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Machinist Career Guide

If you are logical, coordinated and mechanical, then you will probably be well suited to a machinist role!

A machinists is responsible for setting up mechanically controlled and/or computer and numerically controlled (CNC) machines, in accordance to blueprints, sketches or computer aided design files. Machinists will need a high school diploma or equivalent. In order to become competent at their job, machinists will then work full time and attend evening courses. Or, they may enrol in an apprenticeship program.

Machinists help create our world. Without them, the bolts, pistons, or other elements that make our machinery run wouldn't be possible.

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Machinist Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Machinist Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Machinist field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33723 Machinist Male 31 $50,000 East Dubuque, IL 01/01/2010
33581 Prototype Machinist Male 40 $45,000 garrett, IN 01/01/2010
33006 Journeyman Male 51 $65,000 Richton Park, IL 01/01/2010
32994 Fork Lift Driver Male 43 $40,000 oconto, NY 01/01/2010
32507 Machine Operator Female 51 $27,000 woodbury, NJ 01/01/2010

Overview

What a Machinist actually does

A machinists job is to set up mechanically controlled and/or computer and numerically controlled (CNC) machines, in accordance to blueprints, sketches or computer aided design files. Once made, a machinist will then they file, grind, smooth and polish them to meet product specification. Machinists may work in a tool room, factory, or machine shop and their typical duties and responsibilities include:

  • Reviewing samples, drawings or instructions of what product/part is to be made
  • Planning the sequence of necessary actions for the completion of a product or part
  • Taking measurements and marking material for cutting or shaping
  • Selecting the appropriate machines for a job
  • Determining and programming the size of batches and then adjusting the speed of the machine accordingly
  • Monitoring the machine while it is working and making any necessary adjustments
  • Checking the machine output to ensure consistency with specifications
  • Sorting through the machines output and discarding any defects
  • Keeping records of approved and defective parts
  • Performing routine machine maintenance and repairing or reporting damages

Why they are needed

Machinists are required in nearly every workshop and factory worldwide. From robots to automobiles, cutlery to power tools, medical equipment to plane engines, machinists are needed to build many things. They have the unique training and skills that allow them to set up the machinery to make these things, and the responsibility of ensuring all these parts are in perfect condition.

Pros and cons of a career as a machinist:

Pros:

  • As the things humans are using is becoming more advanced and complicated, the use of machines increases. Therefore, there is a growing demand for machinists
  • It is a relatively easy career to get into. Once in, there are good advancement opportunities
  • It is a practical and hands on job, which makes it exciting
  • Unlike many other practical careers, machinists tend to work indoors in warmer and managed working conditions

Cons:

  • Machinists may work long work hours, and they may have to work evenings and weekends
  • It requires a lot of patience as it takes time and things can go wrong
  • Due to working with industrial machinery, there is a risk of being injured
  • The tasks a machinist do can be boring and tedious

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of machinists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. This employment growth is predicted because as improvements in technologies, such as computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools, autoloaders, high-speed machining, and lights-out manufacturing will require skills machinists to set up, monitor, and maintain these systems.

Career paths

To become a machinists, you will typically need to have a high school diploma or equivalent. High school courses in math, blueprint reading, metalworking, and drafting are considered useful. Some community colleges and technical schools have 2-year programs that train students to become machinists. During these courses, aspiring machinists will be taught design and blueprint reading, the use of a variety of welding and cutting tools, and the programming and function of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines.

Aspiring machinist can then gain competency in the trade through on-the-job training, which typically lasts around a year. During this time, trainee machinists usually work 40 hours per week and then take additional technical instruction during evenings. Trainee machinists will often begin as machine operators and then gradually take on more difficult assignments.

Alternatively, some machinists may enter the profession by getting onto an apprenticeship program, which are typically sponsored by a manufacturer. During this apprenticeship program, that can last several years, aspiring machinists will receive paid shop training and related technical instruction.

Machinists may want to complete certification programs, which provides them with better job opportunities and helps employers just the abilities of new hires. A number of organizations and colleges offer certification programs. The Skills Certification System, for example, is an industry-driven program that aims to align education pathways with career pathways.

Example Job Titles for Machinist

Below is a list of common job titles in the Machinist field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for machinists was $44,420 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,940, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $66,610. The top paying industry were transportation equipment manufacturing, where the median annual salary is $47,470. This is followed by machinery manufacturing ($44,970), machine shops ($43,300) and employment services ($33,550).

Like most trade industries, the pay of a machinist is tied to their skill level. For example, apprentices will earn less than qualified machinists who have complete certification programs. As they reach specific levels of performance and experience, their pay increases.

Autonomy and Flexibility

The level of autonomy and flexibility for a machinist will vary depending on the amount of experience they have. For instance, a machinist who has just began their apprenticeship will have less autonomy and flexibility than those who have 10 years experience and additional training.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be a machinist, based on average annual salary and number of jobs available, are:

  1. Wisconsin, where the average annual salary is $47,540
  2. Indiana, where the average annual salary is $47,718
  3. Wyoming, where the average annual salary is $46,406
  4. New Hampshire, where the average annual salary is $46,239
  5. Connecticut, where the average annual salary is $47,790

The worst states to become a machinist, according to Zippia are Massachusetts, Colorado, Maryland, Hawaii and Illinois.

