5 Tips for Starting a Career as a Machinist

Woman machinist working with wrench of a farm machine doing some fixing or maintenance

Machinists use high-tech tools like grinders and lathes to make precision metal parts. These parts are used in the production of industrial machines, cars and planes. Machinists often work with CNC machinery, which makes the necessary cuts to create a metal piece.

The machinist job market in the US is promising as there is an increased demand for skilled workers to operate specialized manufacturing machines. The Bureau of Labor Statistics approximates a 10% increase in the machinist workforce by 2024. You can follow the steps below to start a career as a machinist:

Research the Job Responsibilities

The duties of a machinist include:

  • Evaluating instructions and drawings to determine the specifications of the output.
  • Set up and operate automatic and manual CNC machines.
  • Set and monitor the cutting path, feed rate, and speed of the CNC machine.
  • Select the necessary materials and tools for the task.
  • Align and secure materials and attachments onto machines.
  • Use precision instruments to examine completed products and check for defects.
  • Present the final product to the client and adjust for any modification.
  • Maintain industrial machines and lubricate moving parts.

Acquire the necessary Qualifications

Machinists should have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. Aspiring machinists are encouraged to tackle math classes like geometry, algebra and trigonometry. You can then proceed to community colleges or technical institutes to obtain specific CNC skills.

Since this is a technical career, you will need to undergo apprenticeship or internships to gain hands-on experience. You will need several years under experienced machinists to obtain the necessary skills. Apprenticeship programs are recommended because you will use CNC machines and cutting tools, interpret blueprints, explore metallurgy, and learn safety practices.

A degree is not required but some machinists opt to pursue one in machine technology or manufacturing engineering. Certification is not necessary for this field, but it can create an outstanding resume. You can obtain certification from many associations, including the Fabricators & Manufacturer’s Association and the National Institute of Metalworking Skills.

Gain the Skills that Employers Want in a Machinist

  • Mechanical skills- ability to use tools like micrometers, lathes, grinders, and calipers and perform laser cutting, drilling, and metal forming.
  • Technical skills- understand how CNC machines work and execute metalworking procedures.
  • Troubleshooting- machinists should identify and fix operation errors.
  • Math skills- math skills are essential as they help machinists work with computerized measuring equipment.
  • Accuracy- this career demands precision and the best machinists configure production to the exact measurements of the design.
  • Physical fitness- machinists need a lot of stamina to stand for many hours and execute repetitive actions.
  • Time management- plan and arrange all materials and tools needed for a task.

Determine Where You will be Based

Machinist jobs are plentiful in the Great Lakes Region because of the presence of numerous automotive manufacturers. The west coast also has lucrative positions in its aerospace manufacturing factories. Southeast US is a good option for machinists as companies like Apple and Boeing have set up shop.

The median pay for machinists is $19.64, but states like Mississippi, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, California, and Washington DC have higher rates.

Advance in Your Career

Most machinists get jobs in product manufacturing plants, machine shops, refineries and food processing factories. They commonly work for manufacturers of aircraft and motor vehicles. While potential hazards have long characterized these work environments, some manufacturers are working towards more conducive workspaces.

A machinist’s work area should be ventilated, and well-lit and CNC machines should be partially or fully covered to reduce exposure to noise and debris. Machinists should be armed with protective gear like safety goggles and earplugs at all times.

Look out for plants with newer equipment and competitive benefits. Machinists are often on their feet for hours on end, which can strain their body’s functionality. Most machinists put in a 40-hour workweek, although you may have to work overtime during production peaks.

Most machinists advance to managerial positions in manufacturing companies. Others specialize in CNC programming applications or machine repair. Other career options for machinists include engineering, production planning and inspection. Some machinists run machine shops, which needs plenty of business skills.


If you are considering a machinist career path, you will be glad to know that there are low barriers to entry. In addition to your high school diploma, you can pursue specialized courses in technical schools or a community college.

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