What Does a Machinist Do?
Almost everything you see around you is created by a machine or tool made by a Machinist, or a Tool and Die Maker. Just think about that – it’s kind of mind blowing. These jobs require great skill, precision, an eye for detail and involve plenty of problem solving.
As a Machinist, or computer numerical control (CNC) operator, some of your work will involve setting up, operating and disassembling manual and computer-controlled machine tools. You’ll be using specialist machinery and techniques to make a variety of diverse products. Think everything from large quantities of one machine part to more niche, one-of-a-kind metal items, titanium bone screws for orthopedic implants, hydraulic parts, and car pistons. All these components are made by Machinists. As a Machinist, you’ll work in a machine shop or a factory tool room. Machinists can also be found working in any manufacturing setting where the installation, maintenance, and programming of CNC machines is needed. CNC programmers convert the CAD designs into the CMC programs, giving them the right information to cut and produce the tools. You’ll get to create products, then polish and perfect every item for quality assurance. Some processes require lasers, water jets and electrified wires to cut workpieces.
As a Tool and Die Maker, you’ll make tools called dies used to cut, shape, and form metal. Machinists and Tool and Die Makers are often both trained to use the CNC machines or to write the very programs needed to do the work.
SkillPointe can show you what to expect, what you’ll earn, and give you tips from a pro who’s been there. If you’re a hard worker and want a hands-on job with great career opportunities, read on to find out more.
What are the entry level requirements for a Machinist or Tool and Die Maker job?
You’ll need to have your High School Diploma for an entry-level job. A Tool and Die Maker may need to get extra qualifications beyond a High School Diploma. Courses in math, metalwork, blueprint reading, and drafting are all useful. It’s helpful to have a driving license, too.
What qualifications do I need?
Complete a trade school program – around 24 months – to learn about design and blueprint reading, how to use welding and cutting tools, as well as programming and working with CNC machines. Then it’s time to find an apprenticeship.
How do I find a job?
Find a Machinist apprenticeship or a Tool and Die Maker apprenticeship through an employer and learn on the job in a machine shop. Paid shop training and technical instruction can last several years. You can also get training at a community college or technical school to cover those useful areas like math, blueprint reading, metalworking and drafting.
Is being a Machinist a secure job?
It’s an industry that’s likely to see growth in the next few years, with plenty of available job opportunities. Getting certified through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) can boost your career opportunities and get you noticed by an employer.
Is there a demand for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers?
The job outlook for Machinists and Toll and Die Makers looks good. In 2020, machinists and tool and die makers held around 425,000 jobs, and about 220,000 new job openings are expected in the next five years.
What will I get from being a Machinist or Tool and Die Maker?
As a highly skilled Machinist, you’ll be in demand. It’s not surprising that most of these jobs require overtime. Working as a Machinist or a Tool and Die Maker will see you honing your technical and mental skills each day. Every task will bring challenges and problems to solve, giving you a chance to develop and adapt your skill set. This is a job that demands you try new things – until you come up with the solution that works. Where the dimensions of a part are wrong, this can spell disaster for the manufacturer and that’s where your skills come in. Machinists are often called upon to come up with ways to solve issues or get to the root of problems. You’ll find there are always opportunities to apply your creative thinking.
As a CNC Machinist, you’ll troubleshoot to keep operations running smoothly. A desire to learn is the key to success. Being a Machinist or a Tool and Die Maker offers lots of variety – great for anyone who enjoys a challenge.
As an apprentice your pay is tied to your skill level. As your experience and skills grow, so will your earnings. You might begin your training as a machine operator and take on more technical work as you learn. Machinists and Tool and Die Makers need computer experience to work with the CAD and CAM technology, CNC machine tools and the computerized measuring tools. As the jobs are closely linked, experienced Machinists will often become Tool and Die specialists.
What skills do I need to be a Machinist or a Tool and Die Maker?
You Could Be a Good Fit for These Positions If You:
- Like working with computers
- Have great physical stamina
- Are detail-oriented
- Have strong math skills
- Enjoy creating things
- Are good with machinery
- Can manage your time well
- Have excellent problem-solving skills
- Are adaptable
- Work well with others
- Are safety conscious
The lowdown on a career in Machining or Tool and Die Making
As a job shop Machinist or Tool and Die Maker, no two days are the same. Lots of Machinists and Tool and Die Makers work regular business hours. With some organizations working around the clock, you might need to work some evenings and weekends. This means a Machinist’s hours can total more than 40 hours a week.
Machinist jobs involve all kinds of hands-on skills. You’ll get to know the technical programs needed to do your work - even show your completed products to customers and make any changes if they’re needed. There are other tasks you’ll do as part of your job, like maintaining production and quality logs, or planning inventory. You might be making parts for existing machinery or repairing it. When an industrial machine breaks down, a Machinist is the person tasked with remanufacturing the broken part, using the original methods to make the replacement.
As a Tool and Die Maker, as well as the dies, you’ll create the fixtures that hold metal while it is bored, stamped, forged, or drilled. You’ll also make gauges and other measuring tools – like metal molds used for diecasting and for molding everything - from plastics to ceramics. You’ll make and adjust parts, then test the completed tools and dies to make sure they are to spec. You’ll also condition the surfaces of tools and dies to finish them.
Working in a field that uses CNC machines will put you at the cutting edge of technology. In this trade, you’ll be using digital and mechanized tools in every step of machining. Developing your skills and working as part of a team are what it’s all about in this industry. As a CNC operator, you’ll be working with every employee in the company – from your co-workers on the shop floor to the management teams upstairs. For many Machinists, being relied upon to do good work, and getting support from others when you need it is what makes this job so enjoyable.