Career Development

What Does a Machinist Do?

Find out what a machinist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a machinist.

Machinists are highly skilled workers who use a variety of tools and machines to create or modify objects. They commonly work with metals, plastics, wood, and other materials. Their job is to take the ideas in a designer’s head and turn them into reality by creating new products or modifying existing ones.

Machinists may be responsible for everything from designing and building custom equipment to operating industrial lathes, mills, drill presses, and other types of machinery.

Machinist Job Duties

Machinists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Inspecting workpieces for defects such as cracks, chips, or burrs, and making adjustments to ensure that the part meets specifications
  • Performing routine maintenance activities such as cleaning machinery to ensure that it continues to operate efficiently
  • Operating computer-controlled equipment to fabricate metal components
  • Using hand tools, machine tools, and other equipment to cut, shape, and finish metal components for use in machinery
  • Maintaining work records and supplies inventory levels of material and equipment needed for production
  • Operating computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines to mill, drill, grind, cut, or bore metal parts
  • Working with blueprints and drawings to fabricate metal components according to specifications
  • Measuring and marking materials to indicate where cutting will occur
  • Using computer aided design (CAD) software to design new products

Machinist Salary & Outlook

Machinists’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the company size and geographic location. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of overtime.

  • Median Annual Salary: $52,500 ($25.24/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $86,500 ($41.59/hour)

The employment of machinists is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Demand for machinists will stem from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. In addition, demand for machinists will continue to come from new applications in emerging industries, such as nanotechnology and alternative energy, that require precision parts and devices.

Machinist Job Requirements

A machinist typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: A minimum of a high school diploma or GED is required to become a machinist. Some machinists choose to pursue a two-year associate degree in machining technology. This degree can be completed at community colleges or technical schools. Courses in this program include mathematics, blueprint reading, computer-aided design and manufacturing, and metal cutting and forming.

Training & Experience: Machinists receive on-the-job training to learn the specific processes and machinery of their company. They may also receive additional training to become certified in certain processes, such as welding.

Certifications & Licenses: Some employers may offer certification for machinists as part of their employment package, but certification is not a requirement for the role.

Machinist Skills

Machinists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Technical skills: Machinists use technical skills to read and interpret blueprints, schematics and other technical documents. They also use technical skills to operate and maintain machinery and tools. Technical skills are also necessary for troubleshooting and repairing machinery.

Communication skills: Machinists often work in teams and communicate with other team members to complete their work. They also communicate with other employees to understand the purpose of the work and the specifications of the machinery. Communication skills can help machinists work with others to solve problems and improve their work.

Attention to detail: Machinists need to have excellent attention to detail to ensure they’re producing quality work. They need to be able to read and understand blueprints and other instructions to ensure they’re completing the right tasks. Attention to detail is also important when it comes to safety, as it’s important for machinists to follow all safety protocols to prevent accidents.

Problem-solving skills: Machinists use problem-solving skills to troubleshoot and identify issues with machinery. They may use these skills to identify the source of a problem, find a solution and implement the solution. For example, a machinist may notice that a machine isn’t operating properly and use their problem-solving skills to identify the issue and find a solution. They may then use their problem-solving skills to repair the machine.

Mechanical aptitude: Machinists use their aptitude for mechanical processes to understand how machines work and how to repair them. They also use their aptitude for mechanical processes to understand how to create new machines and how to modify existing machines. This includes knowing how to read and interpret blueprints and other technical documents.

Machinist Work Environment

The work environment for a machinist is usually in a factory or other industrial setting. The job may require shift work, as many factories operate 24 hours a day, and machinists may be needed to work nights or weekends. Overtime is often required, as deadlines must be met and production goals must be achieved. The work can be physically demanding, as machinists must lift and move heavy equipment and materials. The work can also be dangerous, as machinists work with sharp tools and machinery that can cause serious injuries if they are not used properly. Injuries are more likely to occur when machinists are tired or not paying attention to what they are doing. To reduce the risk of injury, machinists must follow safety procedures and use proper safety equipment.

Machinist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how machinists work. Machinists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Robotics and Automation

As robotics and automation become more common in manufacturing, machinists will need to learn new skills in order to stay competitive.

Machinists who are able to work with robots and automated systems will be in high demand, as these technologies allow for increased efficiency and productivity. In addition, machinists who are able to work with these technologies will be better prepared for the future of manufacturing, which is likely to continue to rely on robotics and automation.

The Importance of Quality Control

Quality control has always been an important part of manufacturing, but it is becoming even more important as businesses strive to produce products that meet or exceed customer expectations.

Machinists can capitalize on this trend by developing expertise in quality control procedures. This includes understanding how to identify defects in products and develop solutions to fix them. In addition, machinists can also focus on improving their communication and teamwork skills, which are essential for working in a team-based environment.

More Collaborative Work Environments

The trend towards collaborative work environments is having a major impact on the machining industry. As companies move towards more collaborative work environments, they are looking for employees who are able to work well with others and are able to communicate effectively.

Machinists can capitalize on this trend by developing strong interpersonal skills and by learning how to work in a team setting. They can also become familiar with the latest tools and technologies that are being used in collaborative work environments, such as video conferencing and online collaboration software.

How to Become a Machinist

A career as a machinist can be both rewarding and lucrative. It’s important to start off on the right foot by getting certified in your field. This will show employers that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job well.

You should also stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and techniques used in machining. This will help you keep your skills sharp and ensure that you are always able to find work. Additionally, it’s important to network with other machinists and learn from their experiences.

Related: How to Write a Machinist Resume

Advancement Prospects

Machinists who have completed an apprenticeship or have received training at a vocational school usually start as journey workers. They then may advance to positions such as lead machinist, supervisor, or toolmaker.

Machinists with good math skills may advance to become computer numerical control (CNC) programmers. Those with strong mechanical skills may move into positions such as maintenance worker, mechanic, or millwright. Some machinists become independent contractors or open their own machine shops.

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