what is a machinist?

Machinists are skilled tradespeople who work with precision tools and machines to create intricate parts and components. They fabricate, assemble and repair metal parts. Machinists measure, cut and shape metal parts and use a variety of machines such as lathes, milling machines, grinders, saws and other power tools to achieve this. They also inspect finished parts for quality and accuracy.

Since machinists work precisely, they need a keen eye for detail and excellent hand-eye coordination. They must also have a solid understanding of mathematics, basic engineering principles and the ability to adapt quickly to changing technology. In addition, machinists need to be able to follow instructions, read technical drawings and blueprints and work with various tools.

Would working as a machinist suit your love for details and your problem-solving and technical ability? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a machinist role.

machinist jobs near you

average machinist salary

Would you like to know what a machinist earns? Where are the highest salaries paid for a machinist? Then check out this machinist salary page and find out all about the salary of a machinist in the USA.

male machinist
male machinist

types of machinists

There are different types of machinists available. Depending on your experience and qualifications, you might be able to specialize in one area or another. Common types of machinists include:

  • computer numerical control (CNC) machinist: CNC machinists work with computer-controlled machines to fabricate metal parts.
  • manual machinist: Manual machinists set up and operate hand-operated machines to fabricate metal parts.
  • tool and die maker: Tool and die makers create molds, dies and other tools used in the manufacturing process.
  • precision machinist: Precision machinists work with tiny parts and components to fabricate metal parts with exact specifications.

working as a machinist

Working as a machinist might be a great way to combine your love of detail and technical ability. It's also a good choice if you’re looking for work with various career options. Here is what to expect when working as a machinist.


machinist skills and education

As a machinist, you need a combination of technical and mechanical skills. You need to understand the inner workings of machinery, know how to use precision measuring tools, and have an aptitude for problem-solving. Other skills include:

  • ability to read and interpret blueprints and technical drawings
  • strong problem-solving skills
  • paying attention to details

To become a machinist, the necessary combination of educational programs may include a diploma, certificate program, or apprenticeship. Some employers also require a two-year associate degree in machine tool technology.

If you want to become a CNC operator, you will need additional training in computer numerical control machinery. On-the-job training is also essential, as most employers provide in-house training. Depending on the industry and employer, certification is sometimes a requirement to become a machinist.

There are several certification programs available, such as:

  • National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) Certification Program
  • Master Machinist Certification Program
  • American Welding Society (AWS) Certification Program

Advanced certifications also allow for greater opportunities for career advancement and higher salaries.

skills and competencies

Since machinists work with tools and machines, employers prefer hiring those with strong technical and mechanical skills. You must be able to interpret blueprints and technical drawings easily, provide accurate measurements and solve problems quickly. It is also important to work with precision.

Other necessary skills and competencies include:

  • manual dexterity
  • ability to follow instructions correctly
  • safety knowledge
  • computer literacy
  • ability to use measuring and testing equipment
  • understanding of metals, plastics, and other materials used in machining
  • knowledge of mathematics, including geometry and trigonometry

In this role, you must also understand the principles of industrial mechanics and be familiar with the machines and tools used in the machining process. Additionally, you must have good communication skills to work effectively with supervisors and colleagues. You must be able to work independently or on a team and be willing to learn new skills and technologies.

male machinist working
male machinist working

FAQs about working as a machinist

Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about machinists.

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