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Manual Machinist Overview

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Working As A Manual Machinist

  • Getting Information
  • Controlling Machines and Processes
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Handling and Moving Objects
  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • $41,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Manual 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.


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.

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How To Become A Manual 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.


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.


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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Manual Machinist Career Paths

Manual Machinist
Computer Numerical Controller Machinist Numerical Control Programmer Manufacturing Engineer
Plant Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Computer Numerical Controller Machinist Manufacturing Engineer Plant Manager
Manufacturing Director
14 Yearsyrs
Computer Numerical Controller Machinist Manufacturing Engineer Project Engineer
Quality Control Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Numerical Control Operator Machinist Tool And Die Maker
Mold Maker
6 Yearsyrs
Numerical Control Operator Numerical Control Programmer
Computer Numerical Controller Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Numerical Control Operator Technician Shop Foreman
Shop Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Tool And Die Maker Numerical Control Programmer
Machine Shop Supervisor
8 Yearsyrs
Tool And Die Maker Tool Maker
Die Maker
5 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Technician Technician Shop Foreman
Shop Lead
5 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Technician Pipe Welder Lead Welder
Lead Fabricator
5 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Technician Foreman Lead Person
Lead Machinist
6 Yearsyrs
Tool Maker Mold Maker
Prototype Machinist
8 Yearsyrs
Tool Maker Tool Designer
NC Programmer
10 Yearsyrs
Shop Foreman Lead Welder Lead Fabricator
Fabrication Supervisor
6 Yearsyrs
Journeyman Machinist Machine Shop Supervisor
Machine Shop Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Technician Lead Person Lead Machinist
Machinist Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Quality Control Inspector Mechanical Inspector Senior Inspector
Quality Control Inspector Lead
6 Yearsyrs
Tool And Die Machinist Tool Technician Tool Engineer
Tool Specialist
7 Yearsyrs
Manual Lathe Machinist Machinist Journeyman Machinist
Senior Machinist
9 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Senior Machinist 6.6 years
Machinist Class B 5.6 years
Head Machinist 5.5 years
Lead Machinist 5.3 years
Machinist 5.0 years
Welder/Machinist 4.3 years
Manual Machinist 4.0 years
Lathe Machinist 3.8 years
Machinist Helper 2.1 years
Top Careers Before Manual Machinist
Machinist 27.0%
Welder 2.3%
Tool Maker 2.0%
Apprentice 1.7%
Supervisor 1.5%
Cashier 1.5%
Mold Maker 1.4%
Top Careers After Manual Machinist
Machinist 22.3%
Owner 2.4%
Welder 1.5%
Tool Maker 1.3%
Supervisor 1.2%

Do you work as a Manual Machinist?

Average Yearly Salary
Show Salaries
Min 10%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
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Median 50%
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Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Highest Paying City
Anchorage, AK
Highest Paying State
Avg Experience Level
4.5 years
How much does a Manual Machinist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Manual Machinist in the United States is $41,794 per year or $20 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $31,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $55,000.

The largest raises come from changing jobs.

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Top Skills for A Manual Machinist

  1. Part Numbers
  2. Drill Press
  3. CNC
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Maintain inventory of standard tooling and 175 part numbers and order blanks used for production of tooling.
  • Skilled in the operation and maintenance of all manual machinery such as mills, lathes, grinders and drill presses.
  • Set up various fixtures, vices, and molds, in the CNC mill as well as indicating when needed.
  • Set up and operation of Bridgeport mills, lathes and surface grinders to produce details for precision ball screw assemblies.
  • Worked in production department manufacturing machine parts for other machinery to blueprint specifications.


Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Manual Machinists

  1. Connecticut
  2. Wyoming
  3. Minnesota
  4. Indiana
  5. Arizona
  6. New Hampshire
  7. Rhode Island
  8. Washington
  9. Delaware
  10. Virginia
  • (68 jobs)
  • (10 jobs)
  • (124 jobs)
  • (59 jobs)
  • (54 jobs)
  • (35 jobs)
  • (7 jobs)
  • (70 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)
  • (93 jobs)

Manual Machinist Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 2,652 Manual 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.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Manual Machinist Resume

View Resume Examples

Manual Machinist Demographics










Hispanic or Latino


Black or African American





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Foreign Languages Spoken








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Manual Machinist Education


Houston Community College


Calhoun Community College


Greenville Technical College


South Louisiana Community College


Arizona State University


Casper College


University of Houston


Cuyahoga Community College


Springfield Technical Community College


Sinclair Community College


New Castle School of Trades


Blinn College


Kilgore College


Technology Center


Tidewater Community College


Universal Technical Institute


Central Piedmont Community College


Renton Technical College


Front Range Community College


North Dakota State College of Science

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Precision Metal Working


Industrial Technology


Agricultural Mechanization


Computer Science


Mechanical Engineering




General Studies


Drafting And Design


Automotive Technology




Computer Programming


Electrical Engineering


Manufacturing Engineering


Mechanical Engineering Technology




Liberal Arts


Criminal Justice


Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians




Fine Arts

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High School Diploma















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Manual Machinist Videos

Beginners Guide to Manual & CNC Machining!


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Updated May 18, 2020