Sewing Machine Operator Job Facts

A sewing machine operator plays a very important role in the garment industry. These skilled professionals are responsible for putting together the clothes the rest of us wear every day. This article will take a closer look at the facts behind the sewing machine operator's job.

Definition and duties

A sewing machine operator uses a heavy duty industrial sewing machine to help assemble clothing. The machines used by these workers are much larger and more complex than the typical sewing machine we think of our moms and wives using. They are really industrial machines that take a lot of skill and dexterity to use. Some of the tasks that sewing machine operators perform are stitching clothing material together to make garments, reinforcing seams on clothes and adding zippers, buttons and other accessories to the product.

Working these sewing machines requires a lot of endurance, attention to detail and hand-eye coordination. The job can also be quite monotonous. Both speed and quality are taken into consideration when figuring wages.

Training and education

Being a sewing machine operator does not require much education, although having a high school diploma or G.E.D. is a definite advtange. Vocational school training in mechanical or shop-related functions is also good preparation for this job.

Training is "on the job". A new operator will be given simple tasks under close supervision and work their way up to more advanced functions. The initial training period will last several weeks before the trainee is given general floor duties as a full fledged sewing machine operator.

Working conditions

These vary depending on the size of the factory, but resemble most other industrial jobs. There is quite a bit of noise, dust and fumes. Operators often work in "teams" with a team leader and a supervisor

Most operators work a 40 hour week with possibilities for overtime. Work on nights, weekends and holidays is not unusual, but shifts will usually rotate to avoid working those hours all the time.


Almost all operators are paid for the amount of finished products they produce. The following statistics are based on averages and come from the Bureau of Labor StatisticsA beginning operator usually does not make much money but as experience is gained, wages improve. Wages range from a near minimum mark of $7.69 per hour to a top mark of $15.15 per hour in the top 10% of the industry. Experienced operators may also take on supervisory duties and this will help increase their earnings.

 A few textile companies pay their operators a salaried wage but this is not common.

Advancement and outlook

The employment outlook for sewing machine operators in the United States is poor. The textile and garment industries have been devastated by globalization and overseas outsourcing. Advancements in technology have also taken their toll. Demand for operators in general is expected to be low. Southern states such as Mississippi and Alabama employ the most sewing machine operators but also offer the lowest wages.

Career advancement is limited in this field. If an operator shows good skill with managing people, they can be given a supervisory position and this in turn can be a gateway to other employment.