Bureau of Labor Statistics

Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Food and tobacco processing workers
Food and tobacco processing workers use machines to mix ingredients.
Quick Facts: Food and Tobacco Processing Workers
2020 Median Pay $31,950 per year
$15.36 per hour
Typical 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, 2019 259,200
Job Outlook, 2019-29 1% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 2,100

Summary

What Food and Tobacco Processing Workers Do

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

Work Environment

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

How to Become a Food and Tobacco Processing Worker

There are no formal education requirements for some processing workers. However, food batchmakers and food cooking machine operators typically need a high school diploma.

Pay

The median annual wage for food and tobacco processing workers was $31,950 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of food and tobacco processing workers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. The need to replace workers who leave the occupation should result in additional job openings.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for food and tobacco processing workers.

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 stirs curd to make cheese.

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

Duties

Food and tobacco processing workers typically do the following:

  • Set up, start, or 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 processes
  • Observe and regulate equipment gauges and controls
  • Record batch production data
  • Clean workspaces and equipment in accordance with health and safety standards
  • Check final products to ensure quality

Food and tobacco processing workers often have different duties depending on the type of machinery they use or goods they process.

Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders operate machines that produce roasted, baked, or dried food or tobacco products. For example, dryers of fruits and vegetables operate machines that produce raisins, prunes, or other dehydrated foods. Tobacco roasters tend machines that cure tobacco for wholesale distribution to cigarette manufacturers and other makers of tobacco products. Others, such as coffee roasters, follow recipes and tend machines to produce standard or specialty coffees.

Food batchmakers typically work in facilities that produce baked goods, pasta, and tortillas. Workers mix ingredients to make dough, load and unload ovens, operate pasta extruders, and perform tasks specific to large-scale commercial baking. Some workers are identified by the type of food they produce. For example, those who prepare cheese are known as cheese makers and those who make candy are known as candy makers.

Food cooking machine operators and tenders operate or tend cooking equipment to prepare food products. For example, potato and corn chip manufacturing workers operate baking and frying equipment.

Other workers operate machines that mix spices, mill grains, or extract 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 259,200 jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up food and tobacco processing workers was distributed as follows:

Food batchmakers 162,500
Food processing workers, all other 44,200
Food cooking machine operators and tenders 30,400
Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders 22,100

The largest employers of food and tobacco processing workers were as follows:

Food manufacturing 75%
Employment services 6
Food and beverage stores 5

Food manufacturing facilities are typically large, open floor areas with loud machinery, requiring workers to wear ear protection to guard against noise. Workers 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.

Depending on the type of food or tobacco being processed, workers may be required to wear masks, hair nets, or gloves to protect the product from possible contamination.

Workers usually stand for the majority of their shifts while tending machines or observing the production process. Loading, unloading, or cleaning equipment may require lifting, bending, and reaching.

Injuries and Illnesses                         

Food and tobacco processing workers, all other, have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. ("All other" titles represent occupations with a wide range of characteristics that do not fit into any of the other detailed occupations.) Working around hot liquids or machinery that cuts or presses can be dangerous. The most common hazards are slips, falls, and cuts. To reduce the risks of injuries, workers are required to wear protective clothing and nonslip shoes.

Work Schedules

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

Some food processing positions are seasonal.

How to Become a Food and Tobacco Processing Worker

food and tobacco processing workers image
Experienced workers show trainees how to properly use equipment.

There are no formal education requirements for some food and tobacco processing workers. However, 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

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, math and reading skills are considered helpful.

Training

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

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

Important Qualities

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

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 ingredients, which may weigh up to 50 pounds.

Math skills. Workers need to know math skills in order to accurately mix specific quantities of ingredients.

Pay

Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Production occupations

$37,440

Food and tobacco processing workers

$31,950

 

The median annual wage for food and tobacco processing workers was $31,950 in May 2020. 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 $22,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $49,540.

Median annual wages for food and tobacco processing workers in May 2020 were as follows:

Food cooking machine operators and tenders $33,010
Food batchmakers 32,710
Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders 32,480
Food processing workers, all other 29,620

In May 2020, the median annual wages for food and tobacco processing workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Food manufacturing $32,860
Food and beverage stores 29,570
Employment services 28,930

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

Some food processing positions are seasonal.

Job Outlook

Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Food and tobacco processing workers

1%

Production occupations

-4%

 

Overall employment of food and tobacco processing workers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.

Population growth and continuing consumer preference for convenience foods are expected to drive the demand for food, which will in turn require more food and tobacco processing workers to produce it. However, food manufacturing companies continue to pursue more automation in processing to raise productivity. For example, they use equipment that automatically weighs and mixes ingredients, requiring fewer processing workers. As these companies streamline production processes and implement more automation, they will need fewer workers to operate machines, and this may constrain occupational growth.

Job Prospects

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

Employment projections data for food and tobacco processing workers, 2019-29

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

Occupational Title

Food and tobacco processing workers

SOC Code
Employment, 2019259,200
Projected Employment, 2029261,300
Percent Change, 2019-291
Numeric Change, 2019-292,100
Employment by Industry
Occupational Title

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

SOC Code51-3091
Employment, 201922,100
Projected Employment, 202921,900
Percent Change, 2019-29-1
Numeric Change, 2019-29-200
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Food batchmakers

SOC Code51-3092
Employment, 2019162,500
Projected Employment, 2029164,700
Percent Change, 2019-291
Numeric Change, 2019-292,100
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Food cooking machine operators and tenders

SOC Code51-3093
Employment, 201930,400
Projected Employment, 202930,600
Percent Change, 2019-291
Numeric Change, 2019-29200
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Food processing workers, all other

SOC Code51-3099
Employment, 201944,200
Projected Employment, 202944,100
Percent Change, 2019-290
Numeric Change, 2019-29-100
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

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 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Agricultural and food science technicians

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists.

Associate's degree $41,970
Bakers

Bakers

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

No formal educational credential $29,400
butchers and meat cutters image

Butchers

Butchers cut, trim, and package meat for retail sale.

No formal educational credential $32,900
Cooks

Cooks

Cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods.

See How to Become One $27,250
Food preparation workers

Food Preparation Workers

Food preparation workers perform many routine tasks under the direction of cooks, chefs, or food service managers.

No formal educational credential $26,070
Metal and plastic machine workers

Metal and Plastic Machine Workers

Metal and plastic machine workers set up and operate equipment that cuts, shapes, and forms metal and plastic materials or pieces.

See How to Become One $38,270

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 9, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Food and Tobacco Processing Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/food-and-tobacco-processing-workers.htm (visited May 23, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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