Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Summary

Food and tobacco processing workers
Food and tobacco processing workers use machines to mix ingredients.
Quick Facts: Food and Tobacco Processing Workers
2019 Median Pay $qf_median_annual_wage_html $qf_median_hourly_wage_html
Typical Entry-Level Education $qf_education_html
Work Experience in a Related Occupation $qf_experience_html
On-the-job Training $qf_training_html
Number of Jobs, 2018 $qf_number_jobs_html
Job Outlook, 2018-28 $qf_outlook_html
Employment Change, 2018-28 $qf_openings_html

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

Job Outlook

Overall employment of food and tobacco processing workers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2018 to 2028, 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 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                         

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.

"Food 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.)

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 2019

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Production occupations

$37,440

 

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 2018-28

Total, all occupations

4%

Production occupations

-4%

 

Overall employment of food and tobacco processing workers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2018 to 2028, 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, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

$occ_name

$tools.number.format($emp_current) $tools.number.format($emp_projected) $emp_percent_change $tools.number.format($emp_net_change)

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

51-3091 22,100 21,900 -1 -200 Get data

Food batchmakers

51-3092 162,500 164,700 1 2,100 Get data

Food cooking machine operators and tenders

51-3093 30,400 30,600 1 200 Get data

Food processing workers, all other

51-3099 44,200 44,100 0 -100 Get 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.

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 2019 MEDIAN PAY
Agricultural and food science technicians Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Bakers Bakers

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

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
butchers and meat cutters image Butchers

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

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Cooks Cooks

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

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Food preparation workers Food Preparation Workers

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

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
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.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
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 July 28, 2021).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 4, 2019