what is a machine operator?

As a machine operator, you work with machines and equipment. Your work is often in a manufacturing or production plant that mass-produces consumer goods or electronic parts. Some machines you will likely operate include lathes, boring machines, drill presses and precision grinders. You can specialize in running one of these or multiple types of equipment.

Your job as a machine operator involves repetitive motions. It includes the frequent use of foot pedals, levers and switches. Sometimes, you also feed raw materials into the equipment. These roles require good physical strength and manual dexterity to lift heavy goods and ensure the proper operation of machines. You also fine-tune and adjust machine calibrations to improve efficiency and accuracy.

As a machine operator, you are a highly skilled professional who operates heavy machinery. You work in different industries and can specialize in the type of machinery to operate. For instance, machine operators work in manufacturing industries to assist in operating machines and heavy equipment used in production. You also work in the farming, construction and transportation industries. For instance, in construction, you aid in completing construction projects using heavy machinery.

Would working as a machine operator suit your hand-eye coordination? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a machine operator role.

machine operator jobs

average machine operator salary

According to Job Bank, machine operators in Canada earn an average salary of $35,100 per year. In an entry-level position, you receive a salary of $30,846 yearly due to your minimal experience and expertise. As you improve your experience and knowledge in machine operations, you can make up to $43,875 annually.

what factors affect the salary of a machine operator?

As a machine operator, your earnings depend on skills and qualifications. When you are new in the role, your take-home salary is low. As your expertise improves, your earnings also increase. Some locations pay higher salaries due to the high demand for the role. For instance, working in Saskatchewan or Alberta, you are likely to earn more.

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types of machine operators

Some specialization areas in machine operations include:

  • mobile plant machine operators: as a mobile plant operator, you operate or drive cranes and forklift trucks. You also operate mining and extraction machinery in various industries.
  • drilling and boring machine operators: your job is to set up and operate drilling and milling machines. You use the machines to drill holes in various materials, including metal and plastic.
  • rolling machine operators: your role is to run rolling mills that shape multiple metals and materials into rods and plates. You also carry out the necessary maintenance on the machines.
  • construction machine operators: as a machine operator in the construction industry, you run heavy-duty equipment, such as excavation machines or cement mixers.
Male operator using a touch-screen display. Primary color red. Secondary color blue.
Male operator using a touch-screen display. Primary color red. Secondary color blue.

working as a machine operator

If you want a career as a machine operator, check out the tasks and responsibilities of the role.


machine operator skills and education

Some of the educational requirements of a machine operator include:

  • education: when you complete secondary school, join an apprenticeship program to train as a machine operator. Complete training in machine operations and get a trade certification in tool and die-making or machining. You may also complete a provincial occupational safety program, such as the Ontario Construction Health and Safety Program, which is mandatory for those working in high-risk environments.
  • work experience: you require extensive work experience as a machine operator. Gain experience through apprenticeships and entry-level jobs in machining operations.

competencies and characteristics of machine operators

You need the following skills to handle machines in busy manufacturing environments efficiently:

  • attention to detail: the work of a machine operator is very delicate, so it is important to pay attention to every process. You often handle precision equipment; being off by even a millimetre can cause critical errors. A single mistake results in time wastage and is very expensive to correc
  • excellent problem-solving skills: as a machine operator, your daily tasks involve assessing why the machines don't perform at peak efficiency and fixing errors to increase output. Such a task requires you to think creatively to solve complex issues.
  • analytical skills: as a machine operator, you should read and understand blueprints, complex instructions and other specifications. It is also crucial to know the limits and capabilities of various machines and use the equipment on a specific project.
  • ability to multitask: as a machine operator, you handle multiple tasks simultaneously without causing errors. While working, you control operations and, at the same time, assess performance. Multitasking skills help you complete various tasks effectively and correctly.
  • physical strength: as a machine operator, you need physical fitness to lift multiple weights and handle machines. The job involves physical activity, and fitness reduces fatigue.


Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a machine operator.


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