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.

Is This the Right Career for You?

Not sure how to choose the best career for you? Now, you can predict which career will satisfy you in the long term by taking a scientifically validated career test. Gain the clarity and confidence that comes from understanding your strengths, talents, and preferences, and knowing which path is truly right for you.

Take The Test

 

 

 

 

 

Work Environment

Food and tobacco processing workers held about 268,700 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up food and tobacco processing workers was distributed as follows:

Food batchmakers 163,800
Food processing workers, all other 48,900
Food cooking machine operators and tenders 35,100
Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders                                              21,000

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

Food manufacturing 73%
Employment services 5
Food and beverage stores                                  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.

"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.

Education and Training

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.

Personality and Interests

Food and tobacco processing workers typically have an interest in the Building and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a food and tobacco processing worker, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Food and tobacco processing workers should also possess the following specific 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

The median annual wage for food and tobacco processing workers was $30,200 in May 2019. 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 $21,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,500.

Median annual wages for food and tobacco processing workers in May 2019 were as follows:

Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders                               $31,590
Food cooking machine operators and tenders 31,110
Food batchmakers 30,790
Food processing workers, all other 27,550

In May 2019, the median annual wages for food and tobacco processing workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Food manufacturing $30,990
Food and beverage stores                                    27,180
Employment services 26,670

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

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.

For More Information

For more information about line workers and food safety, visit

U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

For more information about the food industry, visit

Food Engineering

Grocery Manufacturers Association

 

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

I would like to cite this page for a report. Who is the author?

There is no published author for this page. Please use citation guidelines for webpages without an author available. 

I think I have found an error or inaccurate information on this page. Who should I contact?

This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at help@truity.com.

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.