What to Know About Being a Machinist

Read our guide to learn more about becoming a machinist, including salary potential and job requirements.

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by Staff Writers

Published on February 3, 2022 · Updated on May 13, 2022

Edited by Giselle M. Cancio
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What to Know About Being a Machinist


If you enjoy working with your hands, seeing the tangible results of your efforts, and crafting useful items, then a career as a machinist could be a good fit. These professionals create precision metal tools and parts for several industries through computer and mechanical technology.

Machinists typically work in machine shops and manufacturing plants. They generally work a traditional, 40-hour-week schedule. Due to their proximity to large machines, these professionals are at risk for injuries and accidents. As a machinist, you must wear protective equipment like safety goggles and follow procedures to keep yourself safe.

Between 2020 and 2030, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 8% job growth for machinists, who earned a median annual salary of $45,840 in May 2020. If you're considering a career in this field, read on to learn more about how to become a machinist.

What Does a Machinist Do?

Machinists use computer and mechanical technology to create precision metal tools and parts. They often create these parts for the transportation and automotive service industries. These professionals usually work full time during regular business hours at machine shops and manufacturing plants, although longer hours may be required during busy times.

On a day-to-day basis, machinists must read and interpret sketches, blueprints, and computer-aided design files to understand what they must make. They must set up their tools and use them to shape parts per the specifications they received. At the end of the process, they must smooth down any imperfections from the cutting process and present their finished products to their clients.

Some machinists make a lot of one type of part, while others craft one-of-a-kind parts or work in small batches. Machinists must understand and follow safety procedures, as they work closely with dangerous equipment each day.

What Is a Machinist's Career Outlook?

Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS projects 7% job growth for machinists and tool and die makers. This translates to nearly 30,000 new jobs in the field. The agency projects 8% job growth for machinists, specifically, a rate comparable to the average for all occupations during that period.

Machinists can increase their salary by continuing to gain experience in their field. There is no logical next step on the career ladder for machinists, so the best way to advance is often to learn new skills and hone foundational abilities. This way, you can advance from the entry-level designation ("C" machinists) to the highest level ("A" machinists).

Machinists may be able to increase their employment opportunities by enrolling in The Skills Certification System. This suite of professional certifications aims to promote manufacturing education nationwide. These professional development opportunities can help you master your craft, teach you additional skills, and make you among the most sought-after machinists in your local workforce.

What Is a Machinist's Salary and Growth Potential?

Machinists earned a median annual salary of $45,840 in May 2020, according to the BLS. The top industry for these professionals is transportation equipment manufacturing, in which machinists earned a median annual salary of $49,370 during the same period.

Machinists can earn higher salaries by gaining more skills and experience in their field. While there isn't necessarily a clear path to advancement in the machinist trade, you may eventually be able to open your own machine shop. However, this is less common. One of the main downsides of the skilled trades is the lack of advancement and growth potential.

According to the BLS, the machinists who adapt to improved technology systems are likely to see the best job prospects during the next decade. Over the next ten years, workers retiring and moving into different industries should account for most of the new job openings for machinists.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Machinist's Career

What is the difference between a machinist and a tool and die maker? true

According to the BLS, machinists usually spend their time constructing single parts as part of the larger process, while tool and die makers make multiple parts used in the process.

Tool and die makers also fix, assemble, and fine-tune machines used when creating these precision parts. Dies are specific tools used to shape, form, and cut metals and other unyielding materials.

Is being a machinist a good career? true

If you like working with your hands and seeing the direct fruits of your labor, a career as a machinist is a great fit. Additionally, the field does not require any formal education, as machinists typically complete extensive on-the-job training. However, as with many skill trades, growth potential may be limited.

According to the BLS, machinists earned a median annual salary of $45,840 in May 2020. During the same period, there were 363,000 people employed as machinists in the U.S. The agency projects 28,800 new positions will be created between 2020 and 2030.

What are the different levels of machinists? true

Machinists are usually categorized into three main classes: A, B, and C. These classifications depend on your experience, skill level, and overall knowledge. "C" machinists usually need supervision from "A" machinists, while "B" machinists can perform more work on their own.

"A" machinists make the most money and generally have the most experience and skills. These machinists can work in supervisory, training, managerial, and troubleshooting roles.

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Trade school — or vocational training — can offer students an efficient and affordable path to a reliable, rewarding career. Trade schools can be a direct route to job stability, high salary potential, and personal fulfillment in your career. Learn more about the importance of trades in today's economy. A complete guide to trade schools and why they could be a great and cheap alternative to college. Learn how you can build skills quickly in this post.

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