Suppose you’re considering a Machine Operator position or want to move up in the ranks in your current job. In that case, understanding the average Machine Operator's salary and career path is critical to your planning efforts. This manufacturing job’s salary can range based on experience level, location, and the type of responsibilities specific to the role.
This article will share the current average national and regional machine operator salaries. You can use these averages to make sure a position as a machine operator makes sense for your career and salary goals.
What Does a Machine Operator Do?
A Machine Operator's daily responsibilities involve setting up, installing, operating, maintaining, troubleshooting, and ensuring quality output for the machines they are assigned to run. Machine Operators often specialize in one specific machine and seek out job postings and opportunities for that particular machine. Machine Operators work in various industries, including automotive, food manufacturing, technology, transportation, etc. Since the average Machine Operator's salary varies based on location and experience, it pays to know the average salary in your region.
Like many other careers in manufacturing, a Machine Operator position offers rewarding, stable employment without needing a four-year college degree. Machine Operators have the opportunity to directly contribute to the production of a variety of products by ensuring the machines’ operating production remains functional. Suppose you’re interested in building things and seeing your work before you. In that case, a Machine Operator role is an excellent fit for you.
Let’s look at the data on a machine operator's salary in today’s manufacturing job market.
Where do Machine Operators Make the Most Money?
According to Zippia, the average hourly pay rate for a Machine Operator nationally is $15.70 / hour. This equates to around $32,000 a year in salary. As discussed earlier in this article, various factors can contribute to receiving a higher or lower wage than average. According to the same source, the top 10% of Machine Operators make $19 / hour (~$39,000 annually), and the bottom 10% earn $13 / hour (~$27,000 annually). Let’s dig into how we get such a broad spectrum of a machine operator’s pay rate.
States with the highest average salaries, such as Washington, tend to line up with the average salaries for Machine Operators. However, this is not an absolute guideline. Some states simply have a higher demand for Machine Operators. This leads to an unpredictable range of outcomes from state to state. We pulled a few compelling examples:
North Dakota: $35,536
South Carolina: $31,343
There isn’t a reason why one state has a higher average salary for Machine Operators other than the northernmost states having higher than average paychecks. As you’re exploring your options, consider the status of the Machine Operator industry in your region, local taxes, and the potential for growth at the company you’re considering.
If your goal as an entry or mid-level Machinist is to maximize your earnings potential, do your research to determine the best state. The good news is that Machine Operators are in high demand right now. Therefore, this specific occupation is expected to grow, meaning you may not experience too much difficulty finding a job.
What does the Career Path for a Machine Operator Look Like?
We’ve covered the salary range for a standard Machine Operators up to this point. A career as a Machine Operator can evolve and ultimately improve your chances of landing a higher-paying job. These jobs include a Flex Machine Operator and a Machine Supervisor.
As a Flex Machine Operator, you can expect to work with light or heavy machinery to make goods or repairs in various fields. Day-to-day responsibilities include handling production efficiencies, quality, safety, troubleshooting, repairing machine problems, and training new operators. A Machine Supervisor role is more managerial and primarily involves supervising and coordinating the work of employees who set up and operate machines. Machine Supervisors typically prepare work schedules, assign work, and oversee the work production process to ensure machine function and output match specifications. In these roles, the average annual salary looks like this:
- Flex Machine Operator: $37,440 salary on average (per Glassdoor)
- Machine Supervisor: $82,179 average salary (per Salary.com)
Just because you commit to a career as a Machine Operator doesn’t mean you can’t pursue higher-paying jobs down the road. You can apply your experience as a Machine Operator to land a job in an adjacent manufacturing position. Example positions include Machinist, Tool & Die Maker, and Millwright, all standard career options that pay well. Both Machinists and Tool & Die Makers set up and work with various computer-controlled and mechanically-controlled equipment to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools. Millwrights install, maintain, repair, dismantle, and reassemble machinery in industrial and construction settings. Average salaries for these positions amount to:
- Machinist: $67,019 average salary (per Indeed)
- Tool & Die Maker: $72,627 average salary (per Glassdoor)
- Millwright: $64,699 average salary (per Glassdoor)
We hope this salary and job data helps you find the correct Machine Operator position or determine if a career as a Machine Operator is right for you. Since a Machine Operator utilizes transferable and adaptable skills, you can go where the market is in demand of your unique capabilities, especially in a growing manufacturing industry. This can allow a Machine Operator to align their personal and professional goals and gain experience in various sectors. Additionally, for those that want to grow into a higher paying position such as a Machine Supervisor, Salary.com indicates that three years of experience is often the requirement for being considered for such a position. The sooner you get going, the faster you earn the relevant expertise that can accelerate your career.
If you’re exploring your options and seeing what other opportunities there are in manufacturing, check out our Career Paths hub. This resource can help you understand which manufacturing job fits your skills and interests. After that, head over to our job board to find your next exciting job opportunity in the area you would like to work in.
If you’ve already applied and received an offer, make sure you’re being compensated based on skills and experience with the average Machine Operator pay information above.