Machinists are professionals who create parts with the use of computerized machines. The work of machinists involves a great deal of precision and concentration. Parts that are cut must be done so in an exact measurement; even the smallest fragment of a centimeter off course may completely ruin a project. This career field involves long hours of intermittent sitting and standing, as well as cutting, measuring and calculating.
Apprentice machinists earn wages that are much less than those who have experience; however after apprenticeship is completed, wages will increase accordingly. According to reports from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics in 2008, the average hourly wage of machinists was $17.41. Of this group, the middle 50% earned between $13.66 and $21.85. The 10th percentile averaged less than $10.79 and the 90th percentile earned above $26.60 per hour. Those who worked in aerospace earned the highest wages, followed by machinists in metal-working machinery and manufacturing, motor vehicle part manufacturing, machine shops, screw/nut/bolt manufacturing and lastly, those who were employed by employment services or agencies.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
With the use of lathes, various tools, machines and grinders, machinists make various metal parts. Parts are usually made in small quantities to ensure accuracy and high quality results. Automobile parts, pistons and many other assortments of mechanical components are some of the important products these professionals produce. Accuracy is crucial, especially in car parts. Producing faulty car parts may result in potentially dangerous or even fatal consequences if such parts were used in cars. Machinists must review the plans or blueprints made for a project before they begin. Careful calculations must then be performed to determine where to cut these parts. Cutting is not only done on the surface; boring and drilling is also required, making this job even more complex. Each part must be cut, drilled and bored exactly to the specifications, which are designed by engineers.
After the plan has been studied and measurements have been verified, machinists select the tools required for the project. Tools are positioned where they are needed on machines. Machinists must double or even triple-check their work, ensuring that they have set the right tools in the right machines, also setting the right measurements to be cut by each machine. While the project is in process, the machinist must carefully monitor the project, being sure that the material is being fed at the right time rate and is positioned straight. After cutting, these professionals monitor the parts to be sure they are cooling properly or kept moist, if need be. Keeping track of temperature and humidity in the workplace area is another important responsibility.
Training and Education Requirements
Many machinists land their positions by practical experience. Most companies will require machinists to have experience and a high school diploma or GED. After earning their diploma, some interested candidates often begin employment with a factory, in which they may have the chance to advance to machine setting, presses and other machine-based equipment. After gaining experience, these workers may apply for machinist positions and be hired if they are able to prove their proficiency.
Some companies require a college degree for employment. There are degree programs offered by many vocational or technical colleges. Degree programs are 2-year Associate degrees; some students may choose to major in CNC. Many of these programs are apprenticeship programs, which require students to work under a professional machinist, learning hands-on techniques. After a specified length of apprenticeship work or a specific amount of work hours, students will earn their degree, along with completion of on-campus classes.
Certification is granted after completing an apprenticeship program. Since states do not regulate the requirements for licensing a machinist, these licenses are not necessary for work in every position. Some companies may have their own licensing or certification program for their machinists, designed to fit their own specifications. Various programs do exist; completing one of these programs will improve a machinist’s resume greatly, making them much more marketable for employment. Journeyworker certification is one of the most prestigious certifications that is nationally recognized. These programs are offered by state licensing boards, available to those who have completed their apprenticeship. As technology changes or improves, continuing education is required for machinists. Employers usually provide training on the job or pay tuition for required college classes and seminars meeting these requirements.
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers began in 1888, started by 19 machinists. This association is the most well-known choice of membership for machinists nationwide, boasting more than 640,000 members. The National Tooling and Machining Association is another popular professional association for machinists and toolmakers. Membership to both of these associations will provide machinists with up-to-date information pertaining to their profession. When new machine tools, technologies or machines are introduced, these associations will inform their members with detailed information. Members may also find resources for their required continuing education; announcements of seminars and conferences are posted frequently. In addition to providing valuable up-to-date technological information, association membership will afford machinists a connection to a valuable network of other professionals in machining.