How to Become a Machinist

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Machinists often work on factory floors, in tool rooms, and in machine shops. They operate mechanically-controlled and computer-controlled machines to make instruments, tools, and metal parts. In most cases, a machinist does not need a college degree. Instead, the applicant usually undergoes an apprenticeship and receives four or five years of paid training and technical instruction to master the craft.[1]


Flickr: Official U.S. Navy Imagery
Education High school diploma[1]
Starting pay $24,107[2]
Median pay $39,910[1]
10 yr growth Slower than average[1]
Related professions Mechanical engineer, maintenance workers, Industrial machinery mechanics, millwrights[3]
Author Allison Hughes

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Machinist Job Overview

A machinist's job entails a variety of duties, including:

  • Monitoring the operations of machines
  • Using instruments to calculate dimensions
  • Measuring and testing select products to make sure they are not defective
  • Working with automatic, manual, and computer-controlled machine tools

Some of the key skills a machinist needs include critical thinking skills, the ability to communicate, measurement skills, a knowledge of algebra, the ability to operate monitors, and the ability to measure and cut items with accuracy. On an average day, machinists need to lift heavy items, bend, and stand for extended periods.[4]

Machinist Education

Machinists do not need a college degree. During high school, students who are interested in becoming machinists can take courses in geometry, trigonometry, physics, calculus, drafting, metalworking, and blueprint reading to prepare them for their job responsibilities. In lieu of a college degree, machinists undergo a paid apprentice program. The program usually lasts four to five years and is often available through community colleges or vocational schools.[5]

Machinist Training

During a machinist apprenticeship program, an individual participates in paid apprentice training and receives technical instruction. A typical apprentice program requires 40 hours a week, with technical instruction in the evenings. In the beginning, participants start out as machine operators, but slowly progress to more complex duties.[5]

Machinist Certification

Although not required, machinists who become certified increase their chances of being hired for well-paying jobs. Certification is available through state apprenticeship boards and select colleges. For example, individuals can obtain a journey-level certification after they have finished their apprenticeships. This certificate increases job prospects for new machinists, as many companies recognize the certificate.[5]

Becoming a Machinist

The duties of a machinist

Also See: How to Become a Mechanical Engineer, How to Become an Electrical Engineer, How to Become a Civil Engineer, How to Become an Electrician, How to Become an Auto Mechanic, How to Become an Airplane Mechanic


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