Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 machinist and tool and die maker Jobs

  • Tool and Die Maker/Machinist - Elite Consulting Group - Cincinnati, OH

    PRIMARY RESPONSIBILTIES: • Lays out, constructs, alters, fits, assembles and fixes various jigs, fixtures, dies, molds, templates, inspection

  • Plant Machinist (Tool & Die Maker) - Crown Holdings - Omaha, NE

    Makes major unusual repairs or alterations to end and tongue dies including the manufacture of replacement

  • Machinist /Tool & Die Maker - Legrand - West Hartford, CT

    As a Tool & Die Maker for Legrand, you will provide production support through tool and die making activities. This position is an hourly position

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What Machinists and Tool and Die Makers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

Duties of Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Machinists typically do the following:

  • Work from blueprints, sketches, or computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) files
  • Set up, operate, and disassemble manual, automatic, and computer-numeric-controlled (CNC) machine tools
  • Align, secure, and adjust cutting tools and workpieces
  • Monitor the feed and speed of machines
  • Turn, mill, drill, shape, and grind machine parts to specifications
  • Measure, examine, and test completed products for defects
  • Smooth the surfaces of parts or products
  • Present finished workpieces to customers and make modifications if needed

Tool and die makers typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints, sketches, specifications, or CAD and CAM files for making tools and dies
  • Compute and verify dimensions, sizes, shapes, and tolerances of workpieces
  • Set up, operate, and disassemble conventional, manual, and CNC machine tools
  • File, grind, and adjust parts so that they fit together properly
  • Test completed tools and dies to ensure that they meet specifications
  • Smooth and polish the surfaces of tools and dies

Machinists use machine tools, such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders, to produce precision metal parts. Many machinists must be able to use both manual and CNC machinery. CNC machines control the cutting tool speed and do all necessary cuts to create a part. The machinist determines the cutting path, the speed of the cut, and the feed rate by programming instructions into the CNC machine.

Although workers may produce large quantities of one part, precision machinists often produce small batches or one-of-a-kind items. The parts that machinists make range from simple steel bolts to titanium bone screws for orthopedic implants. Hydraulic parts, antilock brakes, and automobile pistons are other widely known products that machinists make.

Some machinists repair or make new parts for existing machinery. After an industrial machinery mechanic discovers a broken part in a machine, a machinist remanufactures the part. The machinist refers to blueprints and performs the same machining operations that were used to create the original part in order to create the replacement.

Because the technology of machining is changing rapidly, workers must learn to operate a wide range of machines. Some newer manufacturing processes use lasers, water jets, and electrified wires to cut the workpiece. Although some of the computer controls are similar to those of other machine tools, machinists must understand the unique capabilities and features of different machines. As engineers create new types of machine tools, machinists must learn new machining properties and techniques.

Toolmakers craft precision tools that are used to cut, shape, and form metal and other materials. They also produce jigs and fixtures—devices that hold metal while it is bored, stamped, or drilled—and gauges and other measuring devices.

Die makers construct metal forms, called dies, that are used to shape metal in stamping and forging operations. They also make metal molds for die casting and for molding plastics, ceramics, and composite materials.

Many tool and die makers use CAD to develop products and parts. Designs are entered into computer programs that produce blueprints for the required tools and dies. Computer-numeric control programmers, found in the metal and plastic machine workers profile, convert CAD designs into CAM programs that contain instructions for a sequence of cutting tool operations. Once these programs are developed, CNC machines follow the set of instructions contained in the program to produce the part. Machinists normally operate CNC machines, but tool and die makers often are trained to both operate CNC machines and write CNC programs and thus may do either task.

Work Environment for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers[About this section] [To Top]

Machinists and tool and die makers hold about 477,500 jobs. Machinists hold about 399,700 jobs. Tool and die makers hold about 77,800 jobs. The vast majority work in manufacturing, including machine shops, toolrooms, and factories.

The industries that employ the most machinists and tool and die makers are as follows:

Fabricated metal product manufacturing 31%
Machinery manufacturing 20
Transportation equipment manufacturing 14

Injuries and Illnesses

Although the work of machinists and tool and die makers is not inherently dangerous, working around machine tools presents hazards, and workers must follow precautions. For example, workers must wear protective equipment, such as safety glasses, to shield against bits of flying metal, earplugs to dampen the noise produced by machinery, and masks to limit their exposure to fumes.

Machinist and Tool and Die Maker Work Schedules

Although many machinists and tool and die makers work full time during regular business hours, some work on evenings and weekends because facilities may operate around the clock. Overtime is also common.

How to Become a Machinist or Tool and Die Maker[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers near you!

There are many different ways to become a machinist or tool and die maker. Machinists train in apprenticeship programs, vocational schools, or community or technical colleges, or on the job. To become a fully trained tool and die maker takes several years of technical instruction and on-the-job training. Good math and problem-solving skills, in addition to familiarity with computer software, are important. A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary.

