Canning and Preserving Industry Workers


Employment Prospects


There are 395,330 packaging and filling machine operators and tenders, including canning and preserving workers, employed in the United States. Canning and preserving work is available in a variety of manufacturing plants. The types of products to be canned or preserved depend in part on what grows, grazes, or swims in a particular area. Coastal areas may have fish-processing plants with Alaska famous for its salmon canneries; while, the Midwest has more meat packaging and processing plants. Farm regions may have plants that process products grown nearby. However, because of refrigeration and other technology, factors such as shipping routes and access to workers may determine where plants are located. Manufacturers may be small companies or multinational organizations.

Starting Out

Applying to canneries, freezing plants, and other food-processing plants is the most direct method of finding work in this area. Employers may advertise openings on their Web sites, in employment Web sites and newspaper want ads, or with the state employment service. Those interested in processing fish and seafood may find year-round work in canneries and processing ships in Alaska or follow the fishing seasons along the West and East Coasts.

Employment opportunities for food processing operators, including food batchmakers, will vary depending on the industry and type of food. Occupations with higher-than-average turnover may provide good opportunities even during periods of slow employment growth. Job prospects should be best in rural areas or near small cities where large food processing facilities are located.

Advancement Prospects

Workers with a high school education start out as sorters or helpers or in similar unskilled positions. Advancement opportunities from these positions may be limited, depending on the specific food product, and the timing of the retirement of older workers. Apprenticeships may be available for workers interested in specific products like candy or cheese. With more experience, a food processing industry worker may advance to become, for example, a food batchmaker. In time, some workers can move into field contractor positions. For those interested in more advanced positions, such as food technologists and food scientists, a college degree in a related course of study is required.

Tips for Entry

Investigate apprenticeships in cheese making listed by the Department of Labor at

Consider relocating to the regions of the country that have the highest percentage of workers employed in batch foodmaking and the highest wages for that occupation, according to the the Department of Labor.

Learn everything you can about food from independent study and/or a course in home economics or other food production-related subjects before seeking an informational interview at a local food processing facility.

Seek an internship at a large food manufacturing or distribution center where you can observe one or more aspects of the operation.

Suggest that your school organize a field trip to a local food processing facility for interested students.