What is a certified production technician, or CPT? Certified production technicians work in manufacturing are may be involved in assembly, testing, or both.
In this article, we’ll dive in and look at what certified production technicians do, how to become one, what the CPT/MSSC certifications are, and the role of production associates.
If you’re still exploring options, we try to give fair evaluations of careers you can jump into without a college education, ranging from becoming a florist to working in the high-stress, high-reward field of property management.
What is a Certified Production Technician (CPT) in Manufacturing?
A certified production technician works in a manufacturing environment to assemble or test a product. The certification as a CPT comes from the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) and shows that the production technician has met certain standards and qualifications.
The certification from the MSSC looks good on your resume (especially as you move up in manufacturing operations), and primarily covers the following four areas:
- Safety (including skills in training others)
- Manufacturing processes and production
- Quality practices and measurement
- Maintenance awareness
In less formal terms, certified production technicians are hired to clock in to a factory environment and execute, with skills in safety, production, quality assurance, and equipment maintenance.
What Does a Production Technician Do?
A production technician assembles and/or tests the products in their company’s manufacturing environment (the floor).
Even though the necessary skills and experience are often transferable, specific roles can look different at different factories.
This is especially true across industries, as there are pharmaceutical production technicians, glassware technicians, oil and gas production technicians.
To use pharmaceutical production technicians as one example, you can expect to follow a very specific set of batch records (detailed instructions) used to manufacture the pharmaceuticals.
Working in a manufacturing environment at Tesla, Intel, or any other industry obviously brings a different manufacturing process. However, certified production technicians will still be involved in executing the core manufacturing processes of their factory.
How Much Do Production Technicians Earn (Salary)?
As you might expect, production technician wages vary significantly across industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes dozens of careers
The BLS gives several helpful charts, starting with those industries that have the highest levels of employment:
|Industry||Employment||Percent of industry employment||Hourly mean wage||Annual mean wage|
|Employment Services||572,290||16.41||$ 15.10||$ 31,410|
|Machinery Manufacturing (3331, 3332, 3334, and 3339 only)||352,070||50.24||$ 21.88||$ 45,510|
|Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturing||344,840||64.10||$ 20.47||$ 42,580|
|Plastics Product Manufacturing||342,240||58.57||$ 18.77||$ 39,040|
|Animal Slaughtering and Processing||304,460||58.50||$ 16.64||$ 34,600|
What you may find more interesting are the highest-paying industries for production careers (including certified production technicians):
|Industry||Employment (1)||Percent of industry employment||Hourly mean wage||Annual mean wage (2)|
|Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution||43,880||11.66||$ 45.56||$ 94,770|
|Scheduled Air Transportation||420||0.11||$ 44.60||$ 92,780|
|Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil||3,340||29.16||$ 43.46||$ 90,400|
|Natural Gas Distribution||12,760||11.62||$ 42.73||$ 88,870|
|Oil and Gas Extraction||6,290||5.91||$ 41.21||$ 85,710|
The BLS site has more good info on industries, careers, and wages for certified production technicians. Suffice it to say that there is a big range of salaries depending on your industry and specific role.
How Do I Become a Production Technician?
The first step in becoming a production technician is to decide what industry you are targeting. For example, those with a biotech background will be at an advantage in applying for pharmaceutical production technician roles.
If you’re not sure, you might take a look through the higher-paying industries highlighted by the BLS. For example, roles involving gas and electric power paying a lot.
Manufacturing work is also very localized. If there are big, well-regarded employers near you, this could be a good way to decide how to narrow your focus.
In terms of education, engineering and technical courses are the most applicable for most production technician roles.
Narrowing down even further, earning CPT certification through the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) is perhaps the most useful and widely-known credential.
In fact, this is where the “certified” part of the job title comes from when we refer to certified production technicians.
What is CPT Certification in Manufacturing?
So what is the CPT certification in manufacturing? First, here’s a brief overview of the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC):
According to their website, the non-profit MSSC “is an industry-led, training, assessment and certification system focused on the core skills and knowledge needed by the nation’s front-line production and material handling technicians.
“The nationwide MSSC System, based upon industry-defined and federally-endorsed standards, offers both entry-level and incumbent workers the opportunity to demonstrate that they have acquired the skills increasingly needed in the technology-intensive jobs of the 21st century.”
The MSSC offers four certification programs:
- Certified Production Technician (CPT) ® 4.0 & CPT+ Skill Boss
- Certified Logistics Technician (CLT) ®
- Certified Forklift Technician (CFT)®
- Certified Technician-Supply Chain Automation (CT-SCA) & Skill Boss-Logistics™
While MSSC manages the certifications, you can earn a MSSC certification at many high schools, technical colleges, community colleges, and other programs.
If you’re aiming for a career as a certified production technician, this is an important step that helps set your resume apart. It also gives you applicable knowledge and skills for your career.
What is MSSC Certified Production Technician?
An MSSC Certified Production Technician is one who has successfully completed all five MSSC certificate assessments, covering the following topics:
- Quality Practices & Measurement
- Manufacturing Processes & Production
- Maintenance Awareness
- Green Production (Not part of Full CPT Certification)
Candidates can still earn a full production technician (CPT 4.0) certification without completing the final certificate in green production.
What is the Role of Production Associate?
Production associates are often the lowest role on the manufacturing floor totem pole. Production associates assist more senior employees in tasks such as overseeing material types, overseeing material quantities, or assisting in quality control and inspections.
While this isn’t a glorious position, production associate can be a great foot in the door. Production associates can work their way up to becoming production technicians, and further up the operations chain as they gain career experience.
What Jobs Can a Certified Production Technician Grow Into?
Office jobs often have a pretty linear progression, where you start as an assistant, coordinator, or specialist, and then work your way up the management ladder.
The career path for certified production associates is more hazy, but there are definitely opportunities out there. We’ll draw inspiration from this Reddit post to give you some options and ideas:
Redditor u/motrjay became a senior technician after two years on the floor, “then crossed over into Operations Support as a Senior Systems Analyst, progressed in that and I am now a specialist within a number of GMP IS system areas where I work with implementation/design for a number of sites internationally within the company.”
There are benefits to this hands-on experience, as u/motrjay writes, “If you can stick it for a year or two and the company has defined career progression opportunities, working on the front lines can bring with it a voice that many can’t argue with as the hands on experience can trump any perceived modeling or projected impacts.”
Another user, u/mrFu0 writes, “From my experience, most manufacturing techs stay in manufacturing. If they’re in it for the long haul they typically go to management and operation roles.”
There’s disagreement on whether certified production technicians can jump over into engineering roles (even with education). Some companies have a stigma and firm delineation between techs and engineers, while others value the tech experience more highly.