What does a machinist do?
Machinists repair, fabricate and modify equipment like lathes, grinders, drills and other mechanical equipment to make or repair precision parts, instruments and frames. Most fabrications and repairs require strong mechanical skills, mathematical knowledge and familiarity with metallic properties. Most work requires very tight tolerances and great precision like cuts with less than a thousandth of an inch leeway. As a machinist, you will encounter the following types of challenges:
• Taking a blank piece of metal and turning it into a vital machine part
• Providing proper maintenance like cleaning and oiling machinery
• Choosing the right tools for the job
• Programming machines correctly to do the steps of a job in the proper orderView Roles
What is the average salary of a machinist?
The average salary of a machinist was $46,211 as of May 27, 2022. That amounts to an average monthly salary of $3,851. The common range for machinist salaries runs between $41,094 and $53,256. Your salary could differ substantially based on where you work, any certifications earned, experience and any special skills you might have. For example, high and low state salary averages for machinists include Wyoming, Utah, Washington and Missouri among the highest-paid machinists running from $60,080 to $51,620. The lowest state salaries for machinists include Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia where salaries range from $31,863 to $34,275.
Salary-based on experience
Your degree of experience plays a critical role in your machinist salary. The more experience you have, the higher your salary will usually be, up to a maximum of about 25 years of experience. You can expect about $1,500 for each year of experience, and larger companies generally pay higher salaries. You can receive a higher salary by earning NIMS Certification in one or more of 24 operational areas like metal forming, mold making, screw machining and machine maintenance.
Working as a machinist
Working as a machinist provides a stable income, advancement opportunities and the social benefits of working with automation and AI (artificial intelligence) technologies.
What are the responsibilities of a machinist?
Competent machinists learn self-sufficiency and proficiency in CNC machining techniques like laser etching and engraving, matching small parts, close tolerance matching, building prototypes, milling turning and laser cutting. Your job responsibilities as a journeyman machinist include:
- Learning shop procedures based on company goals
- Maintaining work-order records
- Performing routine maintenance
- Inspecting parts for defects
- Carefully measuring dimensions to conform to industry standards
- Learning the importance of attention to details
- Developing advanced computer skills
- Managing your time efficiently
Other responsibilities and job duties of machinists include:
- Selecting the right machine and settings for a given job
- Taking extremely precise measurements before cutting and shaping parts and components
- Operating and maintaining lathes and milling machines
- Reviewing instructions, blueprints, drawings and samples to ensure accurate production
What type of equipment do machinists use?
As the job title indicates, machinists use many types of equipment and machines during the course of a normal day. The most common machines and tools include center punches, calipers, dials, micrometers, edge finders and 6-inch scale rulers. Scientific calculators also come in handy for calculating with sine, cosine and tangent trigonometry functions.
What is the work environment of a machinist?
Machinists work in factories, machine shops and assembly lines during regular business hours, but demand and deadlines can easily generate night and weekend work. Usually, you will perform the work indoors, but the spaces often fail to be well-heated or air conditioned. Machinists often receive their instructions personally from supervisors, but they spend a lot of time working alone. You will often wear goggles and earplugs as safety measures, and noisy environments are the norm rather than the exception.
Most machinists can schedule their vacation time with sufficient advance notice, and only high-level supervisors or designers are likely to be held as indispensable. Sometimes, machinists are exposed to toxic substances, equipment safety risks and health hazards.
Who are your colleagues as a machinist?
Your colleagues as a machinist include manufacturing, transportation, and construction workers and their supervisors. Frequently, you work closely with numerical control machine operators, safety inspectors and staff members who monitor compliance issues.
Following best practices
Following safety best practices is also a critical machinist skill, and relying on a work partner can be incredibly useful for watching your back and getting friendly reminders to wear proper safety equipment at all times. Problem-solving skills work more effectively when you become a member of a team and proactively work on safety.
What is the work schedule of a machinist?
Work schedules for most machinists follow the standard 40-hour week, but many companies offer overtime.
More and more companies offer flexible working conditions, round-the-clock shifts and limited shifts for those who want them like night work or early-morning shifts.
What is the career outlook for a machinist?
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that the job outlook for machinists is expected to grow 7% between 2020 and 2030. Factors that help to ensure job security include factory retooling for automation and increased use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in all types of businesses.
Causes of increased opportunities
The increase in machinist jobs mirrors the average increase in most industries. One advantage of machinist careers is that they’re usually trained on the job or in programs sponsored by vocational schools, apprenticeship programs and community or technical colleges.
Taking advantage of training opportunities
You can get more detailed training and scholarship information to earn higher salaries using several proven techniques. These include finding a training program to become a programmer, a tool and die maker or a mold maker. You can also advance by being promoted to supervisory or administrative positions. Many community college programs offer training programs for similar positions.
