Tooling Design Jobs: Options and Requirements

Tool designers require some formal technical education. Learn about the training and educational options, job duties and employment statistics to see if this is the right career for you.

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Tool designers work with computer-aided design software to create factory equipment. They require little education, but usually require experience in the field. They also need to be proficient in the design software used in the trade.

Essential Information

Tool designers are hired by large manufacturing companies and specialty machine shops, either full-time or as contractors, to design fixtures, dies and other factory equipment materials. Tool designers are typically required to have high school diplomas as well as 4-5 years of formal classroom and hands-on experience. They should also have knowledge of design software and possess excellent problem-solving skills.

Required Education Variable; a high school diploma and completion of a state-run apprenticeship program or a postsecondary program in tooling design
Projected Job Decline (2014-2024)* -13% (for tool and die makers)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $50,290 (for tool and die makers)

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Tooling Design Job Options

Tool designers work to engineer the initial designs of new equipment used in industrial manufacturing. To make these complex tools they use computer programs, design sketches, engineering data and intricate equations that take into account stress tolerances, temperature expansions and other potential situations. The fixtures, jigs, molds and dies they create are used to cut, shape, drill or smooth a wide range of products.

Many tool designers are hired full-time by large manufacturing companies and work in the engineering department to keep the equipment in the factory as current and efficient as possible. Some tool designers work for large companies that provide specialty machines for manufacturers in a variety of areas, such as forging, parts manufacturing, machine shops and other manufacturing industries. There are also tool designers who work as contractors and are hired by a company to specially design one type of tool.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that jobs for tool designers were expected to decline by -13% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, much of this decline would be due to foreign competition and the increased efficiency of automated manufacturing, which means less workers are required to do the same jobs. The BLS also reported that the median salary for tool and die makers was $50,290 as of 2015.

Tooling Design Job Requirements

Experience is crucial for potential tool makers with many employers requiring applicants to have at least four years of experience working with tools. The BLS mentions that many employers also prefer designers to have gone through either a state-run apprenticeship program or a postsecondary program in tooling design offered by a vocational or technical school.

These programs offer classroom education and hands-on experience to give students the technical knowledge needed to make successful tools. Designers of more complex tools may be encouraged to attend a four-year program to earn a bachelor's degree, such as a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Mechanical Engineering; however, a college degree is not mandatory. In addition to education and experience tooling designers need to have an understanding of computer aided design (CAD) equipment, as well as a basic understanding of mechanics, physics and geometry.

Tool designers need only a high school diploma, but many employers prefer those who have completed an apprenticeship program or a certificate or degree program. These positions are predicted to decline in the next decade. The median annual salary for tool and die makers is about $50,000.

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