind of setting? Or do you prefer a quiet place to do your work?
Not all machine operator working conditions are the same. So you have some flexibility in finding a setting that works for you. But you should expect most of your opportunities to take place in noisy, busy places.
Machine operators rely on their technical know-how and abilities most of all. Do those skills come naturally to you? Or have technical things not been your strong suit in the past?
You can train yourself to develop the technical skills that you need to excel as a machine operator. But doing so may be a bit harder if you don’t already have a strong technical base to build from.
Becoming a machine operator could take some training — especially if you want to start qualifying for higher-paying positions.
That’s something you should be aware of before going into the industry. It’s a good idea to get comfortable with the idea of completing some additional training before you commit to becoming a machine operator.
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