How To Decide What To Specialize In As A Machine Operator

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Machines have revolutionized the economics of many industries in recent years. They enable companies to do more with less, giving them a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

But even the most sophisticated machine will be worthless unless someone knows how to use it. That’s why machine operators exist.

Machine operators perform a crucial function in the modern workplace. It’s thanks to them that companies are able to harness the full power of the machines that they install into their plants, factories, and job sites.

Whether you’re already a machine operator or would like to become one, choosing a specialty is an important part of your career. But that can be challenging if you’re not aware of the broader landscape and familiar with the various types of jobs that machine operators do.

If you’re wondering how to decide what to specialize in as a machine operator, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn everything that you need to know in order to make that decision.

What is a machine operator, exactly?

A machine is, you guessed it, someone who operates machines. But the work they do is often much more complex than that. 

Machinists, as they’re also sometimes called, spend their time setting up equipment, loading materials, and operating machinery. It’s their job to monitor how the machine is running and to verify that it’s working as efficiently as possible. This requires performing regular maintenance and quality checks.

Machine operators can work with many different types of equipment. These include:

How do I become a machine operator?

The answer to this question depends on the type of machine operator that you’d like to become. For example, most entry-level positions require only a high school diploma or a GED. Previous experience can be helpful when applying for these positions, but it’s not always necessary.

Then there are advanced machine operator positions. These typically do require some type of specialized training or education, typically in the form of a certification or training course from a technical school.

Many machinists begin working in entry-level positions and then transfer into advanced ones after they’ve gained more experience in the industry. This path is a good one to follow if you’d like to make a career out of being a machine operator.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the demand for machine operators is expected to increase by 4% over the next decade. This is in line with the average for all other occupations, which means it’s certainly not a bad time to become a machine operator.

If you already have qualifications and are ready to begin looking for machine operator jobs now, then Surehand can help you do it.

What are the different types of machine operators?

It’s difficult to give an exhaustive list of the types of machine operator positions that exist. Every industry has its share of specialized machines that need to be operated by an experienced hand.

But there are some industries that hire machine operators more often than most. This overview of them should give you a sense of which machine operator specializations are available for you to choose from.


Mining Machine

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The mining industry always has a need for skilled machine operators. Machinists in this industry are tasked with using large machines to drill holes and excavate materials from the earth. They’ll spend time operating:

Mining machine operators make an average of $55,000 per year. That’s considerably more than the average pay for machinists, which is about $17 per hour (or roughly $36,000 annually).

But work in this industry can be very difficult. It’s often necessary to spend hours at a time in cramped spaces and awkward positions. Additionally, mining sites are typically in remote locations, which may require a machine operator who works at one to be away from home for multiple weeks at a time.


Machine Operation

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Manufacturing is the industry that’s most commonly associated with machine operators. This is because that’s where the bulk of the demand for these workers lies. 

Every manufacturing facility relies on numerous machines to carry out tasks that allow for the production of goods. As an operator in this industry, your responsibility would be to use these machines to create a specific product. You would be tasked with operating the machines, setting them up, maintaining them, and ensuring that they’re being used optimally at all times.

Machine operators are always needed in manufacturing. So if you decide to specialize in this field, then it shouldn’t be hard to find a job that makes use of your skillset.

But the widespread availability of these positions is a bit of a double-edged sword. Manufacturing machine operators often find it easier to gain employment but the jobs that they find don’t usually pay as much as machinist jobs in other industries.


Digging Machine

(Image Source)

Construction machine operators play an important role in the building of homes, buildings, roads, and other structures. They use heavy machinery to carry out a variety of tasks on job sites. The machines they use may include:

Construction machine operators make just under $50,000 per year on average. Qualifying for the job requires some on-the-job training but not usually any education beyond a high school diploma. Job availability in this field is expected to grow as fast as the national average over the coming decade.

Machine operators who work in construction spend most of their working hours at construction sites. They may be asked to work in unpleasant weather and at irregular hours, such as at night.

How do I decide which specialization is best for me?

Choosing which specialization is right for you can be tough. That’s why we’ve created this step-by-step guide that you can follow to figure it out.


The first thing that you need to do is to learn more about the type of work that you can do as a machine operator and what each opportunity entails. We’ve done some of that work for you above.

Take some time to review the three major types of machine operators that we’ve detailed. Pay special attention to how much they make and their working conditions.


You need to know yourself before you can make a smart decision about which specialty to focus on as a machine operator. For example, are you someone who wants to maximize their earning potential? Or maybe you’d like to have as much time for your family as possible.

Answering questions like these will help you understand what you want from a job as well as what you don’t want from one. Having this knowledge is an essential part of making any employment decision.


Employment opportunities can vary greatly by region. This is also true of machine operator positions. For example, you might live in a place that’s known for mining. If so, the bulk of your employment options will likely be in that industry. The same could be true of construction work or manufacturing jobs.

It’s worth spending some time to figure this out, as doing so will give you a better sense of the specialty that will give you the best chance of securing long-term employment in your area.


Once you have all of this information, you’re ready to make a decision. These are the major factors that should play a role in that process:

Each of these factors is important, but only you can say how important. For example, some people believe that a higher salary outweighs the downside of being able to spend less time with your family. Others think the opposite.

The final decision is yours and yours alone to make. But we hope that following this process will make it easier for you.

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