Should I Become A Machinist?
Tool and die machinists produce and repair metal forms, molds and tools. Some of their job duties include studying blueprints to compute workpiece dimensions, grinding and adjusting parts according to specifications, testing tools and inspecting for defects. Safety precautions must be taken when working around machine tools.
To get into this field, you need to have 4-5 years of apprenticeship training. Voluntary certification is available through industry organizations, colleges and state apprenticeship boards. The key skills that tool and die machinists need are math and analytical skills, ability to work with computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, project management programs and supply chain software; ability to use such tools as power grinders, die maker's squares, workshop presses, gauges and calipers. In May 2015, the median annual wage for tool and die makers was $50,290, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Steps to Becoming a Tool & Die Machinist
Now that we know the requirements, let's take a closer look at the steps to getting into this career.
Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma
Tool and die machinists typically have high school diplomas. While completing high school, prospective machinists might want to consider taking courses in trigonometry and algebra. Developing these mathematical skills could help students prepare for entrance into apprenticeship programs, which can be competitive.
Step 2: Complete a Training Program
Many tool and die machinists enter the workforce through apprenticeship programs. These programs, which are often available through unions or manufacturers, combine paid, hands-on job training with classroom study at vocational-technical schools or community colleges. In-class coursework may cover topics like mechanical drafting, tooling processes, technical math and computer numerical control operations.
Alternatively, some tool and die machinists substitute apprenticeship training with a formal tool and die machinist instruction program through a community or technical college. In such cases, students are often already employed by a manufacturer that provides them with less formal on-the-job training.
Step 3: Advance Your Career by Becoming Certified
Certification, though not mandatory, can demonstrate one's level of competency and lead to stronger job opportunities. Tool and die machinists may pursue certification through the college they attend during training, or they may become certified journeymen through a state apprenticeship board. Industry organizations also offer certification. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills, for example, offers 52 different metalworking credentials, including screw machining, diemaking and press brake certifications for workers of different levels of expertise. To become certified, a candidate must pass both a theory exam and a practical exam.
To review, with a high school diploma, 4-5 years apprenticeship and possibly certification, tool and die machinists make about $50,000 a year to produce and repair metal forms, molds and tools.