Be a Tool and Die Machinist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a tool and die machinist. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in machinery.

Should I Become A Tool and Die 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.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None required
Experience 4-5 years of apprenticeship training
Certification Voluntary certification is available through industry organizations, colleges and state apprenticeship boards.
Key Skills 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
Salary (2014) $48,890 per year (Median salary for tool and die makers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May, 2014), O*Net Online

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.

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