Manufacturing Machinist
Salary Range Jobs Available
$34,600 - $72,200 43,700+

What Does a Machinist Do?

Almost everything you see around you is created with the help of a machinist. It’s a career that requires great skill, precision, an eye for detail and a knack for problem-solving. Sound interesting to you? Imagine yourself doing this job.

As a machinist — also known as a computer numerical control (CNC) machinist or tool and die maker — you will operate manual and computer-controlled machine tools. You'll also set up and disassemble the machines. You’ll use this machinery and your skills to make a variety of products. That could mean large quantities of one machine part or one-of-a-kind metal items. We aren’t exaggerating when we say everything around you! Think titanium bone screws for orthopedic implants, car pistons, machine parts or specialty tools. All these items are made by machinists.

No matter what item is being created, the process of making it must be precise. That’s why a machinist's skills are so crucial. A machinist is responsible for translating an idea into reality. The idea starts with a sketch, blueprint or a computer-aided design (CAD) file, which is the design for a three-dimensional object. Based on that design, a CNC machinist programs the machine to cut and shape the material, usually metal, into the real thing. Some processes require lasers or water jets for precision cutting, and new processes emerge all the time.

As a machinist, you’ll master these processes, create the products, then polish and perfect them for quality assurance.

SkillPointe can show you what to expect, what you’ll earn, and give you tips from a pro who knows what it's like to do this job. If you’re a hard worker and want a hands-on job with great career opportunities, read on.

Apprentices learn how to run a computer control panel in a machine shop
Machinists are in demand in every community across the country because they work with the machines that make practically everything. (Credit: Shutterstock)


  • Set up, operate and maintain precision equipment
  • Mill, turn, drill, shape and grind machine parts to specifications
  • Repair parts or create new ones
  • Consult with engineers and coworkers
  • Understand the properties of different metals 
  • Inspect and test finished products
  • Program mills, drills and lathes
  • Follow safety rules
  • Maintain production and quality logs
  • Plan stock inventory 

How To Become a Machinist: FAQs

The bottom line:

As a job shop machinist, 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. 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 necessary changes. 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 them. 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, 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 machinist, you’ll be working with every employee in the company, from your co-workers on the shop floor to the management team 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.

What's it like to be a tool and die maker?

When Tony Tinge graduated from high school with honors, he knew he wanted to find a career, not just a job. Lincoln Electric provided a place for Tony to train as a tool and die maker through an apprenticeship.

“You can make an extremely good living as a tool and die maker," he says. "Plus, you get the satisfaction of helping create so many different things people use every day.”

Read Tony’s story and learn how he became a tool and die maker.

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