Share this page

Select an icon:

Job Photographs

  • A factory floor, full of large machines.

    Engineering machine operators work in small workshops and large factories. They operate machines that produce engineering parts. The work is repetitive.

  • A man is standing next to a large engine.  He is making adjustments to it.

    Changing the machine settings.

  • A man is standing next to a large machine.  He is making adjustments to it.

    Once the machine is set up and the raw materials are in place, the machine can be switched on.

  • A man is standing next to the control panel of a large machine.  He is pressing a button on the panel.

    While the machine is running, the operator monitors the control panel.

  • A man is measuring the size of a metal cylinder, with a blue measuring device.

    The operator checks the measurements to set up the machine.

  • Machine Operator

Machine Operator


As a Machine Operator, you will use machines to make parts for the engineering and manufacturing industry.

Also known as

  • Machine Operator, Engineering
  • Operator, Machine Engineering

Video: - Nicola: Engineering Machine Operator

Work Activities

As a Machine Operator, you will use machines to make parts for the engineering and manufacturing industry.

For example, you might use lathes, borers, drills, grinding or milling machines, to produce parts of a car or airplane engine.

Or you might be responsible for using Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machines. These are machines that have been programmed to perform a particular task.

As a CNC Machine Operator, you will be setting and operating the machines using specially written and downloaded programmes, together with specially selected tools.

Examples of CNC machines include:

  • mills
  • lathes
  • plasma cutters
  • water jet cutters
  • injection-moulding machines

Your work may involve:

  • keeping the machine supplied with raw material
  • watching the controls while it's running
  • carrying out maintenance on the machine, where possible
  • monitoring the quality of the final product
  • maintaining a clean, safe working environment
  • understanding and following basic engineering diagrams
  • downloading specially written programmes to operate CNC machines

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Machine Operator, you need:

  • to be careful and methodical
  • to be good with your hands
  • the ability to follow written and spoken instructions
  • basic number skills to make accurate measurements
  • to be able to understand and follow basic engineering diagrams and drawings

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £17,500 - £19,000
  • With experience: £20,500 - £24,000
  • Senior Machine Operators earn £25,500 - £30,500

Hours of work

You will usually work 39-40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Shift work, evening, night and weekend work may be required.

Where could I work?

Employers are small and large manufacturing industries throughout the UK.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, trade industry publications, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Find a Job website.

Vacancies can also be found through specialist engineering recruitment agencies and internet job boards.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

There is not a set route into this career. However, if you have at least 2 GCSEs in maths and English graded 9 - 4 (A*- C), this would be really useful.


You might be able to work towards gaining a work-based qualification, such as a:

  • Vocational Competency Qualification (VCQ)
  • Vocationally Related Qualification (VRQ)
  • National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)

These can form part of an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.

You will learn the skills and get the experience you need to become a skilled Machine Operator.


As a Machine Operator, you might be able to progress to a specialist posts or to team leader/supervisor positions after further training and experience.

Work Experience

Previous experience gained in industrial production work would be really useful for this career.


To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


Those with skills gained in industrial production work have an advantage.


  • 6% of people in this career are self-employed.
  • 4% work part-time.

Further Information

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400



Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 9178000




Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies

Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT

Tel: 0845 6439001



The Engineer

Engineering technology news



Tomorrow's Engineers

Publisher: EngineeringUK and Royal Academy of Engineering



National Skills Academy for Food & Drink

Sector Skills Council for the food and drinks industry



Tasty Careers

Food and drink careers



Construction Industry Training Board (CITB)

Address: Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP

Tel: 01923 260000



Engineer Jobs

Publisher: Venture Marketing Group



Scottish Engineering

Scottish enquiries

Address: 105 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1QL

Tel: 0141 2213181



Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844


Croeso i Gyrfa Cymru

Dewiswch iaith


Welcome to Careers Wales

Please select your language