Career Information for a Degree in Precision Metal Working

Metal working is generally available as an associate's degree program. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

Associate's degrees in metal working provide students with classroom instruction in addition to hands-on experience, including an internship or apprenticeship. Graduates of these programs can become machinists or tool and die makers, among other related jobs.

Essential Information

Associate's degree programs in precision metal working prepare students to work with drill presses, lathes, mills and other machine tools used in manufacturing. Most programs include subjects in machine shop blueprint reading, mathematics, metal fabrication and metallurgy. Courses also might teach students to weld or use computer-aided design (CAD) software. Career options available to graduates of these 2-year programs are outlined below.

Career Machinist Tool and Die Maker
Education Requirements Associate's degree or apprenticeship* Associate's degree or apprenticeship*
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% -13%
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $40,550 $50,290

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

With an apprenticeship or associate's degree in precision metal working, one might find work as a machinist or tool and die maker. Read on to learn more about these careers.


These workers set up, control and monitor the machine tools used to fabricate metal parts used in a variety of industries. In some instances, the cutting and grinding of metal stock is performed manually, but machinists might also program instructions into computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines to automatically regulate the size and speed of a cut. Machinists could also be responsible for fine tuning machines' cutting pieces or examining finished products to ensure they meet the specifications outlined by blueprints and CAD designs.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), machinists earned a median salary of $40,550 as of May 2015 ( These precision metal workers were expected to experience a ten percent growth in employment opportunities over the 2014-2024 decade.

Tool and Die Maker

Tool and die makers create, maintain and repair the parts used in the machine tools themselves, such as fixtures, molds and gauges. Like machinists, they must be able to turn blueprints and CAD specifications into a series of cutting instructions for CNC machines.

Tool and die makers earned a median annual salary of $50,290 in 2015, per the BLS. They were projected to face a 13% decrease in employment opportunities from 2014-2024.

Precision metal workers include machinists and tool and die makers, who generally manufacture metal parts. Their skills are learned through college coursework in conjunction with practical experience, after which they earn an associate's degree.

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