The popular media would have you believe that factories are completely automated, eliminating any need for human beings. The truth is more complicated than this. Automation has reduced the need for low-skill manual labor. However, it is increasing demand for skilled labor while demand for programmers and other high tech experts is exploding. This is why productivity and employment is growing in the manufacturing sector. Here are 10 manufacturing careers with great prospects for the future.
Lab Technicians/Medical Appliance Technicians
This job includes making, fitting and repairing medical devices. These devices range from 3D printed invisible braces to eyeglasses to prosthetic limbs. About half of the people in this field work in the manufacturing of these individualized devices while the other half works with patients.
This job is available to those with a high school diploma and specialized education for the job. That may be earned through an associate’s degree, specialty certification or on-the-job training. Due to our aging population, job growth in this area is forecast to be around 13 percent over the next decade. The average pay hovers around 35,000 dollars a year.
Sheet Metal Workers
Sheet metal workers make and install products made from thin sheet metal. The best-known product they make is HVAC systems and ducts, but this isn’t all they do. They generally train at technical schools, apprenticeships and, again, on-the-job training. About a quarter of these individuals work in manufacturing facilities, while the rest work on construction sites and customer locations. Ongoing new construction will keep this field growing roughly one percent a year. Average pay is around fifty thousand dollars a year.
For comparison, welders and solderers earn around 18 dollars an hour or 36,000 dollars a year, and job growth is one to two percent a year.
Industrial Machinery Mechanics and Maintenance Workers
This job is open to those with a high school diploma. Employers require additional training or an associate’s degree in this area. As manufacturing equipment becomes more advanced, additional training is required by those in the field to remain relevant. And smarter equipment requires just as much troubleshooting and repair as the traditional systems. This is why increasing automation isn’t affecting employment numbers in this area. Job growth is expected to increase by about one percent a year for the next ten years. Industrial machinery mechanics can earn 22 dollars or more per hour. Average pay is around fifty thousand dollars a year.
Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians
This career requires at least an associate’s degree. Workers with this education may build computer models for the parts to be made or manage the equipment making the aerospace components. About half work in manufacturing, and the rest work in research or repair of aircraft and transportation equipment. The number of jobs in this area is increasing at roughly one percent a year. Average pay is around seventy thousand dollars a year.
Machine Tool Programmers and Operators
Computer numerically controlled or CNC machine tool programmers develop programs to control the automatic machines making metal and plastic parts. The number of jobs in this field is increasing 3 to 4 percent a year. Median hourly earnings are more than 22 dollars an hour or 45,000 dollars a year. For comparison, CNC machine operators earn around 18 dollars an hour, though employment in this area is growing just as fast.
CNC programmers earn more than conventional machinists. Machinists make around 20 dollars an hour. Traditional tool and die makers analyze the specifications, set up and operate machine tools. They may repair dies and cutting tools. They earn about 23 dollars an hour. Employment for tool and die makers is expected to increase about 14 percent over the next few years. Millwrights are specialists who install and dismantle heavy equipment according to blueprints. Their median pay is around 25 dollars an hour. Job growth is around 13 percent for the next ten years.
Logisticians handle the logistics of getting parts in to the company in time and at the lowest cost or getting the product to the consumer. About a quarter of them work in manufacturing, but they are found in almost every industry. For example, they are often employed by ecommerce firms trying to ship products to consumers around the country as quickly as possible. You can qualify for this job with a degree in business, supply chain management or systems engineering. Job outlook is expected to grow seven percent over the next ten years. Average pay is around 75,000 dollars a year.
Lean Manufacturing Experts
Engineers are generally well paid. For example, median pay for mechanical engineers is around 62,000 dollars a year. The job requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering, but additional certifications like the EIT may be required by some employers.
You can stand out in the crowded field by holding certifications employers value. Instead of earning a lean or other certificate that companies may not recognize, universities like Kettering allow you to get your lean manufacturing degree completely online. This masters of science degree combines a masters in mechanical engineering with Lean Six Sigma skills. You’ll have the skills needed to improve quality, streamline operations, reduce waste and manage large scale process improvement projects.
Information Technology Managers
IT managers are among the highest paid professionals in manufacturing. They oversee the IT infrastructure that makes smart factories possible. They will evaluate, enhance and upgrade the IT systems that are necessary for the company to run. They may manage the servers that host the company website and the tablets employees use as part of their job. A bachelor’s degree in IT is the minimum credential to qualify for this job, while many IT managers have a master’s degree in computer science or management. Median pay is around eighty thousand dollars a year.
Operations managers will oversee the manufacturing operations. They make decisions from whom to fire to whom to promote. They’ll also schedule work shifts and equipment installations. This is a good paying job, on average paying around seventy thousand dollars a year.
Transportation Equipment Painters
Transportation equipment painters paint cars, trucks, buses, boats, planes and trains. This job category includes painters who work in auto body shops. Average pay is around twenty dollars an hour. Job growth is two to three percent a year.
Manufacturing took a hit during the Great Recession, but employment is both increasing in numbers and pay. These are just some of the jobs with the best pay and/or job growth and, therefore, prospects for the future.