What is a Machinist?

A machinist is a skilled tradesperson responsible for fabricating, maintaining, and repairing machinery in industrial settings. They use precision tools to produce machinery and equipment components from raw metal or plastic materials. In addition to manufacturing components from raw materials or existing parts/drawings as needed, machinists are trained to disassemble equipment when necessary for repairs or upgrades.

Some of the industries that employ machinists include:

  • Aerospace and defense: Machinists in this industry produce parts for aircraft, missiles, and other defense-related systems.
  • Automotive: Machinists in the automotive industry produce parts for cars, trucks, and other vehicles.
  • Medical device: Machinists in the medical device industry create precision parts for medical instruments and devices.
  • Machine shops and job shops: These businesses provide various machining services to other manufacturers and may specialize in a particular machining or industry.
  • Power generation: Machinists in the power generation industry produce parts for turbines, generators, and other power-related equipment.
  • Oil and gas: Machinists in the oil and gas industry produce parts for drilling equipment, pumps, and other machinery used to extract and produce oil and gas.
  • Tool and die: Machinists in the tool and die industry create specialized tools, dies, and molds used in other manufacturing processes.
  • Robotics: Machinists in the robotics industry produce parts for robotic systems and automation equipment.
  • Agriculture: Machinists in the agriculture industry produce parts for tractors and other heavy machinery used in farming and construction.
  • Food and Beverage: Machinists in the food and beverage industry produce parts for machinery used in food processing, bottling, and packaging.

What do Machinists do?

Machinists work with lathes, grinders, mills, drill presses, boring bars, and other specialized equipment to shape and cut materials like steel, aluminum, brass, bronze, iron, stainless steel, titanium, and plastics. They also use metrology instruments such as calipers, gauges, and micrometers to measure the accuracy of their work. In addition to manufacturing components from raw material stock or pre-made blanks, they may also be responsible for repairing existing components according to engineering specifications. Machinists must adhere to tight tolerances when completing projects, so they must understand their equipment and its capabilities.

How do you Become a Machinist?

Machinists typically require a high school diploma or equivalent to enter the profession, though more advanced jobs may require postsecondary education. Depending on the specialty, machinists may need additional certifications or licenses. For example, for computer numerical control (CNC) machinists, certification can demonstrate proficiency and is often required for employment.

Certificate and associate degree programs in machining are usually available at technical schools, community colleges, and vocational training centers. These courses cover various topics, such as machine tool operations, metal fabrication, computer-aided design (CAD) software applications, and safety procedures. Students also learn about mathematics for problem-solving and various processes for producing metal parts or products. Finally, these courses often involve hands-on experience with industrial machinery to gain practical skills in the field. Machinists should understand materials science principles to know how different materials behave during their machining process.

Experienced machinists can pursue certifications from professional organizations like the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS). These certifications demonstrate a certain level of knowledge and skill in the industry. They are usually obtained after completing a program or apprenticeship that includes courses such as blueprint reading, manual milling and lathe operations, welding, and quality control processes. Achieving these certifications can help machinists advance their career opportunities in the field.

Ultimately, the educational requirements of a machinist will depend on their specialty and the type of work they plan to do. Those who want to advance in this field should strive for ongoing education and training to stay current with the latest technologies. Doing so can help them remain competitive in the job market, as employers often seek skilled candidates with up-to-date knowledge and experience.

Employers often provide some level of on-the-job training to ensure their machinists have the necessary skills and knowledge needed for the role. This can include demonstrations and tutorials and provide informational manuals or references for future reference. Companies sometimes offer continuing education programs to help machinists stay updated with industry trends and technological advances. Additionally, many employers offer apprenticeship programs that allow individuals without prior education or experience to enter the field.

Skills Needed to be a Machinist

Machinists are highly sought after in the job market due to their specialized skills. The job outlook for machinists varies depending on the industry they work in and the region of the country. Overall, job opportunities for machinists may be best in areas with a solid manufacturing base, such as the Midwest, and in industries that are less likely to be outsourced, such as aerospace and medical device manufacturing.

Companies are looking for candidates with advanced technical abilities to remain ahead of the competition. As such, those with experience in this field have a great opportunity of finding employment with attractive benefits and wages.

Machinists typically need a combination of technical and mechanical skills, including:

  • Strong math skills, including knowledge of geometry and trigonometry, to be able to understand and create complex technical drawings and calculations.
  • Knowledge of different types of machinery and tools, including how to operate, maintain, and troubleshoot them.
  • Manual dexterity and strong hand-eye coordination to work with small parts and tools.
  • Ability to read and interpret technical blueprints and schematics.
  • Knowledge of materials and their properties, including how to select the appropriate materials for a specific job.
  • Attention to detail to ensure that finished parts meet precise specifications.
  • Experience with computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software.
  • Good problem-solving skills to be able to identify and fix any issues that arise during the manufacturing process.
  • Good communication skills to be able to work effectively with team members and customers.
  • Physical stamina to stand for long periods and lift heavy objects. 

How do Companies Find Machinists?

When companies need to hire machinists on both a short-term and long-term basis, they often look to a temporary staffing agency. A staffing professional will help find machinists with the specific qualifications the organization needs for its operations. The benefits of using a temporary staffing service include access to qualified personnel, cost reduction, reduced time spent recruiting personnel, and flexibility in terms of placement duration. By utilizing services from a reputable temp agency for machining professionals, businesses in need of machinists can rest assured that their machining operations will run smoothly. Contact RSS today to learn more about hiring temporary machinists.