Production Careers

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Search Colleges
TheBestSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.

The production sector includes a variety of production careers. The production sector includes jobs involved with the actual production of products sold throughout the world as well as clerical, management and other types of jobs.

Many manufacturing jobs requires skills with power tools and some manufacturing jobs require the ability to read blueprints and use computer monitors. The skills required for manufacturing jobs vary by the subcategory. Manufacturing job salaries vary by industry, location, company and category.

Our production career profiles provide specific information about the nature of the work, training, education, salary and much more.

After you read through this page on Production Careers keep browsing our website's extensive career guide for more information on job options, education requirements and salaries.

Related articles:
50 Best Online Colleges & Universities 2019
The Best Online Colleges by State
The Best Online Degrees

Assemblers and Fabricators

Education and Certifications Assemblers and Fabricators Need

Most assembler and fabricator jobs require a high school diploma and work experience. Those beginning an assemble career or a fabricator career typically receive on-the-job training. The most advanced assembly jobs, however, may require an associate degree.

Although certification is voluntary for assemblers and fabricators, certification is highly recommended. They may earn the Precision Sheet Metal Operator (PSMO) certification through the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International (FMA).

Employers hiring electrical and electronic assembly workers usually require assemblers to have certifications in soldering, such as certifications available from the Association Connection Electronics Industries.

Find the best school for you: 50 Best Online Colleges for 2019

What They Do

Assemblers and fabricators are the real life version of Santa's elves – kind of; they don't wear silly costumes and they don't work at the North Pole but they do work together to build amazing things – including toys. Assemblers and fabricators fit together pieces of a finished project, or may build a project from start to finish using tools, machines, and their hands. The projects assemblers and fabricators work on range from engines, computers, and aircrafts to toys and electronic devices.

An assembler career and a fabricator career includes reviewing and properly interpreting detailed schematics and blueprints, then using a variety of hand tools or machines to build parts. An assembler career and a fabricator career may also involve working with robots, computers, programmable motion-control devices, and various sensing technologies.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $31,850
2016, Number of Jobs 1,819,300
Employment Growth Forecast, 2016-2026 -14%
Entry-Level Education Requirements High School Diploma or Equivalent
2017, Wage of the Highest 10% $53,120
2017, Wage of the Lowest 10% $21,270

 

Bakers

Education and Certifications Bakers Need

Most commonly, a baker career begins with on-the-job training, as no formal education requirements. Some bakers, however, do begin their baking career with an apprenticeship or through attending a technical or a culinary school.

Certification for bakers is voluntary but recommended. Bakers may earn a certification of four different levels through the Retail Bakers of America. Certification may also focus on specialties, such as baking sanitation, management, retail sales, and staff training.

Find the best school for you: The 30 Best Culinary Schools

What They Do

Bakers create those tantalizing pastries, breads, and other baked goods we see everywhere from the grocery store to coffee shops. Bakers typically follow recipes when making their goods, but with more experience they may also create some recipes of their own.

A baker career includes ensuring ingredients are of high quality prior to baking with them. They also prepare the equipment for baking, measure ingredients, set oven temperatures, knead, cut, or shape dough as needed, and, of course, bake. With experience, bakers learn to determine the doneness of a product by its color, texture, and flavor.

The most common types of bakers are commercial bakers and retail bakers. Commercial bakers usually work in manufacturing facilities producing breads and pastries. Since they are mass-producing products, commercial bakers use high-volume mixing machines, ovens, and other equipment.

Retail bakers work in grocery stores and specialty shops. Since they produce smaller amounts of product, retail bakers usually have the freedom to offer a larger of goods. Some retail bakers own their own shops.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $25,690
2016, Number of Jobs 191,000
Employment Growth Forecast, 2016-2026 8%
Entry-Level Education Requirements None
2017, Wage of the Highest 10% $39,830
2017, Wage of the Lowest 10% $19,230

 

Dental Laboratory Technicians

Education and Certifications Dental Laboratory Technicians Need

A dental laboratory tech career requires a high school diploma and on-the-job training.

Formal education programs for dental laboratory technicians are also available at vocational schools, community colleges, and some universities.

Dental laboratory technicians can obtain certification through the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology in six different specialty areas: Orthodontic appliances, crown and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, and ceramics. Dental laboratory technicians may also earn a Certificate of Competency through the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology.

Find the best school for you: 50 Best Online Colleges for 2019

What They Do

Although getting crowns, bridges, and dentures is not very fun, there is one person beyond the dentist you must thank for making the process go smoothly – the dental laboratory technician. Dental laboratory technicians actually create the crown, bridge, or dentures from the molds dentists make.

Although dental laboratory technicians typically have no patient interaction, they work very closely with the dentist. Following specific directions from the dentist, a dental lab tech must mix plaster and pastes to fill molds or impressions, cover and allow them to set and test the result with an apparatus that mimics the patient's bite.

