Machine Tool Technologies

Orthopedic screws or car and plane parts are some of the diverse products fashioned with machine tool technologies. Keep reading to learn more about technical duties, earnings and training for machine tool technologists before deciding if this is the right field for you.

Are Machine Tool Technologies for Me?

Career Overview

Machine tool technologies are used to cut and shape metal into precision parts, tools, specialty tooling molds and forms. As a machine tool technologist, you'll prepare and use a variety of machinery, including computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines, drill presses, lathes and mills. Advanced machining operations utilize computer-assisted design (CAD) and computer-assisted manufacturing (CAM) software applications for precision. You might also make parts to fix or build machine tools or industrial equipment.

Career Options

Machine tool technologists include tool and die makers, CNC programmers and operators and machinists. For example, you might work for a manufacturer or the military, producing automotive and aerospace parts, or specialize in hydraulic and pneumatic equipment. Additional opportunities may be found in heavy industry and medical technologies. You could also choose to start your own machine tool business.

Employment and Salary Information

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2013, there were about 476,200 machinists and tool and die makers working in the United States. According to the BLS, job opportunities for machinists and tool and die makers were expected to grow by 7% nationwide between 2012 and 2022, which is close to the national average of 11% for all occupations. As of May 2013, machinists earned between $24,280 and $60,070 annually, while tool and die makers made $31,670 to $70,820 a year (www.bls.gov).

Based upon information provided by PayScale.com in July 2014, salaries for CNC operators and programmers ranged from $29,491 to $63,591 a year, including bonuses, overtime and profit sharing.

How Can I Work in Machine Tool Technologies?

Entry-Level Requirements

You'll need to earn a high school diploma or a GED to work in machine tool technologies. Many workers learn the trade through an apprenticeship, working under the auspices of an employer or a labor union. In an apprenticeship program, you'll earn a paycheck while pursuing on-the-job training and technical studies in a school setting. Online training for machinists may also be available.

Certificate and Degree Programs

Certificate, diploma and associate degree programs can be found at some community colleges or technical schools. In general, the programs combine classroom instruction and with hands-on experiences in metalworking, mold manufacturing, precision measuring and welding. You'll also find out how to read blueprints, become familiar with safety procedures and work with CAD/CAM software and CNC programming.

Machine tool technology programs may also include complimentary coursework in math, computer science and technical writing. Although completion of a formal education program can help you enter the field, most employers require additional training specific to the job.

Required Skills

Workers employed in machine tool technologies are mechanically inclined and possess above-average math and computer skills. You should also know how to read blueprints and other technical materials.

Certification

You might improve your chances of getting hired and promoted by obtaining professional certification. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) awards 52 credentials upon completion of performance tests and other exams (www.nims-skills.org).

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