Occupation: Rolling machine setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

Rolling Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic: Overview and Training

Rolling machine setters, operators, and tenders, metal, and plastic bring an essential industry to life by converting flat sheets or molten plastic molds into a variety of shapes and sizes. These skilled technicians employ high levels of hand-eye coordination and mathematical acumen to operate machine controllers and develop and repair molds or tooling equipment.

Job Roles and Examples

The occupation includes three different roles: setters, operators, and tenders. Setters use mechanical or hydraulic devices to align and secure the mold parts or dies for proper metal or plastic shaping. Operators control the machine speed, feed depth, and other settings that affect the finished product. Metal rolling machine setters, operators, and tenders may work with a wide range of metals, such as copper, aluminum, and steel, while their plastic counterparts, specialize in molding and shaping plastics like polyethylene, PVC, and ABS.

Some examples of the daily tasks include inspecting workpieces to ensure compliance with quality standards, adjusting machine settings according to the size and shape specifications of the product, and using various measuring tools such as micrometers and calipers. These professionals also know how to repair and maintain metal and plastic machinery to ensure reliable and safe operation.

Education and Training

While there is no mandatory formal education required for rolling machine setters, operators, and tenders, they must undergo extensive on-the-job training. This training usually takes the form of apprenticeships, which may last one to four years. During the apprenticeship, trainees learn the theory, math computation, and practical skills required to become adept metal and plastic workers.

In addition to apprenticeships, some community colleges and technical schools offer associate degree programs relevant to these professions. The courses in these programs cover areas such as blueprint reading and interpretation, machine operation and maintenance, and fabrication skills.

Advancement and Opportunities

Rolling machine setters, operators, and tenders can advance to supervisory or managerial positions, especially if they have gained extensive experience in the industry. Some may choose to specialize in a specific metal or type of plastic, such as polycarbonate or polypropylene.

Some employers may offer additional training to employees who exhibit a desire and aptitude for advancement. Continuing education opportunities include trade conferences, technical schools, and industry training courses.

Getting Into the Field

To enter the field, candidates must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. They should also possess excellent math, mechanical, and problem-solving skills, as well as an ability to work well with teams and a focus on safety and compliance.

Candidates should also be willing to work in a wide range of work environments, including factories and plants, which may feature noisy, hot, or dirty conditions. Once hired, new employees will receive training on the job, with more experienced colleagues or supervisors overseeing their work until they are competent and efficient at the required tasks.


Rolling machine setters, operators, and tenders are crucial players in the metal and plastic industry. They bring complex manufacturing processes to life and employ advanced skills to shape and twist raw materials into usable products. With the right education and training, anyone interested in the field can become a skilled and sought-after employee.

Occupation: Rolling machine setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

Salary Data

Job Level Union Membership Employment Status Average Salary Lowest Salary (on average) Highest Salary (on average)
All workers Union All levels $49,920.00 N/A N/A
All workers Nonunion All levels $46,342.40 $45,094.40 N/A
All workers N/A Not able to be leveled $55,182.40 N/A $47,132.80
All workers N/A Entry $40,872.00 N/A N/A
All workers N/A Experienced $48,484.80 N/A N/A
Level 05 Union/Nonunion All levels $45,406.40 N/A N/A
Not able to be leveled Union/Nonunion All levels $55,348.80 $47,361.60 N/A
Entry N/A Full-time $41,516.80 N/A N/A
Experienced N/A Full-time $48,464.00 N/A N/A
All levels N/A Full-time $48,547.20 $45,448.00 N/A
All levels N/A Time-based pay $48,256.00 $44,948.80 N/A


The following are the geographies where this job function is best paid and least paid on average:

  • Best Paid: San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Division ($61,070.00 average annual salary)
  • Least Paid: Topeka, KS ($33,200.00 average annual salary)