Machinist: Educational Requirements and Employment Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation necessary to become a machinist. Get an overview of the requirements, including education programs and job duties, to find out if this is the right career for you.

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Machinists work with a variety of machines to produce parts, instruments, and tools. Machinists are sometimes required to complete an apprenticeship, certificate, or associate's degree.

Essential Information

Machinists are manufacturing-industry workers who operate tools that produce metal parts. They're typically skilled in both handling and repairing various tools used in manufacturing. Apprenticeships are a common entryway into machinist jobs, though relevant certificate and associate's degree programs are also available. On-the-job training is required in both cases.

Required Education Apprenticeship and/or certificate or associate's degree
Other Requirements On-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10%
Median Salary (2015)* $40,550

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for a Machinist

Many machinists learn their skills through an apprenticeship, which has significant on-the-job requirements in addition to some coursework. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many apprenticeships are sponsored by unions or manufacturers and are highly competitive (www.bls.gov). During this process, apprentices are paid a percentage of the journey-level pay rate, which increases as they advance. Apprentices may also be evaluated on their ability to follow safety protocols and evaluate equipment.

Individuals may consider apprenticeships sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA). According to the ETA, sponsored programs provide paychecks that are guaranteed to increase as the individual progresses, as well as training that leads to nationally-recognized certifications (www.doleta.gov). These sponsored programs have established minimum requirements, such as age limits and education levels.

Other prospective machinists attend technical and vocational colleges to earn an associate's degree or certificate. These programs include coursework and shops in the major areas of the machinist profession, including lathe and milling operations. College programs may require coursework in algebra, trigonometry, composition and computer skills. Most programs include significant hands-on learning, and some apprenticeships work in conjunction with colleges.

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Employment Outlook

The BLS stated that employment of machinists was expected to increase ten percent from 2014-2024. The BLS projected that the number of workers training to be machinists would be less than the number of job openings, which gives prospective candidates very favorable opportunities.

Job Information

Two specialties within this career field are production machinists and maintenance machinists. Production machinists produce a large quantity of one item, often with the assistance of computer programs. Maintenance machinists repair broken parts of production machines and work in many sectors of the manufacturing industry.

As new machines are introduced, machinists may be required to expand their knowledge to new technology. They must be attentive and be able to recognize when a machine isn't functioning at an optimum level. Machinists have to follow safety protocols to avoid injury. While they typically work a 40-hour week, machinists may work evenings, weekends or overtime.

Salary Information

In May 2015, the BLS reported that the mean annual earnings of a machinist were $40,550, while the top-paid ten percent earned more than $61,290 annually. The bottom-paid ten percent of workers made $25,230 or less per year. None of the major employers, including machine shops and metalworking manufacturers, were among the top-paying industries. The highest salaries for machinists were found in natural gas distribution, electric power distribution and elementary and secondary schools.

Machinists use machine tools to produce metal parts, such as steel bolts and titanium screws. They ensure correct specifications and make necessary modifications. Some employers require an apprenticeship, certificate, or associate's degree.

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