In Manufacturing careers, you must pay attention to both the big picture and the smallest details.

Manufacturing means creating a finished product from raw materials. It turns ideas into reality. Careers in manufacturing require the ability to picture in your mind what has to happen, and the practical skills to get projects completed as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The Importance of Technology

Robotics and computerization are boosting productivity and changing what workers in manufacturing careers do and how they prepare for their jobs. Manufacturing is essential for a healthy economy. It is not simply a matter of production; Manufacturing is about jobs that require innovation and higher levels of education. Innovation is key to being competitive in the global economy.

Creative Skills

Michael Bryant, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, says, “There’s a lot of creativity in this field, because you’re literally creating the things that are going to be used all over the world. Your technical skills are like a bag of tools that you have.”

Within that general profile, manufacturing offers many different opportunities for different employees. A single product, for example, has designers, engineers, factory workers, safety technicians, sales people, public relations experts, and managers associated with it in one way or another.

Job Prospects

Being successful in today’s job market requires the ability to innovate and stay current with ever changing market conditions. Knowing the needs of companies and having the right expertise is essential. Companies must comply with government regulations. As a result, industrial safety is a high demand field. Other high demand fields include advanced manufacturing, engineering technicians, and machine operators. Salaries range from $20,000-$30,000 for entry level positions. Salaries are even higher in management positions for these areas and can range from $40,000-$50,000. Salaries will increase as workers become more experienced.

Define Who You Are

Because manufacturing encompasses so much, from the world’s largest pharmaceutical and energy companies right down to the local print shop or specialty metalworking shop, workers can dramatically affect the course of their careers and working conditions by picking one industry rather than another.

“It’s a profession,” Bryant notes, “not just a job. With a profession, the kind of work you do defines who you are.”

For example, Bryant says, the pace of work in manufacturing depends on which industry you enter. “At Apple, they have developed the iPhone, which has the potential to change the entire phone industry, so engineers at other phone companies are scrambling to keep up with a changing market,” he says. “But say you’re working for a company that makes oil drilling equipment. The pace isn’t such that you have to get this product out in two weeks, but you’ve still got to produce.”

Exciting Employment

Manufacturing is as important to the nation’s future as it could be to yours if you pick the cluster. Although the number of manufacturing jobs in Texas is growing, nationally, manufacturing represents a declining share of the gross domestic product. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), however, reports that every dollar of manufactured goods produced generates $1.43 of additional economic activity. Even more important, says NAM, manufacturers are responsible for more than 70 percent of all business research and development, which ultimately benefits the entire economy.

New product research is where the future of the economy lies, and NAM argues that it also makes for exciting employment if you choose a career in manufacturing. “There’s a sense that you’re making something for America,” says Kat Snodgrass, NAM’s associate director of media relations. “It’s hands-on, cutting edge, and rewarding.”


Is Manufacturing the right cluster for you?

Take this quiz to find out. Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions.

1. Do you like working with your hands?
2. Do you like to take things apart and see how they work?
3. Do you like reading computer and technical magazines?
4. Do you get good grades in English, math, and science?
5. Are you good at putting things together by following instructions?
6. Do you like courses in school that involve hands-on projects?
7. Have you held leadership positions in sports, school, or service organizations?
8. Do you like group projects and working with others to reach a common goal?
9. Are you interested in using science to solve problems?
10. Do you know how to use tools?