Food and Tobacco Workers


Quick Facts: Food and Tobacco Processing Workers
2017 Median Pay $27,630 per year 
$13.29 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education  
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 257,400
Job Outlook, 2016-26 2% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 6,400

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Food and Tobacco Processing Career, Salary, and Education Information

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 and tobacco products.

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Food and Tobacco Processing workers

Duties of food AND TOBACCO PROCESSING WORKERS

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 for Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Food and tobacco processing workers held about 257,400 jobs in 2016. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up food and tobacco processing workers was distributed as follows:

Food batchmakers: 153,700

Food processing workers, all other: 46,400

Food cooking machine operators and tenders: 37,200

Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders: 20,100

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

Food manufacturing: 74%

Wholesale trade: 5%

Food and beverage stores: 5%

General merchandise stores: 4%

Employment services: 4%

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.

Work Schedules

Most food and tobacco processing workers worked full time in 2016. 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

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.


SALARIES FOR Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

The median annual wage for food and tobacco processing workers was $27,630 in May 2017. 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 $20,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $45,570.

 

Median annual wages for food and tobacco processing workers in May 2017 were as follows:

Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders: $29,410

Food batchmakers: $28,500

Food cooking machine operators and tenders: $28,420

Food processing workers, all other: $24,460

In May 2017, the median annual wages for food and tobacco processing workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Food manufacturing: $28,860

Wholesale trade: $25,180

Food and beverage stores: $24,580

General merchandise stores: $24,260

Employment services: $22,960

Most food and tobacco processing workers worked full time in 2016. 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 for Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Overall employment of food and tobacco processing workers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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 many 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, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 257,400

Projected Employment, 2026: 263,800

Change, 2016-2026: +2%, +6,400


Careers Related to Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists by performing duties such as measuring and analyzing the quality of food and agricultural products.

Bakers

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

Butchers

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

Cooks

Cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods, which may include soups, salads, entrees, and desserts.

Food Preparation Workers

Food preparation workers perform many routine tasks under the direction of cooks, chefs, or food service managers. Food preparation workers prepare cold foods, slice meat, peel and cut vegetables, brew coffee or tea, and perform many other food service tasks.

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.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Agricultural and Food Science TechniciansAssociate's degree$39,910
BakersNo formal educational credential$25,690
ButchersNo formal educational credential$30,890
Cooks$23,970
Food Preparation WorkersNo formal educational credential$22,730
Metal and Plastic Machine Workers$35,400

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Food and Tobacco Processing Workers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/food-and-tobacco-processing-workers.htm