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What Does an Extruder Operator Do?

An extruder operator oversees the machinery that shapes materials like plastic, metal, or ceramics into specific forms. They monitor equipment, adjust settings, and troubleshoot issues, ensuring a smooth production process. Curious about the skills needed to excel in this role?
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

An extruder operator is a person who operates and maintains machinery used in the extrusion process. Extrusion involves drawing materials such as metals and thermoplastics to create specific shapes and products, such as wires, tubes, hoses, and bars. No set level of education is necessary to become an extruder operator, but many employers will require that the operator complete at least a high school education. Some on-the-job training is also necessary, and an apprenticeship may be required by some employers before someone can become an operator of extrusion equipment.

The sophistication of the machinery run by an extruder operator has risen over the years, so it may be necessary to be retrained over the course of one's career. The extruder operator must stay up-to-date on current and developing technologies and techniques, and he or she must also have a solid understanding of safety techniques and practices. Many machines are computer-operated, which means the extruder operator will need to have at least basic computer skills; other machines do not use computers and are operated with hand controls. The operator should have a solid understanding of how to use either type of machine.

An extruder operator must wear safety equipment such as gloves and hard hats.
An extruder operator must wear safety equipment such as gloves and hard hats.

It is likely that the extruder operator will spend a significant portion of his or her day standing or otherwise moving. Good physical conditioning will therefore be necessary, though extreme physical shape is not necessarily a requirement. Extrusion machines are usually in large factories, which means a fair amount of noise will be common; the operator may need to wear safety equipment such as ear plugs, eye protection, gloves, steel-toe boots, and possibly even a hard hat. All safety procedures need to be adhered to at all times to ensure the safety of the operator and others in the workspace.

The extruder operator will also often be responsible for the maintenance and repair of extrusion machines. Specific training is usually necessary before the operator will be qualified to do so. Regular maintenance of the machine can prevent breakdowns, so the operator will be responsible for such maintenance on a daily basis. If the machine breaks down, the operator will need to be able to make an accurate diagnosis and develop a plan for fixing the problem. In some settings, the operator may not be responsible for such diagnosis or repair, as machine maintenance workers will do such repairs instead, but the operator will still need to be able to recognize when a problem is occurring.

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Discussion Comments


@Laotionne - I looked it up, and the yearly median income for an extruder operator is in the mid 30s. Of course, the actual pay depends on where you work, who you work for and your exact position, but that is a general guideline. That's not bad for a position that doesn't require a post high school education.

I like that you can go right to work and then get the training you need as you work and earn money. Not everyone is cut out for going to school and attending classes Also, if you do a good job and move up in position then you can expect your salary to go up as well, so $35,000 a year is not necessarily the end of the line.


@Laotionne - One of the guys who worked for me, quit and took a job as an extruder operator. I spoke with him the other day, and he told me that the company that hired him started his salary at 25 thousand dollars a year, which is a little more than he was making working for me. He expects to be making a good bit more than this once he learns what he needs to know and he gets more duties, and he doesn't need as much supervision.

He seems to be really excited about the job. Though he does say that there is a lot of physical work and there is a lot to learn.


I am looking to get out of my current job and find a career where I can earn a decent living, advance and one day retire with benefits. A friend told me that I should look into getting a job as an extruder operator. This is something I had not even heard of before. The job sounds like a good bit of responsibility, but I'm sure it wouldn't seem so complicated after a good bit of training. The job also sounds like the pay might be decent.

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    • An extruder operator must wear safety equipment such as gloves and hard hats.
      By: Aleksandar Kosev
      An extruder operator must wear safety equipment such as gloves and hard hats.