Machinist and Tool and Die Maker Education

Machinists and tool and die makers must have a high school diploma or equivalent. In high school, students should take math courses, especially trigonometry and geometry. They also should take courses in blueprint reading, metalworking, and drafting, if available.

Some advanced positions, such as those in the aircraft manufacturing industry, require the use of advanced applied calculus and physics. The increasing use of computer-controlled machinery requires machinists and tool and die makers to have experience using computers before entering a training program.

Some community colleges and technical schools have 2-year programs that train students to become machinists or tool and die makers. These programs usually teach design and blueprint reading, how to use a variety of welding and cutting tools, and the programming and function of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines.

Machinist and Tool and Die Maker Training

There are multiple ways for workers to gain competency in the job as a tool or die maker. One common way is through long-term on-the-job training, which lasts 1 year or longer.

Apprenticeship programs, typically sponsored by a manufacturer, provide another way to become a machinist or tool and die maker, but they are often hard to get into. Apprentices usually have a high school diploma or equivalent, and most have taken algebra and trigonometry classes.

Apprenticeship programs often consist of paid shop training and related technical instruction lasting several years. The technical instruction typically is provided in cooperation with local community colleges and vocational–technical schools.

Apprentices usually work 40 hours per week and receive technical instruction during evenings. Trainees often begin as machine operators and gradually take on more difficult assignments. Machinists and tool and die makers must be experienced in using computers to work with CAD/CAM technology, CNC machine tools, and computerized measuring machines. Some machinists become tool and die makers.

A number of machinists and tool and die makers receive their technical training from community and technical colleges. Employees may learn this way while being employed by a manufacturer that supports the employee’s training goals and provides needed on-the-job training as well.

Even after completing a formal training program, tool and die makers still need years of experience to become highly skilled.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

To boost the skill level of machinists and tool and die makers and to create a more uniform standard of competency, a number of training facilities and colleges offer certification programs. The Skills Certification System, for example, is an industry-driven program that aims to align education pathways with career pathways. In addition, journey-level certification is available from state apprenticeship boards after completing an apprenticeship.

Completing a recognized certification program provides machinists and tool and die makers with better job opportunities and helps employers judge the abilities of new hires.

Important Qualities for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Analytical skills. Machinists and tool and die makers must understand highly technical blueprints, models, and specifications so that they can craft precision tools and metal parts.

Manual dexterity. The work of machinists and tool and die makers must be highly accurate. For example, machining parts may demand accuracy to within .0001 of an inch, a level of accuracy that requires workers’ concentration and dexterity.

Math skills and computer application experience. Workers must have good math skills and be experienced using computers to work with CAD/CAM technology, CNC machine tools, and computerized measuring machines.

Mechanical skills. Machinists and tool and die makers must operate milling machines, lathes, grinders, laser and water cutting machines, wire electrical discharge machines, and other machine tools. They may also use a variety of hand tools and power tools.

Physical stamina. The ability to endure extended periods of standing and performing repetitious movements is important for machinists and tool and die makers.

Technical skills. Machinists and tool and die makers must understand computerized measuring machines and metalworking processes, such as stock removal, chip control, and heat treating and plating.

Machinist and Tool and Die Maker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for machinists is $40,550. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,290.

The median annual wage for tool and die makers is $50,290. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,010, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,530.

The pay of apprentices is tied to their skill level. As they gain more skills and reach specific levels of performance and experience, their pay increases.

Although many machinists and tool and die makers work full time during regular business hours, some work on evenings and weekends because facilities may operate around the clock. Overtime is also common.

Job Outlook for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers[About this section] [To Top]

Overall employment of machinists and tool and die makers is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Employment of machinists is projected to grow 10 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations. Despite improvements in technologies, such as computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools, autoloaders, high-speed machining, and lights-out manufacturing, machinists will still be required to set up, monitor, and maintain these automated systems.

In addition, employers will continue to need machinists, who have a wide range of skills and are capable of using modern production techniques in a machine shop. As manufacturers invest in new equipment, modify production techniques, and implement product design changes more rapidly, they will continue to rely heavily on experienced machinists.

Employment of tool and die makers is projected to decline 13 percent over the next ten years. Foreign competition in manufacturing and advances in automation, including CNC machine tools and computer-aided design (CAD), should reduce employment of tool and die makers.

Machinists and Tool and Die Makers Job Prospects

Job opportunities for machinists and tool and die makers should be very good, as employers continue to value the wide-ranging skills of these workers. Also, many young people with the education and skills needed to become machinists and tool and die makers prefer to attend college or may not wish to enter production occupations. Therefore, the number of workers learning to be machinists and tool and die makers is expected to be smaller than the number of job openings arising each year from the need to replace experienced machinists who retire or leave the occupation for other reasons.

Employment projections data for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Machinists and tool and die makers 477,500 506,600 6 29,100
  Machinists 399,700 438,900 10 39,200
  Tool and die makers 77,800 67,700 -13 -10,100


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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