A dentist laboratory technician career sometimes includes making slight adjustments to new crowns, bridges, or dentures.

In addition to working on new crowns, bridges, or dentures, dental laboratory technicians fix broken or cracked dental appliances.

A dental laboratory technician career includes working with a variety of small hand tools and materials such as wax, plastic, and porcelain. A dental laboratory career also includes occasionally using computer programs.

Dental laboratory technicians may specialize in the following: orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, and ceramics.

Career Advancement Opportunities

A dental laboratory tech may advance in a large laboratory to a supervisory role and begin training new technicians. Some dental laboratory technicians advance to owning their own laboratory.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $38,670
2016, Number of Jobs 82,200
Employment Growth Forecast, 2016-2026 13%
Entry-Level Education Requirements High School Diploma or Equivalent
2017, Wage of the Highest 10% $59,890
2017, Wage of the Lowest 10% $22,540

 

Food Processing Workers

Education and Certifications Food Processing Workers Need

People interested in a food processing career typically don't need formal education; most food processing workers receive on-the-job training. On-the-job training varies from days to months, and occasionally a year or more, depending on the specific job and size of the operation.

Depending on the position desired, some food processing workers may benefit from obtaining a degree in dairy science or a Bachelor or Associate of Meat Merchandising or Meat Marketing.

Some food handlers need certification from an appropriate government agency. Food processing workers working for a business following religious guidelines for food preparation may need to earn a certification or undergo an apprenticeship, or both.

Find the best school for you: 50 Best Online Colleges for 2019

What They Do

Long before food makes it to the grocery stores for us to buy, food processing workers typically have a hand in preparing it for sale and consumption. Food processing workers include butchers, meat cutters; meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers; and roasting, baking, and drying machinery operators and tenders.

A food processing career may include preparing food for the public's purchase and consumption through cutting, trimming, and various forms of processing on foods and some non-food items, such as tobacco.

One of the more familiar food processing jobs, a butcher involves cutting steaks and chops, tying roasts, and grinding meat for sale. A butcher career also includes keeping knives sharpened, equipment clean and updated, and maintaining an inventory stocked with fresh products. A butcher career also includes packaging meats for display cases and accommodating special orders.

Meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers generally work in assembly line fashion, performing a single skilled cut, placing fish or chickens on a conveyor belt, or performing inspections of the product. These food processing workers use hand tools such as vacuums, knives, and saws. Sharpening tools and labeling products is also part of a meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers' daily tasks.

Roasting, baking, and drying machinery operators and tenders control temperature, humidity, and pressure of their machines, as well as regularly watching, touching, and smelling the product to ensure their machines are working properly.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $27,630
2016, Number of Jobs 257,400
Employment Growth Forecast, 2016-2026 2%
Entry-Level Education Requirements High School Diploma or Equivalent
2017, Wage of the Highest 10% $45,570
2017, Wage of the Lowest 10% $20,030

 

Industrial Production Managers

Education and Certifications Industrial Production Managers Need

Typically, people interested in an industrial production manager career need to have a bachelor's degree in an area such as business administration and two to five years of work experience to begin working in management.

Occasionally, workers with many years of experience, as well as education in management programs obtain an industrial production manager position. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a similar graduate degree also helps personnel to advance into industrial production management.

After college or graduate school, some industrial production managers begin training programs that teach different areas of the production process before working their way up to actual management. Others work in accounting or purchasing to take less time to attain a managerial position.

Although not mandatory, industrial production managers can obtain certifications through organizations such as The Association for Operational Management (AOM) and the American Society of Quality (ASQ). The AOM offers certification in production management; the ASQ offers certification in quality control.

Find the best school for you:
The 25 Best Online Bachelor in Business Administration Degree Programs
The 50 Best Online MBA Programs

See also: What Can I do with a Finance Degree?

What They Do

Manufacturing plants keep America working and moving. If the idea of playing a key role in organizing manufacturing operations, monitoring the production of goods from cars to computer equipment and contributing to economic growth sounds interesting, then an industrial production manager career is in your future.

Industrial production managers direct and oversee the daily operations of manufacturing plants and organizations. More specifically, a typical day for an industrial production manager consists of discovering and implementing specific ways to make sure the plant employees, production processes and equipment function efficiently and effectively.

An industrial production manager career includes monitoring production data to ensure manufacturing processes stay on schedule and within budget.

An industrial production management career includes hiring, training and evaluating employees, preparing personnel records and analyzing reports, and evaluating worker safety and performance.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $100,580
2016, Number of Jobs 170,600
Employment Growth Forecast, 2016-2026 -1%
Entry-Level Education Requirements Bachelor's Degree
2017, Wage of the Highest 10% $168,780
2017, Wage of the Lowest 10% $61,360

 

Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Education and Certifications Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers Need

There is more than one road to a jeweler career or precious stone and metal worker career. Traditionally, jewelers received long-term on-the-job training rather than a formal education; today, however, a growing number of jewelers take a six month or one year jeweler's course at a trade school or even earn a Bachelor of Jewelry Design or even a Master of Jewelry Design.

