Looking to become a machine operator? It provides a superb way to build a career in the manufacturing industry. However, it does take training and education to snare the highest-paid positions.

Knowing how to balance practical experience with more formal education will let you get the most out of the machine operator position. With the right moves, you can set yourself apart from the competition. You’ll have the skills and background necessary to build your career over the long haul.

What is a machine operator?

The term “machine operator” does an excellent job describing the underlying position. However, it only hints at the skill necessary to fill the job. The name doesn’t suggest the wide variety of tasks that are often required.

In basic terms, a machine operator controls equipment in a manufacturing process. The routine process often involves many related tasks as well. This can include setting up the machinery, conducting routine maintenance and trouble-shooting possible issues if things break down.

As a result, a quality machine operator is highly valued member of any manufacturing team. Getting good at the job requires experience and training. It often helps to have a former educational background as well.

Is becoming a machine operator a good career choice?

The median salary for an entry-level machine operator in the U.S. sits at just over $35,000. However, that number advances with experience and education. Higher-level positions within the industry reach median levels of $42,000 or higher.

However, for workers with the right background, the salaries can get much loftier amounts. For the top skilled positions in the industry, the median salary approaches $49,000. Some positions have compensation packages that top $60,000.

You can also use a machinist position to build a long-term career. Supervisory roles in the industry can occasionally demand six-figure salaries.

What are the educational steps necessary to become a machine operator?

To grab those higher-paying machinist jobs, you’ll need experience and advanced training. The additional skills you pick up will open the door to better opportunities.

However, you don’t need much formal education to break into the industry. Many entry-level positions only require a high school diploma or GED certificate. Once hired, you’ll likely receive on-the-job training and you’ll be able to gain experience.

Still, you can supplement this practical training with more formal education. This will give you additional ammunition for future jobs. Through these programs, you can upgrade your resume and expand your skills.

Your options here could start with an associate degree in machining. These two-year programs are often offered at community colleges and can be pursued while you keep your full-time position.

Other alternatives include apprenticeships and certifications. Apprenticeships require a relatively large time commitment. However, these programs often lead directly into higher-paying positions.

A machine operator technical certificate program will take less time than a degree or an apprenticeship. At the same time, it will still give you an advantage over much of the competition for better jobs. Here are a few certificates to consider:

  • Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Certified Production Technician
  • Manufacturing Skills Institute Manufacturing Technician Level 1
  • MSI Manufacturing Specialist
  • Lean Certification

If you’re looking to find the perfect machine operator job, a recruiter can help. A strong staffing agency, like SmartTalent, will make sure you land the ideal placement for your skill level.

Contact SmartTalent today to learn more.

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