Work environment

The largest employers of machinists in the United States were machine shops, which employe 22% of all machinists in the U.S. Machinery manufacturing employ 19%, transportation equipment manufacturing employ 12% and employment services employ 6%.

Machinist tend to work indoors, in better working condition that other trades. However, they may still face hazardous conditions and must wear protective equipment, such as safety glasses, earplugs and masks to limit their exposure to fumes.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Machinist careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Machinist career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Machinist.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

There has been no scientific exploration into exactly what personality types will make a successful machinists. However, the Myers Briggs personality type of ISTP, or otherwise known as ‘the craftsperson’, is likely to be a successful machinists. As the name suggests, these types of people enjoy building and fixing objects. They are able to tackle problems in their immediate environment, with an innate mechanical ability. ISTPs are typically very attentive to detail, independent, adaptable and self-directed, which are key skills for precisely and accurately operating machines.

Accomplishment and mastery

As machinists can learn advanced skills in a relatively short space of time, there is high skill accomplishment and mastery. After gaining experience in the occupation, machinists may have the opportunity to advance into more senior positions, such as a supervisor.

Meaning and contribution

As machinists are absolutely necessary for the production of many essential things we use, their work has high meaning and contribution.

Life fit

Many machinists work full time during regular business hours. However, to ensure that facilities can operate around the clock, some machinists may work more than 40 hours per week and/or work evenings and weekends. Therefore, the life fit of a machinist will vary depending on what factor, workshop and production line they work for.

Who will thrive in this career?

One of the most important things a machinist can be is physically fit. This is because a machinist will need to stand for long periods of time and may have to kneel or bend down. Those who can work well as part of a team and communicate well with others are likely to thrive as machinists. This is because machinists may have to work in teams with other machinists or factory workers.  Finally, the ability to pay attention to detail and work well under pressure will help you to thrive as a machinists, as this will allow machinists to carefully follow blueprints and instructions.

Who will struggle in this career?

Similarly to what is mentioned above, you are are likely to struggle with working as a machinist if you are physically unfit. This is because if machinists aren’t physically fit, they may struggle to stand up for long hours or kneel down where needed.  Similarly, if you prefer more ‘modest’ working conditions (e.g., sitting down in an air conditioned office), then you may struggle with the working conditions of a machinist. Finally, if you prefer to work alone or do less practical work, then you may struggle as a machinist due to the hands-on nature of the work.

Requirements

Skills and talents

Machinists are taught all the tricks of the trade through their on-the-job and technical training. They must be skilled with a wide range of machine operating techniques and will also need skills such as:

  • Dexterity, because machining parts can demand accuracy to within .0001 of an inch
  • Analytical skills, as machinists must be able to understand technical blueprints, models and specification
  • Mechanical skills, as the machinists with the best opportunities are the ones who are able to work with lots of different machines
  • Technical skills, as machinists must understand computerized machines and metalworking processes
  • Mathematical skills, as machinists will have better opportunities if they can use computers to work with CAD/CAM technology
  • Physical stamina, as machinist must stand for extended periods, perform repetitious movements or kneel down

Education

To become a machinists, you will typically need to have a high school diploma or equivalent. High school courses in math, blueprint reading, metalworking, and drafting are considered useful. Some community colleges and technical schools have 2-year programs that train students to become machinists. During these courses, aspiring machinists will be taught design and blueprint reading, the use of a variety of welding and cutting tools, and the programming and function of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines.

Aspiring machinist can then gain competency in the trade through on-the-job training, which typically lasts around a year. During this time, trainee machinists usually work 40 hours per week and then take additional technical instruction during evenings. Trainee machinists will often begin as machine operators and then gradually take on more difficult assignments.

Alternatively, some machinists may enter the profession by getting onto an apprenticeship program, which are typically sponsored by a manufacturer. During this apprenticeship program, that can lat several years, aspiring machinists will receive paid shop training and related technical instruction.

Certifications

Machinists may want to complete certification programs, which provides them with better job opportunities and helps employers just the abilities of new hires. A number of organizations and colleges offer certification programs. The Skills Certification System, for example, is an industry-driven program that aims to align education pathways with career pathways.

How to Become

Summary

A machinists job is to set up mechanically controlled and/or computer and numerically controlled (CNC) machines, in accordance to blueprints, sketches or computer aided design files. Machinists are an essential part of the manufacturing of many products, therefore the demand for machinists is expected to increase over the coming years.

Immediate action

If becoming a machinist appeals to you, then we recommend looking at enrolling in high school courses in math, blueprint reading, metalworking, and drafting. If is also worth exploring apprenticeship programs near you or jobs that allow you to have technical instruction in the evening.

Education and learning

Machinists must have a high school diploma or equivalent. They can either gain the competency and skills by working during the day and attending technical courses in the evening. Or, by enrolling on an apprenticeship program, which are often sponsored by the employer.

Skill development

Machinists will develop their skills on the job and by taking additional certification programs, which will improve their career opportunities.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Machinist careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33723 Machinist Male 31 $50,000 East Dubuque, IL 01/01/2010
33581 Prototype Machinist Male 40 $45,000 garrett, IN 01/01/2010
33006 Journeyman Male 51 $65,000 Richton Park, IL 01/01/2010
32994 Fork Lift Driver Male 43 $40,000 oconto, NY 01/01/2010
32507 Machine Operator Female 51 $27,000 woodbury, NJ 01/01/2010

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