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Machinist Careers

A machinist operates machines of all imaginable kinds and nature. Usually working in factories or manufacturing plants, they are responsible for handling production equipment, making sure that the products correspond with specifications and detailed quality standards.

Whether manual or automatic, if it is a machine, the machinist will know how to deal with it. Milling, grinding, lathing, boring, drilling, cutting, you name it. The type of material they work with varies as well: steel, aluminum, titanium, plastic, and the list goes on.

Machinists read blueprints and make calculations. They feed material to machines, monitor and control processes, select and maintain tools, regulate temperature, ensure lubrication, detect and troubleshoot malfunctions. Once they made sure the work accurately follows plans and blueprints, they produce massive amounts of the same item.

You can tell a good machinist by the dexterity of his or her hands. They are precise and detail-oriented people with excellent analytical skills, physical stamina, and ample knowledge of metals and other materials.

What Does a Machinist Do

Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

Duties

Machinists typically do the following:

  • Work from blueprints, sketches, or computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) files
  • Set up, operate, and disassemble manual, automatic, and computer-numeric-controlled (CNC) machine tools
  • Align, secure, and adjust cutting tools and workpieces
  • Monitor the feed and speed of machines
  • Turn, mill, drill, shape, and grind machine parts to specifications
  • Measure, examine, and test completed products for defects
  • Smooth the surfaces of parts or products
  • Present finished workpieces to customers and make modifications if needed

Tool and die makers typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints, sketches, specifications, or CAD and CAM files for making tools and dies
  • Compute and verify dimensions, sizes, shapes, and tolerances of workpieces
  • Set up, operate, and disassemble conventional, manual, and CNC machine tools
  • File, grind, and adjust parts so that they fit together properly
  • Test completed tools and dies to ensure that they meet specifications
  • Smooth and polish the surfaces of tools and dies

Machinists use machine tools, such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders, to produce precision metal parts. Many machinists must be able to use both manual and CNC machinery. CNC machines control the cutting tool speed and do all necessary cuts to create a part. The machinist determines the cutting path, the speed of the cut, and the feed rate by programming instructions into the CNC machine.

Although workers may produce large quantities of one part, precision machinists often produce small batches or one-of-a-kind items. The parts that machinists make range from simple steel bolts to titanium bone screws for orthopedic implants. Hydraulic parts, antilock brakes, and automobile pistons are other widely known products that machinists make.

Some machinists repair or make new parts for existing machinery. After an industrial machinery mechanic discovers a broken part in a machine, a machinist remanufactures the part. The machinist refers to blueprints and performs the same machining operations that were used to create the original part in order to create the replacement.

Because the technology of machining is changing rapidly, workers must learn to operate a wide range of machines. Some newer manufacturing processes use lasers, water jets, and electrified wires to cut the workpiece. Although some of the computer controls are similar to those of other machine tools, machinists must understand the unique capabilities and features of different machines. As engineers create new types of machine tools, machinists must learn new machining properties and techniques.

Toolmakers craft precision tools that are used to cut, shape, and form metal and other materials. They also produce jigs and fixtures—devices that hold metal while it is bored, stamped, or drilled—and gauges and other measuring devices.

Die makers construct metal forms, called dies, that are used to shape metal in stamping and forging operations. They also make metal molds for die casting and for molding plastics, ceramics, and composite materials.

Many tool and die makers use CAD to develop products and parts. Designs are entered into computer programs that produce blueprints for the required tools and dies. Computer-numeric control programmers, found in the metal and plastic machine workers profile, convert CAD designs into CAM programs that contain instructions for a sequence of cutting tool operations. Once these programs are developed, CNC machines follow the set of instructions contained in the program to produce the part. Machinists normally operate CNC machines, but tool and die makers often are trained to both operate CNC machines and write CNC programs and thus may do either task.

How To Become a Machinist

There are many different ways to become a machinist or tool and die maker. Machinists train in apprenticeship programs, vocational schools, or community or technical colleges, or on the job. To become a fully trained tool and die maker takes several years of technical instruction and on-the-job training. Good math and problem-solving skills, in addition to familiarity with computer software, are important. A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary.

Education

Machinists and tool and die makers must have a high school diploma or equivalent. In high school, students should take math courses, especially trigonometry and geometry. They also should take courses in blueprint reading, metalworking, and drafting, if available.

Some advanced positions, such as those in the aircraft manufacturing industry, require the use of advanced applied calculus and physics. The increasing use of computer-controlled machinery requires machinists and tool and die makers to have experience using computers before entering a training program.

Some community colleges and technical schools have 2-year programs that train students to become machinists or tool and die makers. These programs usually teach design and blueprint reading, how to use a variety of welding and cutting tools, and the programming and function of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines.

Training

There are multiple ways for workers to gain competency in the job as a tool or die maker. One common way is through long-term on-the-job training, which lasts 1 year or longer.

Apprenticeship programs, typically sponsored by a manufacturer, provide another way to become a machinist or tool and die maker, but they are often hard to get into. Apprentices usually have a high school diploma or equivalent, and most have taken algebra and trigonometry classes.

Apprenticeship programs often consist of paid shop training and related technical instruction lasting several years. The technical instruction typically is provided in cooperation with local community colleges and vocational–technical schools.

