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Production Careers, Schools and Training Information

Production - Career Information

Production picture    Production image

Production careers are generally focused on producing, creating, or manufacturing products of value that will ultimately be sold or traded commercially. Production is related to, and/or is part of, just about any industry (e.g., agriculture, building and construction, film, jewelry, textiles, technology, medical, and much more). From a planning perspective, decisions are typically made based on the specific goods to be produced, the materials used, resources, equipment, technology, costs, timelines, and guidelines. Depending upon the industry, production can also be cyclical.

Opportunities in production span a wide range of careers and industries, and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, can include the following occupations:

  • Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers
  • Machinists and Tool and Die Makers
  • Supervisors Of Production and Operating Workers
  • Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers
  • Welding Machine Operators
  • Assemblers and Fabricators
  • Food and Tobacco Processing Workers
  • Laundry and Dry-cleaning Workers
  • Metal and Plastic Machine Workers
  • Painting and Coating Workers
  • Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers
  • Printing Workers
  • Quality Control Inspectors
  • Semiconductor Processors
  • Slaughterers, Butchers, Meat Packers, and Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers
  • Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators
  • Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators
  • Woodworkers

While each profession has its own specific set of characteristics, skills, abilities, and requirements, some of the more commonly shared include, but are not limited to:

  • Generally working indoors; rarely, outdoors
  • Working 40 hours/week, with evening and weekend shifts (overtime) more common during peak production periods
  • Typically working alone, but at times, as part of a team
  • As appropriate to the occupation, interacting with supervisors throughout the day
  • As applicable, possessing knowledge of design techniques, principles, and tools included in the production and make use of precision technical blueprints, drawings, models, and plans
  • Knowledge of specific machines and tools, as well as their uses, repair, maintenance, and design
  • Manual and finger dexterity
  • Control precision (i.e., ability to rapidly and repeatedly adjust machine controls or vehicles to precise positions

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), automation and improved efficiency may impact the number of available job openings in production in the coming decades. Specifically, the BLS predicts that employment for all production careers combined will only increase 1 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022. Certain production industries will likely grow at a faster pace, however, and regional factors may also come into play.

Top Careers in Production (BLS, 2013)

Career Number of Workers Nationally in 2013 Job Description Degree Requirements
Assemblers and Fabricators 1,757,500 Assemblers and fabricators use blueprints or plans to perform a task or create a product. They use specific tools, perform quality checks, and work with designers and supervisors to ensure quality work. Most assemblers and fabricators only need a high school diploma. However, certain employers may require candidates to earn a certificate or Associate degree for certain types of assembly work.
Woodworkers 215,240 Woodworkers use woodworking machines and special tools to create wooden products and parts that meet client's specifications. They read blueprints, take accurate measurements, and use their skills to produce high quality work. The BLS reports that most woodworkers learn their skills on the job. However, some take courses at trade or technical schools.
Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers 22,890 These workers use their knowledge and technical skills to create finely crafted jewelry out of precious stones, gold, and silver. They may also repair broken jewelry or use their creativity to turn old pieces into something new. Some jewelers and precious stone and metal workers learn their skills through on-the-job training. However, others learn their trade at technical schools, often completing a program that takes one year or less and leads to a certificate of completion.
Machinists 391,130 Machinists use blueprints and high tech machinery to create products or tools. They set up equipment, take accurate measurements, and perform quality control checks throughout production. Although many machinists only need a high school diploma, some opt to attend a trade or technical school and complete a one or two-year program that leads to a certificate or Associate degree.
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers 352,250 These workers use special equipment to weld metal parts together. They read blueprints, take measurements, and calculate dimensions in order to ensure accuracy. Many welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers attend a trade or technical school and earn a certificate of completion in welding or a related field.

Production Career Education

Individuals entering a career in production must possess a high school diploma or GED. In general, many individuals learn their skills through formal training or apprenticeship programs (some offered by unions or manufacturers), vocational schools, private schools, community or technical colleges, or through on-the-job training.

Training, depending on the type, can last anywhere from a few months (e.g., on-the-job training which may include supplemental, employer-paid training) to four years (e.g., apprenticeship programs that typically include paid shop training and related classroom instruction). Acceptance into apprenticeship programs can be difficult. Individuals can prepare for apprenticeship by attending courses through a professional-technical or two-year school. Additionally, depending upon the specialty area, (e.g., welding and soldering), some branches of the military offer training programs that may last from four to 15 weeks.

Although postsecondary education may be optional in any one of these careers, many workers choose to attend trade or technical schools in order to sharpen their skills and increase their job prospects. The following table uses 2013 BLS data to outline the different degree and certificate options in this field and what kind of career they may help you qualify for:

Education Type Timeline for Completion Possible Careers
Certificate or Apprenticeship Although timelines vary considerably depending on the program you choose, many certificate programs can be completed in one year or less. Meanwhile, apprenticeships can last anywhere from 1-5 years. Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers, Machinists and Tool and Die Makers, Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers, Welding Machine Operators, Assemblers and Fabricators, Food and Tobacco Processing Workers, Metal and Plastic Machine Workers, Painting and Coating Workers, Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers, Printing Workers, Quality Control Inspectors, Slaughterers, Butchers, Meat Packers, and Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers, Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators, Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators, Woodworkers
Associate Associate degrees can typically be completed with two years of full-time study. However, programs completed on a part-time basis may take longer. Machinists and Tool and Die Makers, Supervisors of Production and Operating Workers, Assemblers and Fabricators, Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers, Semiconductor Processors

Sources:

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Assemblers and Fabricators, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/assemblers-and-fabricators.htm#tab-1

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Woodworkers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/woodworkers.htm

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/jewelers-and-precious-stone-and-metal-workers.htm

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Machinists and Tool and Die Makers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/machinists-and-tool-and-die-makers.htm

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers.htm

Schools for Production are listed in the column to the left.

Careers and Salary Data

This table shows summary data on occupations in the US. Clicking on any occupation name brings you to a page showing job prospects and salaries for that occupation in hundreds of metro areas across the country, with data updated through 2022.(Where data is denoted by an asterisk (*), summary info was not available.

Click each Occupation title for more details.


Production

Occupation Jobs
(2016)
Median Pay
(2016)
% Growth
2014-2024
Assemblers and Fabricators 1,798,860     $30,930     -0.5%
Food and Tobacco Processing Workers 20,080     $28,570     0.7%
Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers 26,480     $38,200     -11.3%
Laundry and Dry-cleaning Workers 207,710     $21,510     1.8%
Machinists and Tool and Die Makers 391,120     $41,700     9.8%
Metal and Plastic Machine Workers 9,070     $45,820     -20.1%
Painting and Coating Workers 15,450     $30,030     -2.0%
Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers 11,380     $81,900     -5.1%
Printing Workers 255,980     $35,120     -14.4%
Quality Control Inspectors 518,950     $36,780     -0.2%
Semiconductor Processors 24,430     $35,660     -8.3%
Slaughterers, Butchers, Meat Packers, and Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers 80,780     $26,590     -0.6%
Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators 33,720     $59,400     1.4%
Supervisors Of Production and Operating Workers 610,480     $57,780     -3.1%
Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators 115,840     $45,760     6.0%
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers 382,730     $39,390     3.6%
Welding Machine Operators 46,920     $36,980     -18.0%
Woodworkers 6,750     $28,500     -0.3%
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