Manufacturing has been called the backbone of the American economy, with this sector representing 9 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Factory jobs cover a broad gamut of many industries, including automotive, electronics, household appliances, clothing and food. These workers not only craft the products, but they also oversee the safety and quality of manufactured goods before they enter the marketplace. The faces behind these different types of factory jobs continue to change as baby boomers enter retirement and as innovative technologies, including 3D printing, emerge, "The Washington Post" reports.
Industrial engineers are the visionaries who constantly look for better ways to make products. They search for lighter and more durable materials, more efficient machine designs, and faster and less expensive delivery systems. An industrial engineer divides his time between a factory floor and an office. He frequently visits the production line to watch existing processes and look for improvements. A manufacturing engineer also spends time in his office analyzing data and conferring with factory management and external suppliers. The median hourly wage for industrial engineers was $38.61 in May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. This field requires a bachelor’s degree in industrial, mechanical, manufacturing or general engineering.
Manufacturing production occupations cover a broad category of workers who create and ship materials and finished products. These jobs include machinists, electricians, welders and material handlers, among other occupations. Other examples of production workers are computer numerical controlled (CNC) machine operators who work with plastic or metal parts and assemblers who put together components of a finished product. These manufacturing jobs typically require a high school education, completion of a vocational school or community college program, and on-the-job training. The average hourly wage for non-supervisory production employees was $19.64 as of August 2014, according to the BLS.
Quality inspectors play an integral role in a factory. They ensure that finished products meet specifications before they are released to the marketplace and sold to consumers. Their diligence safeguards the public from operating unsafe vehicles or wearing poorly made clothing. Manufacturing inspectors look for defects in materials and finished goods, and they recommend corrective action when they uncover flaws. They also certify acceptable products before they can be sold. Median hourly income for manufacturing quality inspectors was $16.80 as of May 2013, the BLS reports. This position typically requires a high school education,
Safety specialists oversee the safety and health of factory workers and their work environment. They enforce safety requirements that govern machinery, scaffolding, solvents and other potential hazards. A safety officer might routinely collect and test samples of vapors or chemicals, in addition to leading safety classes on personal protection equipment so that manufacturing employees remember to wear safety shoes, eyewear and earplugs. Median hourly wage for a safety technician was $22.78 as of May 2013, the BLS reports. Some employers require an associate degree
- National Association of Manufacturers: Facts About Manufacturing in the United States
- The Washington Post: The Future of America’s Manufacturing Sector
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Industrial Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, 17-2112 Industrial Engineers
- Mahoning Valley Manufacturing Coalition: Manufacturing Career Pathways: Job Descriptions
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Economic News Release
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Quality Control Inspectors
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: 51-9061 Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Occupational Health and Safety Technicians
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: 29-9012 Occupational Health and Safety Technicians