Schools for Aspiring Machine Operators: How to Choose

Aspiring machine operators looking for formal education can obtain a certificate of completion or an associate's degree in machining or machine tool technology. Both types of programs are available at many community colleges and technical schools.

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Students can find machining and machine tool technology programs at 2-year colleges throughout the country that prepare them for entry-level employment in various industries. These programs provide classroom instruction and hands-on learning opportunities in tuning, milling, drilling, blueprint reading, computer-aided design and even some computer programming.

10 Schools with Machine Operator Programs

Programs for aspiring machine operators are offered by these colleges.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition* (2015-2016)
Front Range Community College Westminster, CO 2-year, Public Certificate $211.90** In-state Undergraduate per credit hour; $561.65 Out-of-state Undergraduate per credit hour**
Southeast Community College Whiteville, NC 2-year, Public Associate's $2,457 In-state Undergraduate; $8,601 Out-of-state Undergraduate
Everett Community College Everett, WA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $3,643 In-state Undergraduate; $8,981 Out-of-state Undergraduate
Monroe Community College Rochester, NY 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $4,554 In-state Undergraduate; $8,354 Out-of-state Undergraduate
Pima Community College Tucson, AZ 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $1,974 In-state Undergraduate; $8,610 Out-of-state Undergraduate
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo, OH 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $4,466 In-state Undergraduate; $5,166 Out-of-state Undergraduate
Community College of Denver Denver, CO 2-year, Public Certificate Not Available**
Mesa Community College Mesa, AZ 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $2,046 In-state Undergraduate; $7,830 Out-of-state Undergraduate
Portland Community College Portland, OR 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $3,766 In-state Undergraduate; $8,374 Out-of-state Undergraduate
John Tyler Community College Chester, VA 2-year, Public Certificate $146.75 In-state Undergraduate per credit hour; $343.35 Out-of-state Undergraduate

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) ; **School websites (2016-2017)

School Selection Criteria

There are several things to think about when choosing a program in this field.

  • Obtaining a certificate of completion is sufficient for a career as a machine operator but a 2-year associate degree is highly marketable in the machining industry.
  • Some schools offer students opportunities to get involved with groups or associations, such as the SkillsUSA/Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA).
  • Options for specialization can be another important school selection factor for prospective students in machining and machine tool technology.
  • Review the employment rates of graduates in the programs to ensure that you pick a program that produces marketable graduates.

Certificate in Machining or Machine Tool Technology

This year long vocational program is designed to provide all the necessary training for an apprenticeship in the machining industry. Some schools offer specific concentrations, such as machine tool operations, lathe work and CNC setup and operations. Most of these courses are taught in a lab setting in order to give students the hands-on training they'll need to be successful working in a variety of settings, including manufacturing plants, machine shops and inspection organizations.

Associate of Applied Science in Machining or Machine Tool Technology

An associate degree includes all of the same training as the certificate program with additional courses. This degree program also includes general education courses such as general psychology, English composition and consumer economics and finance. The curriculum is designed to give students the option of continuing their education to receive a bachelor's degree.

A certificate or associate's degree in machining or machine tool technology is needed to pursue a career in this field. Many two-year colleges offer certificate and associate's degree programs, and the location of the schools and tuition costs may be key factors when choosing a program.

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