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Machinist: Career Training Overview

Machinists require little formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and available certifications to find out if this is the right career for you.

A high school diploma or GED is all that's required to begin a career as a machinist. Machinists typically complete an apprenticeship and learn through paid training. It is also possible to complete a certificate or associate's degree before entering this career field.

Most manufacturing processes would be incomplete without machinists. They operate tools that cut parts of materials used in different types of industries. Read on to learn more about how to start a career as a machinist.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%*
Average Annual Salary (2015) $42,120*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Training for Machinists

Machinists are the engine of the manufacturing industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these individuals use their professional knowledge of metals and their skill with machine tools, such as milling machines and lathes, to plan and make precision-machined metal parts that are vital in manufacturing technology products (www.bls.gov).

The BLS reported in May 2015 that these workers' average wage was $42,120, with the top 10 percent of workers earning $61,290 and up. Job growth for this career was expected to be average, at a rate of six percent between 2014 and 2024, reported the BLS.

Apprenticeships

Most machinists train in apprenticeship programs, which are offered by unions, manufacturers and vocational colleges. These programs combine classroom training with 7,500 or more hours of on-the-job instruction and paid experience. Apprentices might begin their studies with courses in blueprint reading and safety guidelines. As they advance, they might take on more challenging courses that cover topics in computer-assisted manufacturing (CAM) and electrical discharge machines (EDM).

Certificate and Associate Degree Programs

Community colleges and vocational schools offer certificates and associate degrees for machinist training and computer numerical controlled (CNC) machining. Certificate programs focusing on machinist training often last 6-12 months, while associate degree programs last up to 2.5 years and include general education coursework as well. The technical training includes study of basic and advanced CNC machine tools, the relationship between tools and the computer, die-making and preparation for the job search.

Professional Certifications

The National Institute for Metalworking Skills, Inc. (NIMS) offers 52 professional certifications in metalworking, including three levels of recognition for trained machinists. Each level expands on knowledge from the previous certification, and candidates demonstrate their proficiency by successfully passing a theoretical and practical exam. For example, a machinist level one is required to show an entry-level understanding of CNC turning and milling, while a machinist level three must demonstrate advanced understanding in these areas.

Machinists typically work in machine shops, toolrooms and factories. Although most machinists learn through apprenticeships, it is possible to take a certificate or associate's degree in this discipline to prepare for a career as a machinist. High school students can consider taking shop classes to familiarize themselves with tools and working with metals to prepare for this line of work.


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