How to become a production worker

Written by Kate Lopaze

As a consumer society, we own—and keep acquiring—more and more stuff. Much of that stuff is made all around the world, but many products are still produced here in the United States. Although the industry has obviously evolved since the twentieth century manufacturing boom, production workers still have a place in the American job ecosystem. And if you’re interested in seeking out one of these manufacturing jobs for yourself, we have the info to help you make that decision.

What does a production worker do?

Production workers are very hands-on employees in a factory, working with machinery to fabricate or refine materials that are used to create and package products. Some examples are food production and packaging facilities, pharmaceutical production facilities, or plants that manufacture parts of a larger product. Production workers are needed to create everything, from tiny medical instruments to cars or airplane engine parts.

A production worker’s tasks may include:

  • Operating machinery on a production line
  • Processing raw materials
  • Assembling and finishing a product
  • Refining and cleaning a product (like sanding, washing, or applying protective cover)
  • Packing boxes or pallets for shipping

Production workers typically work full- or part-time shifts in a factory, plant, or manufacturing facility. These shifts may include days, nights, weekends, and overtime. This is also a very physical job, meaning that production workers may need to sit or stand for the duration of those shifts, depending on the task. There may also be protective gear involved (aprons, safety glasses, gloves, head coverings) as well, particularly if one is working with machinery.

What skills do production workers need?

Before you pursue a career in the field, make sure you work on building up the following skills—you’ll need to talk about them in an interview and use them from day one.

  • Attention to detail: Carelessness and mistakes can have direct consequences for a product, creating defects or slowing down production. Production workers should be able to spot and resolve problems on the fly.
  • Working as part of a team: Production workers are always part of a larger team, with a shared goal of creating something for the company’s bottom line. If a person is unable to follow directions or understand how his or her piece of the process fits with others’, then the job might not be a good fit.

What background do you need to become a production worker?

There is no specific training program or degree for production workers, but most companies require the minimum of a high school degree (or equivalent). These jobs typically have on-the-job training to teach workers specific processes, equipment, or tasks directly associated with the job itself.

How much do production workers make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for production workers is $32,380, or $15.57 per hour. This can change depending on the skill level necessary to perform the job or the complexity of the work.

What’s the outlook for production workers?

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a slight overall decline for these kinds of positions as manufacturing faces some economic uncertainty in the U.S., there are hubs that are seeing a resurgence in these kinds of jobs, particularly in Midwest and Western states like Wyoming, Indiana, South Dakota, Texas, and Michigan.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.