Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

Work Environment: Machinists and tool and die makers work in machine shops, toolrooms, and factories. Although many work full time during regular business hours, overtime may be common, as is evening and weekend work.

How to Become One: 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.

Salary: The median annual wage for machinists is $44,420. The median annual wage for tool and die makers is $53,920.

Job Outlook: Overall employment of machinists and tool and die makers is projected to grow 3 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Many job opportunities are expected to arise from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation each year.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of machinists and tool and die makers with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a machinist with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Machinist Jobs

  • CNC Machinist - Walker Evans Enterprises - Jurupa Valley, CA

    CNC Machinist FULL-TIME $18/hr Pay is $16-$18 DOE. • The operator will be responsible for the operation of various CNC machine tools, which include Lathes and Mills. • The operator will be ...

  • General Machinist - O'Reilly Automotive - Mocksville, NC

    Our General Machinist will set up and operate a variety of machine tools to produce precision parts and instruments. This individual will plan sequence of machining operations, determines proper ...

  • Machinist II - Leviton Manufacturing - Anaheim, CA

    A machinist technician must be competent in using CNC equipment mill and lathe following all safety precautions. The ideal candidate will have knowledge of different types of metal and their ...

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Top 3 Tool and Die Maker Jobs

  • Die Maker - Richard Tool & Die - New Hudson, MI

    DIE MAKER Die Maker Richard Tool & Die Corporation World leader in the automotive stamping industry for over 50 years seeks experienced Die Makers. Experienced individual will have the ability to ...

  • Tool and Die Maker - Job Juncture - Orangeburg, SC

    TOOL AND DIE MAKER 1ST SHIFT COMPANY PROFILE: * Award Winning Manufacturer of Consumer Products * World Leader in outdoor products WHAT THIS COMPANY OFFERS YOU: * Comprehensive Benefits and Salary ...

  • Tool Die Maker - $38/hr + Relocation Assistance! - Toledo Tool & Die Company - Grand Rapids, MI

    Tool and Die Maker - 2nd & 3rd shift - In this role you will analyze specifications, lay out metal stock, set up and operate machine tools, and fit and assemble parts to make and repair dies, cutting ...

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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 388,100 jobs. The largest employers of machinists are as follows:

Machine shops 22%
Machinery manufacturing 19%
Transportation equipment manufacturing 12%
Employment services 6%

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

Metalworking machinery manufacturing 20%
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing 16%
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 6%
Machine shops; turned product; and screw, nut, and bolt manufacturing 5%
Plastics product manufacturing 4%

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. Some 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.

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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 $44,420. 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 $27,940, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $66,610.

The median annual wage for tool and die makers is $53,920. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,820, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $77,940.

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

Transportation equipment manufacturing $47,470
Machinery manufacturing $44,970
Machine shops $43,300
Employment services $33,550

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 $77,390
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing $57,780
Machine shops; turned product; and screw, nut, and bolt manufacturing $54,210
Metalworking machinery manufacturing $51,360
Plastics product manufacturing $51,350

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. Some 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 grow 3 percent over the next ten years. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Employment of machinists is projected to grow 4 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as 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 5 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.

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Job Prospects for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Many job openings for machinists and tool and die makers are expected to arise each year from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment projections data for Machinists and Tool and Die Makers, 2019-29
Occupational Title Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29
Percent Numeric
Machinists and tool and die makers 460,600 473,000 3 12,400
  Machinists 388,100 404,400 4 16,300
  Tool and die makers 72,500 68,600 -5 -3,900


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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