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Business Machine Operator Job Description, Career as a Business Machine Operator, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Business machine operators run equipment such as duplicators and copiers that perform routine office tasks. An office that regularly produces a large volume of printed material may have its own copying department. Copying machine operators make copies of reports, charts, drawings, letters, and circulars. They may operate photocopy machines or small printing presses. They may have to enlarge or reduce the copy. They may have to collate pages of lengthy documents by hand, although some copiers collate automatically. The operators must renew the supply of paper and toner or ink in the machines. They must be able to fix minor breakdowns. In the case of major breakdowns, they must arrange for professional repair service. In some offices the operators must keep a log of each job. In others the information is recorded automatically.

Offices that send out mass mailings employ a number of mail preparing machine operators. These workers use various machines that collate, fold, and insert material into envelopes. They use other machines to seal, address, and bundle the envelopes by zip code. The operators sometimes maintain the mailing lists by making corrections, deletions, and additions. They make new address labels using computer software and printing equipment. Large offices of all kinds usually employ mail handling machine operators. They use machines that weigh, meter-stamp, and bag letters and packages.

Office machines now do many of the more complicated tasks previously done by office clerks. The machines are faster and more accurate. The result is that many clerks now use computers and business machines. However, these workers are not usually called business machine operators. They do other work besides operating a special machine. Their titles usually refer to the departments in which they work (for example, accounting assistant). Some large offices and government departments have workers with such titles as billing machine operator. These operators are not expected to do other work.

Education and Training Requirements

Employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates. High school business courses and good typing skills can help prospective workers get a job. An aptitude for mathematics is useful for jobs in which math-related machines are used. Basic computer skills may also be required, because many photocopiers, printing presses, and mail machines are hooked up to computer networks and controlled through computer terminals.

Business machine operators must be willing to learn how to operate, maintain, and repair increasingly complex machinery. (© Earl Dotter. Reproduced by permission.)

Business machines are becoming more complex, and many employers now prefer applicants with general training in machine operation and business practice. Courses are available at vocational/technical institutes and community colleges.

Most employers give on-the-job training even to experienced machine operators, because every manufacturer's machines work differently. The training period can range from a few days to a few weeks. In the case of very complex equipment, the trainee may work under an experienced operator for several months. Sometimes training is provided by the machine manufacturer, particularly when a machine is new to the office.

Getting the Job

School placement offices may be able to help a student find a position as a business machine operator. Jobs are also listed with state and private employment agencies, in the classified ads of local newspapers, and on the Internet. If candidates are interested in a government job, they should apply to take the necessary civil service test.

If there is a firm that an individual would particularly like to work for, he or she should contact its personnel office for an interview. Even if there are no job openings at the time of application, applicants may be considered for future openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Business machine operators can advance by mastering more complex machines. Some experienced operators train new employees or assume other supervisory positions. According to the 2002–12 employment predictions by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of business machine operators was expected to decline during this decade. Many new machines will be introduced. However, some will do the work of two or more existing machines, thus eliminating jobs.

Working Conditions

Offices are generally pleasant places to work. Because of the noise generated by some business machines, operators are sometimes isolated from other employees. They may have to spend a great deal of time on their feet, and the work tends to be repetitive. Operators usually work between thirty-five and forty hours per week. Some workers belong to labor organizations that are active in the industry in which they work.

Where to Go for More Information

Office and Professional Employees International Union
265 W. 14th St., 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
(800) 346-7348

Earnings and Benefits

Wages vary depending on experience, level of responsibility, and the size, type, and location of the company. In wage data released in the 2003 Occupational Employment Statistics survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that mail machine operators earned an annual median salary of $21,920 per year. Duplicating machine operators made a median salary of $22,940 per year. The benefits business machine operators receive depend entirely on the industry in which the operators work. Generally, however, they can expect paid vacations, holidays, and health insurance.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesBusiness