Machine Shop Technology

Machinists create the metal parts that are found in finished cars, planes and other objects we rely on daily. Read on to learn more about earnings potential, job duties and training requirements before deciding if a career as a machinist is right for you.

Is Machine Shop Technology for Me?

Career Overview

Utilizing machine tools and reading written specifications or blueprints, machinists create precision parts from metal. These include pistons and bolts, as well as the multiple parts found in automobile and airplanes. You'll also fix, maintain or build machine tools and industrial equipment, which may involve altering or fabricating new parts. As a working machinist, you'll need to keep updated on changing technology and the new methods and materials used in the trade.

Job Duties

Your duties as a machinist could include not only cutting and fabricating these pieces, but also monitoring and maintaining the machine technology that produces them. Some of the machine tools you'll use are operated by hand. Others are controlled by computers, and most machinists are trained to write and adapt these computer programs to produce specific results. These are also known as computer numerical control or CNC machinists.

Career Options

Machinists work in many manufacturing industries, including those producing automobile and aerospace parts and metalworking machines. You could also choose self-employment and start your own machine shop. Industrial maintenance is another employment option for machinists.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for machinists were expected to increase 8.8% nationwide between 2012 and 2022. As of May 2013, most machinists earned between $24,280 and $60,070 a year, as reported by the BLS (

How Can I Work in Machine Shop Technology?

Entry-Level Requirements

You can start preparing for a career as a machinist in high school by taking classes in computers and math, as well as any available courses in drafting, blueprints or metalworking. You'll typically need a high school diploma or GED to get an entry-level job in machine shop technology.

Apprenticeship and Training Options

Apprenticeship programs are usually supported by labor unions or companies. As an apprentice, you'll attend classes and earn a paycheck while working under the guidance of experienced machinists. Informal training for aspiring machinists often takes place on the job. Some training programs can also be found online.

Certificate and Degree Programs

You can also attend a community college or technical school to earn an associate's degree or certificate in machine shop technology. Even with an associate's degree in hand, you'll likely need substantial work experience as an assistant machinist. Once enrolled, you'll learn how to read blueprints and use equipment like lathes, grinders and milling machines. Both manual and computer-controlled machine tools are usually included in machine shop technology programs. Courses may include training in machining calculations, welding, hydraulics and metallurgy, as well as drafting, pattern-making and technical math.

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