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers don't need specific certifications or licenses.

Find the best school for you: 50 Best Online Colleges for 2019

What They Do

Jewelers are the silent partners in most of the engagements, weddings, anniversaries, and – let's face it – apologies in our country. Jewelers design, manufacture, sell, adjust, appraise and fix all types of jewelry, from rings and bracelets to necklaces and earrings.

A jeweler career may involve working with a variety of stones and metals beyond the traditional diamonds and gold. Creating jewelry involves first creating a model with carved wax or with a computer program, and then making a cast of the model. Creating an actual piece of jewelry involves using soldering tools, lasers, and other small hand tools. Lasers may be used to solder without leaving a seam or to include a tiny engraving or marking personalizing the jewelry.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Jewelers working in manufacturing may have an opportunity for career advancement to a supervisory role, such as master jeweler or head jeweler. Jewelers working in stores or repair shops may advance to management or eventually open their own business.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $37,960
2016, Number of Jobs 37,700
Employment Growth Forecast, 2016-2026 -7%
Entry-Level Education Requirements High School Diploma or Equivalent
2017, Wage of the Highest 10% $65,140
2017, Wage of the Lowest 10% $22,240

 

Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Education and Certifications Machinists and Tool and Die Makers Need

A machinist career may begin with an apprenticeship program, vocational school, community college, technical college, or on-the-job training. A tool and die maker career may begin with four to five years of technical instruction and on-the-job training. Apprenticeship programs for machinists or tool and die makers have strong competition.

Although machinists or tool and die makers don't certifications, they're highly recommended to show skill and competency. Machinists or tool and die makers may earn certification through multiple different training facilities, state apprenticeship boards, and colleges. After completing an apprenticeship, an individual can obtain journey-level certification through a state apprenticeship board.

Find the best school for you: 50 Best Online Colleges for 2019

What They Do

If working with machines and computers to create precise parts, instruments, and tools sounds interesting, you may excel in a career as a machinist or tool and die maker.

Machinists and tool and die makers must be able to read and understand blueprints, sketches, or computer-aided design (CAD) or computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) files, as they utilize them regularly. Machinists and tool and die makers also regularly use math while using measuring tools to calculate dimensions. Physically, machinists and tool and die makers work with a variety of tools installing, aligning, securing and adjusting cutting tools and work pieces.

A machinist career and a tool and die maker career includes frequently monitoring the feed and speed of the machines they work with, as well as inspecting and testing all completed products looking for defects.

A production machinist career involves making a single part in large quantities. These parts are usually quite complex and require great accuracy and precision. As most machinists use CNC machines now, a production machinist must determine the cutting path, speed of the cut, and feed rate of the machine.

Maintenance machinists either repair existing parts or makes new parts for existing machinery. A maintenance machinist career sometimes involves referring to blueprints to fix or rebuild broken parts. Maintenance machinists work in a variety of manufacturing industries.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $44,110
2016, Number of Jobs 468,600
Employment Growth Forecast, 2016-2026 1%
Entry-Level Education Requirements High School Diploma or Equivalent
2017, Wage of the Highest 10% $76,450
2017, Wage of the Lowest 10% $26,430

 

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians

Education and Certifications Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians Need

An ophthalmic laboratory technician career does not require formal education beyond a high school diploma, as most technicians receive on-the-job training, beginning with very basic skills and gradually learning more technical skills.

Some community colleges and vocational schools provide ophthalmic lab technician certificates. Some of the programs provide an apprenticeship.

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians don't need specific certifications or licenses.

Find the best school for you: 50 Best Online Colleges for 2019

What They Do

If you need glasses or contact lenses an ophthalmic laboratory technician makes them for you. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians cut lenses according to prescription orders, shape and fit the lenses into frames, and sometimes coat the lenses with tinted dyes or coatings. An ophthalmic laboratory technician career includes polishing and inspecting each pair of finished glasses or contact lenses, assuring they are of the highest quality for the wearer.

Increasingly, ophthalmic laboratory technicians use automated equipment to create lenses; however some technicians still create lenses by hand. Machines may also be used in the polishing the finishing process.

In addition to glasses, ophthalmic laboratory technicians may create lenses for instruments such as telescopes and binoculars.

