Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Summary

Food and tobacco processing workers
Food and tobacco processing workers set machines to mix food ingredients.
Quick Facts: Food and Tobacco Processing Workers
2012 Median Pay $25,780 per year
$12.39 per hour
Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 198,300
Job Outlook, 2012-22 0% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2012-22 500

What Food and Tobacco Processing Workers Do

Food and tobacco processing workers operate equipment that mixes, cooks, or processes ingredients used in the manufacturing of food or tobacco products.

Work Environment

Most food and tobacco processing workers are employed in manufacturing facilities. These workplaces are usually noisy and may be hot or cold, depending on the goods being produced. Because of production schedules, working early morning, evening, or night shifts is common. Workers are susceptible to slips, falls, and cuts.

How to Become a Food and Tobacco Processing Worker

Although no formal education is required for some processing workers, food batchmakers and food cooking machine operators typically need a high school diploma. Food and tobacco processing workers learn their skills on the job.

Pay

The median annual wage for food and tobacco processing workers was $25,780 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of food and tobacco processing workers is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022. The need to replace workers who leave the occupation will result in many job openings. Job prospects should be best in rural areas or near smaller cities where large food processing facilities are located.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of food and tobacco processing workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about food and tobacco processing workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Food and Tobacco Processing Workers Do

Food and tobacco processing workers
A food batchmaker uses a large vat to make cheese.

Food and tobacco processing workers operate equipment that mixes, cooks, or processes ingredients used in the manufacturing of food or tobacco products.

Duties

Food and tobacco processing workers typically do the following:

  • Set up, start, and load food or tobacco processing equipment
  • Check, weigh, and mix ingredients according to recipes
  • Set and control temperatures, flow rates, and pressures of machinery
  • Monitor and adjust ingredient mixes during production process
  • Observe and regulate equipment gauges and sensors
  • Report equipment malfunctions to team leaders or maintenance staff
  • Clean workspaces and equipment to meet health and safety standards
  • Check final products to ensure quality

Depending on what type of food and tobacco is being processed or made, these workers often have different duties.

The following are examples of types of food and tobacco processing workers:

Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders operate machines that produce roasted, baked, or dried food or tobacco products. The following are examples of types of these workers:

  • Coffee roasters follow recipes to produce standard or specialty coffees.
  • Tobacco roasters tend machines that cure tobacco for wholesale distribution to cigarette manufacturers and other makers of tobacco products.
  • Dryers of fruits and vegetables operate machines that produce raisins, prunes, or other dehydrated foods.

Food batchmakers typically work in facilities that produce baked goods, pasta, and tortillas. Workers mix ingredients to make dough, load and unload ovens, operate noodle extruders, and perform tasks specific to large-scale commercial baking.

Food cooking machine operators and tenders operate or tend cooking equipment to prepare food products. For example, workers who preserve and can fruits and vegetables usually operate equipment to cook and preserve their products.

Potato and corn chip manufacturers employ workers who operate frying machines and work around hot oil. Sugar and confectionary manufacturers have equipment that blends, heats, coats, and packages candies, chocolates, doughnuts, or other sweets.

Other workers may operate equipment that mixes spices for meat products, mills grains, or extracts oil from seeds.

Work Environment

Food and tobacco processing workers
Food processing workers often work on a production line and stand most of the time.

Food and tobacco processing workers held about 198,300 jobs in 2012 and mostly worked in food manufacturing facilities.

The industries that employed the most food and tobacco processing workers in 2012 were as follows:

Bakeries and tortilla manufacturing16%
Animal slaughtering and processing15
Fruit and vegetable preserving and specialty food manufacturing11
Other food manufacturing11
Dairy product manufacturing9

Food manufacturing facilities are typically large, open floor areas, and filled with noisy machinery. Workers also are frequently exposed to high temperatures when working around cooking machinery. Some work in cold environments for long periods with goods that need to be refrigerated or frozen.

Workers usually stand for the majority of their shifts while tending machines or observing the production process. Their equipment is often large, and loading, unloading, or cleaning it may require heavy lifting, bending, and reaching.

Because the work is typically on assembly lines, workers must be able to keep up with the line speed while maintaining product quality.

Injuries and Illnesses

Working around hot liquids or machinery that cuts or presses can be dangerous. The most common hazards are slips, falls, or cuts. To reduce these risks, workers are required to wear protective clothing and nonslip shoes.

Work Schedules

Most food and tobacco processing workers are employed full time. Because of production schedules, working early morning, evening, or night shifts is common in many manufacturing facilities.

