Pros and Cons of Being an Oven Operator
Working as an oven operator can be attractive to people who like physical work. Find out the pros and cons to determine if this career path is right for you.
|Pros of an Oven Operating Career|
|High school diploma or equivalent sufficient to obtain a job*|
|On-the-job training usually all that's required*|
|Opportunities for advancement to workers who show aptitude*|
|Most work is full-time*|
|Cons of an Oven Operating Career|
|High rate of injury from working around machinery*|
|May work in loud, hot facilities*|
|Job may require much lifting and standing*|
|Sluggish job growth (-1 decline predicted 2012-2022)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
An oven operator works in a food manufacturing plant, loading and unloading products and supervising the cooking process. You could work in a commercial bakery or in a factory that makes tortillas, chips or crackers. As an oven operator, you may have to adjust the settings on the oven and perform minor repairs. Cleaning the oven and keeping the surrounding area neat may be part of the operator's duties.
Working as an oven operator can be physically demanding. You may work in hot conditions, and the machinery in a food processing plant can be loud. You'll need to be able to lift at least 50 pounds and stay on your feet for most of your work shift. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says there is a higher than average rate of injury for workers in food processing occupations.
Career Prospects and Salary
Employment for food cooking machine operators and tenders, including oven operators, will decline by 1% from 2012-2022, the BLS predicted, slower than average for other occupations. The BLS said increasing automation in factories may result in fewer new jobs for food processing workers, but a growing population, international exporting of products and a demand for convenience foods means there will always be jobs in the food manufacturing industry. Food processing has a high turnover rate among employees, the BLS noted, creating many job vacancies.
The median annual salary for a food or tobacco roasting, baking or drying machine operator or tender was about $27,680 in May 2014, the BLS reported. This job description included oven operators. Half the people in this occupation made $18,320-$44,380 as of May 2014, according to the BLS.
What Are the Requirements?
Most employers want someone with a high school diploma or GED certification, although the BLS says about one-fourth of the workers in this field don't have one. Experience in manufacturing or in a physically challenging career such as construction may be appealing to employers. Most training takes place on the job for a few days or up to a month. You'll learn how to perform the job, as well as about health and safety regulations for the food industry, such as Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP). There are usually periodic updates to the training, as well.
An oven operator must be able to read well in order to follow instructions. The operator needs solid math skills to weigh and measure the food products and adjust the machinery. Some mechanical ability is useful, and you may need to learn to operate a pallet jack. You should be strong and able to work fast and accurately. Cooperating with other employees is important in this occupation.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Job postings for oven operators show the diversity of tasks and workplaces that employ people in this occupation. The ads call for someone who can deliver attention to quality, teamwork and physical strength, even though the jobs are in differing segments of the food processing industry. Here's a sampling of what real employers were looking for in April 2012:
- In Georgia, a food manufacturer needed an oven operator with a high school education. The job duties included setting up, adjusting and monitoring modern production equipment.
- A firm in Michigan that manufactures pet snacks needed an oven operator who had a sharp eye for quality problems. The job included watching multiple lines of baked goods and checking the internal temperature hourly. The oven operator must monitor the outcome of the baking and report excessive waste.
- A company in Washington needed someone to operate several types of ovens in a meat processing facility. The oven operator should be able to maintain temperature and humidity controls to ensure safety and quality of the finished product. The oven operator must complete documentation on the process.
How to Stand Out
The BLS says most food manufacturers promote from within, so being an outstanding employee is the best way to advance in this field. You can catch your supervisor's eye by showing initiative in learning about new systems and new products. A willingness to help train other employees will also show that you are worthy of promotion.
Construction Equipment Operator
If you like working with machinery, but want to make more money in a growing profession, you could consider a career as a construction equipment operator, driving the heavy machinery used to create bridges, buildings and roads. To learn the trade, you'll need a high school diploma or GED certificate. Many construction equipment operators complete a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship program, while others gain skills in the military or on the job.
The BLS predicted this would be a high growth field from 2010-2020, with a 23% increase in employment. The median salary was about $42,000 in May 2011, the BLS reported.
If the creative side of operating the oven appeals to you, you should examine the possibility of becoming a baker, creating cakes, pastries and breads in a small shop, a supermarket or a large commercial bakery. You don't need a high school diploma to become a baker; on-the-job training will generally suffice, although some bakers do complete programs at culinary or technical schools. There won't be many new job opportunities, though, with the BLS predicting two percent job growth from 2010-2020. The median annual salary for a baker was about $23,000 in May 2011, the BLS said.