An ophthalmic laboratory tech employed in a small laboratory may complete the entire process, while an ophthalmic laboratory tech working in a larger laboratory may specialize in one specific step of the lens making process.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Ophthalmic lab techs employed in large laboratories may advance in their career to a supervisory role and train newer ophthalmic laboratory technicians. Some technicians may also advance to owning their own laboratory.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $30,960
2016, Number of Jobs 82,200
Employment Growth Forecast, 2016-2026 13%
Entry-Level Education Requirements High School Diploma or Equivalent
2017, Wage of the Highest 10% $59,890
2017, Wage of the Lowest 10% $22,540

 

Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

Education and Certifications Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers Need

A career as a power plant operator, distributor, and dispatcher required education and on-the-job-training. Although a high school diploma is the lowest acceptable educational requirement, most employers prefer power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers with a degree from a vocational school or an Associate of Power Plant Operation degree.

Some employers also require aptitude exams, such as the Power Plant Maintenance (MASS) and Plant Operator (POSS), which measure reading comprehension, understanding of mechanical concepts, spatial ability, and mathematical ability, prior to hire.

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers typically receive years of on-the-job training before they are fully qualified; they also need to take regular training courses in order to keep their skills up to date.

In addition to on-the-job training, power plant operators may receive formal technical training in preparation for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's licensing exam. A power plant operator must become licensed before they are authorized to control equipment affecting a reactor's power in a nuclear power plant.

Power distributors and dispatchers in a position where they could affect the power grid must become certified through the North American Energy Reliability Corporation's (NERC) System Operator Certification Program. Four types of certification are available through NERC.

Find the best school for you: 50 Best Online Colleges for 2019

What They Do

Nearly everyone in the United States utilizes electric power in some form on a daily basis, but few consider the individuals responsible for ensuring power is available; those individuals include power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers. They are responsible for controlling boilers, turbines, generators, and reactors. These careers involve reading charts, meters, and gauges in order to monitor voltage and electricity flows. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers must always be hyper-vigilant about monitoring and adjusting controls as needed.

There are different specialties for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers. For instance, a nuclear power reactor operator controls and monitors nuclear reactors. A power distributor and dispatcher control the flow of energy while it is transferred from generating stations to substations and users. They also respond to emergencies, such as transformer or transmission line failures. They also schedule re-routing orders for electrical currents when another area needs maintenance or repair work. A power plant operator career includes controlling and maintaining the machines that create electric power distributed among generators and substations.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Power distributors and dispatchers begin in entry-level positions and, with experience, may advance in their career to positions with additional responsibility, such as shift supervisors, trainers, or consultants.

Nuclear power plant operators, once licensed, may advance to a senior reactor operator job and with more experience to a plant manager or licenses operator instructor position.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $80,440
2016, Number of Jobs 54,700
Employment Growth Forecast, 2016-2026 -1%
Entry-Level Education Requirements High School Diploma or Equivalent
2017, Wage of the Highest 10% $108,240
2017, Wage of the Lowest 10% $49,210

 

Quality Control Inspectors

Education and Certifications Quality Control Inspectors Need

Although a high school diploma is adequate for some entry-level quality control inspector positions, many employers prefer those with a degree from a postsecondary vocational program, such as an Associate of Quality Control Management, or experience with industrial trades and computer-aided design (CAD). Some schools offer undergraduate or graduate certificates in quality control.

No matter the education level, most employers want new quality control inspectors to undergo on-the-job training.

Quality control workers may obtain a variety of different certifications from the American Society for Quality (ASQ). Certification greatly aids in obtaining a job.

Find the best school for you: 50 Best Online Colleges for 2019

What They Do

Whether it's something you're wearing, using, or eating, if you paid for it, you expect it to work; quality control inspectors, also known as QC inspectors, ensure defects don't get to the general public. Depending on the industry they work for, quality control inspectors may specialize in inspecting and guaranteeing one specific product, while others may inspect a variety of products. Overall, quality control inspectors monitor quality standards for nearly all manufactured products.

Quality control inspectors regularly utilize tools to help them measure the quality of products; they use anything from hand-held measurement devices, to electrical testing devices, to electronic inspection equipment. A quality control inspector career involves interpreting blueprints, taking measurements, identifying items that don't meet standards, and offering recommendations to bring products into compliance.

A QC inspector career includes accepting or rejecting finished items, writing up reports on all of their findings and discussing results with those responsible for products, such as supervisors. In some firms, the inspection process is automated, so quality control inspectors instead monitor equipment, review output, and perform random product checks.

There are different types of Quality control inspectors. Material inspectors, for example, use sight, sound, and feel to inspect products and identify any defects. Mechanical inspectors focus more on parts and assuring they fit together and move appropriately, as well as checking things like gas pressure, liquid levels, and electricity flow.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $37,340
2016, Number of Jobs 520,700
Employment Growth Forecast, 2016-2026 -11%
Entry-Level Education Requirements High School Diploma or Equivalent
2017, Wage of the Highest 10% $64,450
2017, Wage of the Lowest 10% $22,560

* Salary, number of jobs and employment growth provided by
bls

Take the next step towards your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

Woman working at desk