Some of the top programs for training include:
- 360 Learning
- Absorb LMS
- Work Ramp
- Talent LMS
Machinist professional organizations include the National Tooling and Machine Association and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
What are the advantages of working with Spherion as a machinist?
Working with Spherion to find a suitable machinist job provides all the benefits of using a top-tier agency. This includes attracting some of the best jobs and having a dedicated contact person who works solely on your behalf while you’re looking for a job. The benefits of working with Spherion include:
- Training opportunities for career advancement
- Wider range of jobs related to machining
- Flexible scheduling
- Weekly pay, which often proves to be a windfall for applicants in financial difficulties
- Finding nearby machinist work opportunities with customized searches
What education do you need as a machinist?
The only formal education requirement of a career as a machinist is a high school diploma or its equivalent. However, most employment professionals agree that it takes about five years of training to become fully trained in all aspects of the machinist job. Machinist education includes getting training from various resources like vocational schools, community college programs, on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs.
The machinist culture often emphasizes self-reliance and provides only limited time to develop soft skills, but these are essential in increasing your focus to cut and shape parts with greater precision. Attention to detail proves to be an essential machinist skill because the slightest error can make a part unstable and unusable.
Other possible education routes
Taking related classes can also help you prepare for the challenges of working as a machinist. An associate degree can be helpful but not strictly necessary. It’s more useful to get educated in business practices, computer science and even artificial intelligence and machine learning if you want to remain in the forefront of modern machining techniques.
Earning related certifications can certainly stand you in good stead on your job search. The most common certifications among machinists include the following:
- Quality control inspector certification
- Master engine machinist certification
- HVAC master specialist certification
- Machining level 1 -- milling certification
- EPA amusement operators’ safety certification
- Machine tools sales engineer certification
Choosing the right education
Both degree programs and certifications can help you in your determination to become an expert machinist at the highest level of performance. Depending on your patience, personality and accumulated skills, either initiative might be better suited for you.
Skills & Competencies
The skills and competencies of machinists surprisingly include numerous skills for personal and team communications. Most employers list numerical control, CNC machining and blueprint reading at the top of their required skills for machinists. However, an unexpected number of employment professionals list interpersonal skills. Some of the listed skills and competencies for machinists include:
- Solid mathematical skills
- Extensive attention to details, accuracy and safety
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Excellent balance, coordination and mechanical skills
- At least a basic proficiency in computer skills
- Ability to lift 50-pound weights
- Problem-solving and troubleshooting abilities
- Good health and ability to perform repetitive operations
- Blueprint reading proficiency
- Familiarity with numerical control and matching of common machining applications
- Ability to interpret drawings and sketches for CNC machining tasks
- Ability to use drawings and technical reports to interact with other manufacturing workers
Standard shop skills
Standard machine shop skills include machining, CNC computer programming, LEAN manufacturing techniques and making continuous incremental improvements in products and their functions. Familiarity with productivity-boosting manufacturing tenets is a big advantage for machinist job candidates.
Machinists use sketches, blueprints and computer-aided designs to operate various computer-controlled equipment. Learn more about becoming a machinist.
What are the real-world benefits of becoming a machinist?
Machinists work hard to manufacture real-world products, and they deserve practical answers to their most pressing questions. The benefits of a career as a machinist include:
- The highest levels of machinists earn attractive incomes, especially for careers that don’t generate burdensome student debt.
- The job outlook remains promising for the next decade as many factories re-tool their manufacturing processes to incorporate AI and machine intelligence.
- Career advancement opportunities are expanding for similar reasons.
- Creating a new tool or equipment design generates substantial job satisfaction.
How do jobs similar to machinists compare in salaries?
The average salary of a CNC machinist runs $24.42 per hour. That compares to a salary of $28.57 per hour for CNC programmers and a salary of $20.10 for a CNC operator.
What are the entry-level qualifications for machinists?
You just need a high school diploma for most entry-level machinist jobs, and most companies offer training as part of the package. Some companies do require expanded qualifications like a driver’s license, the ability to read blueprints and advanced courses in mathematics.
How do I apply for a job as a machinist?
Applying for a machinist job is easy with Spherion. You can use the proprietary search methods for finding machinist jobs based on your location, specific job title, salary requirements and other criteria. If you can’t find the perfect match for your needs, you can submit an open application. Submitting your application, contact information and resume as a Spherion open application triggers a live human response from a nearby information specialist who will inform you about potential jobs, their duties and jobs that match your professional goals and skill set. Check out current machinist jobs to get a better idea of what’s available.