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Food Processing Occupations - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Bakers have the option of obtaining certification through the Retail Bakers of America. While not mandatory, obtaining certification assures the public and prospective employers that the baker has sufficient skills and knowledge to work at a retail baking establishment.

The Retail Bakers of America offers certification for four levels of competence with a focus on several broad areas, including baking sanitation, management, retail sales, and staff training. Those who wish to become certified must satisfy a combination of education and experience requirements prior to taking an examination. The education and experience requirements vary by the level of certification desired. For example, a certified journey baker requires no formal education but a minimum of 1 year of work experience. By contrast, a certified master baker must have earned the certified baker designation, and must have completed 30 hours of sanitation coursework approved by a culinary school or government agency, 30 hours of professional development courses or workshops, and a minimum of 8 years of commercial or retail baking experience.

Food processing workers in retail or wholesale establishments may progress to supervisory jobs, such as department managers or team leaders in supermarkets. A few of these workers may become buyers for wholesalers or supermarket chains. Some food processing workers go on to open their own markets or bakeries. In processing plants, workers may advance to supervisory positions or become team leaders.

Employment
Food processing workers held 706,700 jobs in 2008. Fifty-eight percent of all food processing workers were employed in food manufacturing, including animal slaughtering and processing plants, the largest industry component. Food and beverage stores, which include grocery and specialty food stores, employed another 27 percent. Butchers, meat cutters, and bakers are employed in stores in almost every city and town in the Nation, while most other food processing jobs are concentrated in communities with food processing plants.

Job Outlook
Increased demand for processed food and meat by a growing population will increase the need for food processing workers; however, processing plant and distribution efficiencies will offset growing output and cause employment of these workers to grow more slowly than the average between 2008 and 2018. In addition, job opportunities should be good as the need to replace experienced workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force should generate additional job openings.

Job Growth
Overall employment in the food processing occupations is projected to increase 4 percent during the 200818 decade, more slowly than the average for all occupations. As the Nation's population grows, the demand for meat, poultry, and seafood, baked goods, and other processed foods will increase requiring additional people to work in these occupations. Additionally, consumers are increasingly seeking out more convenient methods of preparing meals, which is driving up demand for convenient ready-to-eat or heat foods. These foods are increasingly being prepared at the factory, as well as the local grocery store for carry-out, thus increasing the need for workers in both locations. However, increasing productivity at meat and food processing plants should offset some of the need for more workers at these plants.

Slaughterers and meat packers, meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers, and butchers and meat cutters are all expected to experience some growth in employment. For these occupations in particular, faster growth will take place at the processing plant and away from retail stores, as meats are increasingly processed at processing plants or centralized facilities for delivery to stores. This shift from retail stores to food processing plants will cause demand for lesser skilled workers, who are employed primarily in meat packing manufacturing plants, to be greater than for butchers and meat cutters.

Many of these same reasons apply to employment in food processing jobs; however, these jobs are more automated than the meat processing occupations, thus productivity improvements will likely impact these workers more. Food batchmakers will experience average employment growth largely due to improved packaging and distribution operations; employment of food cooking machine operators and tenders will grow more slowly than the average; and food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders will show little or no growth.

A growing number of stores that sell cookies, bread, and other specialty baked goods, will spur demand for bakers, particularly in grocery and other specialty stores, but increased use of off-site contract bakers with larger baking capacities will offset increased demand and cause employment to show little or no change.

Jobs should be available in all food processing specialties because of the need to replace experienced workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Highly skilled bakers should be especially in demand because of growing demand for specialty products and the time it takes to learn to make these products.

Earnings
Earnings vary by industry, skill, geographic region, and educational level. Median annual wages of bakers were $23,290 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $18,760 and $29,720. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,420, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $37,250.

Median annual wages of butchers and meat cutters were $28,290 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $21,700 and $36,670. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $45,060. Butchers and meat cutters employed at the retail level typically earned more than those in manufacturing.

Meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers typically earn less than butchers and meat cutters. In May 2008, median annual wages for these lower skilled workers were $21,810. The middle 50 percent earned between $18,520 and $25,130. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,640, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $30,070.

In May 2008, median annual wages for slaughterers and meat packers were $23,030. The middle 50 percent earned between $19,700 and $26,450. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,130, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $30,740. Median annual wages in animal slaughtering and processing, the industry employing the largest number of slaughterers and meat packers, were $23,040 in May 2008.

In May 2008, median annual wages for food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders were $26,640. The middle 50 percent earned between $21,100 and $35,470. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,610, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $42,370. Median annual wages in bakeries and tortilla manufacturing, the industry employing the largest number of food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders, were $29,700 in May 2008.

Median annual earnings of food batchmakers were $24,170 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $18,820 and $31,980. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $40,210.

Median annual wages for food cooking machine operators and tenders were $22,880 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $18,650 and $28,680. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,370, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $34,330.

Food processing workers generally received typical benefits, including pension plans for union members or those employed by grocery stores. However, poultry workers rarely earned substantial benefits. In 2008, 16 percent of all food processing workers were union members or were covered by a union contract. Many food processing workers are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

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Academic Programs of Interest

Baker
A Bakers Program will teach a student how to prepare dough, batter and other ingredients and then produce items such as bread, buns, cakes, pies, cookies and other baked goods. Most Baking Programs take 3 years to complete. After completion of the baking program, most students will be well versed ...more
Cooking
A Cooking Program will generally teach a student how to prepare and present a variety of different food items. The program will also teach proper food safety standards. Most programs will also teach students how to do proper cost analysis of the dishes they are preparing and help them understand complimentary ...more
Culinary Arts
The restaurant industry is one of the most dynamic in North America today. The service sector is the most rapidly growing part of the North American economy. Career options for Culinary Arts graduates range from employee to owner and from manager to team leader. Culinary professionals need to have skills ...more