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Machinist Career Summary, Duties and Salary Information

Sep 11, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a machinist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training options, job duties and employment outlook to see if this is the career for you.

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Machinists use mechanical tools to alter various products, typically metal. They shift, shape, break, forge, cut, or do whatever is required for a particular part. They often program and maintain machine equipment, so hands-on experience is vital.

Essential Information

Machinists cut, shape and finish products ranging from nuts and bolts to car parts. Their precision tools include lathes and grinders. Most work in metal, but some use wood and plastic. In addition to fashioning parts, machinists program production equipment using instructions derived from blueprints and written specifications. A high school diploma or GED certificate is required, but training can be obtained through a number of means, including vocational schools programs or through union apprenticeships.

Required Education Varies; options include 2-year vocational or community college programs, apprenticeships or on-the-job training.
Other Requirements Professional certification is optional
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 3% (slower than average)
Median Salary (2018)* $43,630

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Job Duties

A machinist's job may begin with planning the order in which machine operations are executed. They select correct tools, set cutting and molding speeds and determine tolerance levels. When needed, they perform routine maintenance on machines to ensure compliance with technical standards. On occasion, machinists work with hand tools. They need extensive knowledge of the properties of the materials they fashion; for example, metal machinists need to know how each metal responds to temperature changes.

Educational Requirements

Machinists generally need a high school diploma or GED and computer literacy before being hired or trained. Important high school courses include math and drafting. To work in industries such as aerospace, they may need calculus and physics courses. Machinists may learn the trade on the job or in junior colleges, vocational or trade schools. Union or manufacturer-sponsored apprenticeship programs train a limited number of prospective machinists who compete for acceptance into the 4-year programs.

The National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) accredits metalworking and machining programs and also offers a certification exam (www.nims-skills.org). In addition, machinists can become certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (www.asecert.org).

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a three percent increase in machinist jobs during the decade that started in 2018 and will end in 2028 (www.bls.gov). However, job opportunities were expected to be strong, in part because of fewer young people training for the work. As of May 2018, the median salary for machinists was $43,630. The highest wages were paid in the natural gas distribution industry.

Requisite education varies by industry, but machinists commonly acquire their skills through trade or vocational programs. Some of them may complete training through an apprenticeship, and they can become certified as well. Machinists make a median salary of $43,630, which fluctuates by their qualifications and experience level.

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