Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Machinist Jobs

  • Machinist - Red Bud Industries - Red Bud, IL

    Operate both manual and CNC mills/lathes • Program mills • Operate grinders • Perform assembly and planer work as required • Assist saw

  • CNC Machinist - FJC Personnel - Taylor, TX

    Stamina: CNC MAchinists often work long hours doing repetitive

  • CNC Machinist - Logus Mfg Corp. - West Palm Beach, FL

    You will not be bored with the same old repetitive work, we are a fast paced dynamic shop doing small runs and changing set-up's

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Top 3 Tool and Die Maker Jobs

  • Tool and Die Maker - Viking Tool & Gage - Conneaut Lake, PA

    This position follows standard work methods and ensures safe work habits to ensure production is as efficient and safe as possible. Essential

  • Tool & Die/Mold Maker - Dimoco inc - Grand Rapids, MI

    Benefits include… · Paid Holidays · Medical

  • Tool and Die Maker - PD Systems - Springfield, VA

    Work typically involves: planning and laying out work according to models, blueprints, drawings, or other written or oral specifications

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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:

  • Read blueprints, sketches, or computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) files
  • Set up, operate, and disassemble manual, automatic, and computer numerically 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.

Some manufacturing processes use lasers, water jets, and electrified wires to cut the workpiece. As engineers design and build new types of machine tools, machinists must learn new machining properties and techniques.

Tool and die makers construct precision tools or metal forms, called dies, that are used to cut, shape, and form metal and other materials. They produce jigs and fixtures—devices that hold metal while it is bored, stamped, or drilled—and gauges and other measuring devices.

Dies 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.

Tool and die makers use CAD to develop products and parts. They enter designs into computer programs that produce blueprints for the required tools and dies. Computer numeric control programmers, described 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 hold about 396,200 jobs. The largest employers of machinists are as follows:

Machine shops 21%
Machinery manufacturing 20
Transportation equipment manufacturing 12
Employment services 5
Merchant wholesalers, durable goods 4

Tool and die makers hold about 72,500 jobs. The largest employers of tool and die makers are as follows:

Metalworking machinery manufacturing 23%
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing 16
Forging and stamping 8
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 5
Machine shops; turned product; and screw, nut, and bolt manufacturing 5

Injuries and Illnesses for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Because machinists and tool and die makers work around machine tools that may present hazards, these workers must follow precautions to avoid injuries. 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 evenings and weekends because facilities may operate around the clock. About 1 in 4 work more than 40 hours a week.

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!

Machinists and tool and die makers typically are trained on the job. Some learn through training or apprenticeship programs, vocational schools, or community and technical colleges. Although machinists typically need just a high school diploma, tool and die makers may need to complete courses beyond high school.

Education for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Machinists typically have a high school diploma or equivalent, whereas tool and die makers may need to complete courses beyond high school. High school courses in math, blueprint reading, metalworking, and drafting are considered useful.

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, the use of 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 machinist or tool or die maker. One common way is through long-term on-the-job training, which lasts 1 year or longer.

Trainees usually work 40 hours per week and take additional 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.

Some new workers may enter apprenticeship programs, which are typically sponsored by a manufacturer. Apprenticeship programs often consist of paid shop training and related technical instruction lasting several years. The technical instruction usually is provided in cooperation with local community colleges and vocational-technical schools. Workers typically enter into apprenticeships with a high school diploma or equivalent.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

A number of organizations 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 the completion of an apprenticeship.

Completing a 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 technical blueprints, models, and specifications so that they can craft precision tools and metal parts.

Manual dexterity. Machinists' and tool and die makers' work must be 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 be experienced in 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.

Physical stamina. Machinist and tool and die makers must stand for extended periods and perform repetitious movements.

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 $41,700. 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 $25,900, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,590.

The median annual wage for tool and die makers is $51,060. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,230.

The median annual wages for machinists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Transportation equipment manufacturing $45,640
Machinery manufacturing 42,660
Machine shops 40,410
Merchant wholesalers, durable goods 39,550
Employment services 34,140

The median annual wages for tool and die makers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Aerospace product and parts manufacturing $64,180
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing 57,080
Forging and stamping 50,530
Machine shops; turned product; and screw, nut, and bolt manufacturing 48,890
Metalworking machinery manufacturing 47,480

The pay of apprentices is tied to their skill level. As they 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 evenings and weekends because facilities may operate around the clock. About 1 in 4 work more than 40 hours a week.

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 show little or no change over the next ten years. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Employment of machinists is projected to grow 2 percent over the next ten years, slower than the average for all occupations. With 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 systems.

Employment of tool and die makers is projected to decline 7 percent over the next ten years. Advances in automation, including CNC machine tools, should reduce demand for tool and die makers to perform tasks, such as programming how parts fit together, that computer software can perform.

Job Prospects for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Job prospects for machinists and tool and die makers are expected to be good, primarily because of the number of job openings arising each year from the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation.

Employment projections data for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Machinists and tool and die makers 468,600 471,300 1 2,700
  Machinists 396,200 404,100 2 7,900
  Tool and die makers 72,500 67,300 -7 -5,200


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

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