Some food processing facilities offer only seasonal jobs.

How to Become a Food and Tobacco Processing Worker

food and tobacco processing workers image
Food processing workers learn their skills through on-the-job training.

Although no formal education is required for some food and tobacco processing workers, food batchmakers and food cooking machine operators typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. Food and tobacco processing workers learn their skills through on-the-job training.

Education

Although no formal education is required for some food and tobacco processing workers, food batchmakers and food cooking machine operators typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Because workers often adjust the quantity of ingredients that go into a mix, basic math and reading skills are considered helpful.

Training

Food and tobacco processing workers learn on the job. Training may last from several weeks to a few months. During training, they learn health and safety rules related to the type of food or tobacco that is processed. Training also involves learning how to operate specific equipment, follow safety procedures, and report equipment malfunction.

Experienced workers typically show trainees how to properly use and care for equipment.

Important Qualities

Concentration. Workers must pay close attention to what they are doing to avoid injury.

Coordination. Food and tobacco processing workers must be quick and have good hand-eye coordination to keep up with the assembly line.

Detail oriented. Workers must be able to detect small changes in quality or quantity of food products. They must also closely follow health and safety standards to avoid any food contamination.

Physical stamina. Workers stand on their feet for long periods as they tend machines and monitor the production process.

Physical strength. Food and tobacco processing workers should be strong enough to lift or move heavy boxes of fruit or vegetables, which often can weigh up to 50 pounds.

Pay

Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Production occupations

$30,920

Food and tobacco processing workers

$25,780

 

The median annual wage for food and tobacco processing workers was $25,780 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,780, and the top 10 percent earned more than $41,930.

The median annual wages for food and tobacco processing workers in May 2012 were as follows:

  • $28,430 for food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders
  • $26,550 for food batchmakers
  • $26,350 for food cooking machines operators and tenders
  • $23,140 for food processing workers, all other

Most food and tobacco processing workers are employed full time. Because of production schedules, working early morning, evening, or night shifts is common in many manufacturing facilities.

Some food processing facilities offer only seasonal jobs.

Job Outlook

Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Production occupations

1%

Food and tobacco processing workers

0%

 

Employment of food and tobacco processing workers is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022.

Population growth and consumer preference for convenience foods and tobacco will maintain demand for these workers.

However, food manufacturing companies increasingly use automation to raise productivity. As these companies further consolidate their facilities and streamline production processes, fewer workers will be needed to operate machines.

Job Prospects

The need to replace food and tobacco processing workers who leave the occupation will result in many job openings each year. Those with related work experience in manufacturing will have the best job opportunities.

The food processing industry continues to consolidate. As a result, job prospects should be best in rural areas or near smaller cities where many large food processing facilities are located.

Employment projections data for Food and Tobacco Processing Workers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Food and tobacco processing workers

198,300 198,800 0 500

Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders

51-3091 20,000 20,200 1 200 [XLS]

Food batchmakers

51-3092 105,200 102,500 -3 -2,700 [XLS]

Food cooking machine operators and tenders

51-3093 33,400 33,200 -1 -200 [XLS]

Food processing workers, all other

51-3099 39,700 42,900 8 3,200 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of food and tobacco processing workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Bakers

Bakers

Bakers mix ingredients according to recipes to make breads, pastries, and other baked goods.

Less than high school $23,140
Chefs and head cooks

Chefs and Head Cooks

Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants and other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns.

High school diploma or equivalent $42,480
Construction equipment operators

Construction Equipment Operators

Construction equipment operators drive, maneuver, or control the heavy machinery used to construct roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures.

High school diploma or equivalent $40,980
Construction laborers and helpers

Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers perform many basic tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

See How to Become One $29,160
Metal and plastic machine workers

Metal and Plastic Machine Workers

Metal and plastic machine workers set up and operate machines that cut, shape, and form metal and plastic materials or pieces.

High school diploma or equivalent $32,950
slaughterers and meat packers image

Slaughterers, Meat Packers, and Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers

Slaughterers, meat packers, and meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers kill, clean, or prepare animals for sale or further processing. They also cut, prepare, or package meats for wholesale or retail sale.

Less than high school $23,320
Stationary engineers and boiler operators

Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

Stationary engineers and boiler operators control stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment to provide utilities for buildings or for industrial purposes.

High school diploma or equivalent $53,560
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Food and Tobacco Processing Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/food-and-tobacco-processing-workers.htm (visited September 21, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014