Apprentices usually work 40 hours per week and receive technical instruction during evenings. Trainees often begin as machine operators and gradually take on more difficult assignments. Machinists and tool and die makers must be experienced in using computers to work with CAD/CAM technology, CNC machine tools, and computerized measuring machines. Some machinists become tool and die makers.

A number of machinists and tool and die makers receive their technical training from community and technical colleges. Employees may learn this way while being employed by a manufacturer that supports the employee’s training goals and provides needed on-the-job training as well.

Even after completing a formal training program, tool and die makers still need years of experience to become highly skilled.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

To boost the skill level of machinists and tool and die makers and to create a more uniform standard of competency, a number of training facilities and colleges offer certification programs. The Skills Certification System, for example, is an industry-driven program that aims to align education pathways with career pathways. In addition, journey-level certification is available from state apprenticeship boards after completing an apprenticeship.

Completing a recognized certification program provides machinists and tool and die makers with better job opportunities and helps employers judge the abilities of new hires.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Machinists and tool and die makers must understand highly technical blueprints, models, and specifications so that they can craft precision tools and metal parts. 

Manual dexterity. The work of machinists and tool and die makers must be highly accurate. For example, machining parts may demand accuracy to within .0001 of an inch, a level of accuracy that requires workers’ concentration and dexterity.

Math skills and computer application experience. Workers must have good math skills and be experienced using computers to work with CAD/CAM technology, CNC machine tools, and computerized measuring machines.

Mechanical skills. Machinists and tool and die makers must operate milling machines, lathes, grinders, laser and water cutting machines, wire electrical discharge machines, and other machine tools. They may also use a variety of hand tools and power tools.

Physical stamina. The ability to endure extended periods of standing and performing repetitious movements is important for machinists and tool and die makers.

Technical skills. Machinists and tool and die makers must understand computerized measuring machines and metalworking processes, such as stock removal, chip control, and heat treating and plating.

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Average Salary
$41,781
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
1%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
4,372
Job Openings

Machinist Career Paths

Top Careers Before Machinist

Top Careers After Machinist

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Average Salary for a Machinist

Machinists in America make an average salary of $41,781 per year or $20 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $53,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $32,000 per year.
Average Salary
$41,781

Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
Woburn, MA
Salary Range43k - 62k$52k$52,491
Newport News, VA
Salary Range41k - 59k$49k$49,333
New Haven, CT
Salary Range40k - 58k$49k$48,987
Portland, OR
Salary Range38k - 56k$47k$46,914
Clifton, NJ
Salary Range38k - 56k$47k$46,528
Fort Collins, CO
Salary Range35k - 51k$43k$43,016
$29k
$62k

Recently Added Salaries

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Employ-Temps
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01/31/2021
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$52,17501/31/2021
$52,175
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Aerotek
Aerotek
01/29/2021
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$41,74001/29/2021
$41,740
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Tradesmen International, Inc.
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01/29/2021
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$37,56601/29/2021
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Aerotek
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01/29/2021
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$35,47901/29/2021
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2Nd or 3Rd Shift Machinist
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Caterpillar, Inc.
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01/28/2021
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$41,99001/28/2021
$41,990
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Machinist Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Machinist. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Machinist Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Machinist resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

Machinist Demographics

Gender

male

88.6 %

female

8.5 %

unknown

2.9 %

Ethnicity

White

75.8 %

Hispanic or Latino

11.8 %

Asian

5.4 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

65.2 %

German

6.1 %

French

5.6 %
See More Demographics

Machinist Education

Degrees

High School Diploma

43.4 %

Associate

21.0 %

Certificate

13.4 %
See More Education Info
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Machinist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 20.4% of machinists listed cnc on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and manual dexterity are important as well.

  • CNC, 20.4%
  • Machine Parts, 16.4%
  • Shop Equipment, 9.7%
  • Micrometers, 8.5%
  • Hand Tools, 5.6%
  • Other Skills, 39.4%
  • See All Machinist Skills

Best States For a Machinist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a machinist. The best states for people in this position are Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Washington, and Maryland. Machinists make the most in Massachusetts with an average salary of $52,460. Whereas in New Hampshire and Washington, they would average $49,783 and $49,452, respectively. While machinists would only make an average of $49,409 in Maryland, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. New Hampshire

Total Machinist Jobs:
85
Highest 10% Earn:
$69,000
Location Quotient:
3.25
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Maine

Total Machinist Jobs:
29
Highest 10% Earn:
$66,000
Location Quotient:
1.46
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Connecticut

Total Machinist Jobs:
110
Highest 10% Earn:
$69,000
Location Quotient:
2.22
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Machinist Employers

1. Caterpillar
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$42,844
Machinists Hired: 
233+
2. United States Navy
3.8
Avg. Salary: 
$47,830
Machinists Hired: 
150+
3. General Electric
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$45,438
Machinists Hired: 
135+
4. National Oilwell Varco
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$40,802
Machinists Hired: 
121+
5. Aerotek
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$35,935
Machinists Hired: 
106+
6. Eaton Corporation
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$44,160
Machinists Hired: 
103+

Machinist Videos