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.

Do I Want to Be 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.

Job Requirements

These machinists typically have high school diplomas and receive extensive on-the-job training in the form of apprenticeships. The following table contains essential requirements needed to become a tool and die machinist:

Common Requirements
Degree Level None required*
Certification Voluntary certification is available through industry organizations, colleges and state apprenticeship boards*
Experience 4-5 years of apprenticeship training*
Key Skills Math and analytical skills, strong attention to detail, stamina*
Computer Skills Ability to work with computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, project management programs, supply chain software**
Technical Skills Ability to use tools such as power grinders, die maker's squares, workshop presses, gauges and calipers**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine

Step 1: 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. Apprenticeships typically take 4-5 years to complete. In-class coursework may cover topics like mechanical drafting, tooling processes, technical math and computer numerical control operations. Entrance into these programs is competitive, and apprentices typically have high school diplomas and have taken secondary courses in trigonometry and algebra.

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 2: Get 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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