Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Summary

machinists and tool and die makers image
Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate many different machines.
Quick Facts: Machinists and Tool and Die Makers
2015 Median Pay $42,110 per year
$20.25 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 477,500
Job Outlook, 2014-24 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 29,000

What Machinists and Tool and Die Makers Do

Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

Work Environment

Machinists and tool and die makers work in machine shops, toolrooms, and factories. Although many work full time during regular business hours, overtime may be common, as is evening and weekend work.

How to Become a Machinist or Tool and Die Maker

Machinists train in apprenticeship programs, vocational schools, community and technical colleges, or on the job. Tool and die makers receive several years of technical instruction and on-the-job training. A high school diploma is necessary.

Pay

The median annual wage for machinists and tool and die makers was $42,110 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of machinists and tool and die makers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Workers familiar with computer software applications and who can perform multiple tasks in a machine shop will have the best job opportunities.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for machinists and tool and die makers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of machinists and tool and die makers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about machinists and tool and die makers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Machinists and Tool and Die Makers Do About this section

Machinists and tool and die makers
Machinists and tool and die makers must understand computerized measuring machines and metalworking processes.

Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

Duties

Machinists typically do the following:

  • Work from blueprints, sketches, or computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) files
  • Set up, operate, and disassemble manual, automatic, and computer-numeric-controlled (CNC) machine tools
  • Align, secure, and adjust cutting tools and workpieces
  • Monitor the feed and speed of machines
  • Turn, mill, drill, shape, and grind machine parts to specifications
  • Measure, examine, and test completed products for defects
  • Smooth the surfaces of parts or products
  • Present finished workpieces to customers and make modifications if needed

Tool and die makers typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints, sketches, specifications, or CAD and CAM files for making tools and dies
  • Compute and verify dimensions, sizes, shapes, and tolerances of workpieces
  • Set up, operate, and disassemble conventional, manual, and CNC machine tools
  • File, grind, and adjust parts so that they fit together properly
  • Test completed tools and dies to ensure that they meet specifications
  • Smooth and polish the surfaces of tools and dies

Machinists use machine tools, such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders, to produce precision metal parts. Many machinists must be able to use both manual and CNC machinery. CNC machines control the cutting tool speed and do all necessary cuts to create a part. The machinist determines the cutting path, the speed of the cut, and the feed rate by programming instructions into the CNC machine.

Although workers may produce large quantities of one part, precision machinists often produce small batches or one-of-a-kind items. The parts that machinists make range from simple steel bolts to titanium bone screws for orthopedic implants. Hydraulic parts, antilock brakes, and automobile pistons are other widely known products that machinists make.

Some machinists repair or make new parts for existing machinery. After an industrial machinery mechanic discovers a broken part in a machine, a machinist remanufactures the part. The machinist refers to blueprints and performs the same machining operations that were used to create the original part in order to create the replacement.

Because the technology of machining is changing rapidly, workers must learn to operate a wide range of machines. Some newer manufacturing processes use lasers, water jets, and electrified wires to cut the workpiece. Although some of the computer controls are similar to those of other machine tools, machinists must understand the unique capabilities and features of different machines. As engineers create new types of machine tools, machinists must learn new machining properties and techniques.

Toolmakers craft precision tools that are used to cut, shape, and form metal and other materials. They also produce jigs and fixtures—devices that hold metal while it is bored, stamped, or drilled—and gauges and other measuring devices.

Die makers construct metal forms, called dies, that are used to shape metal in stamping and forging operations. They also make metal molds for die casting and for molding plastics, ceramics, and composite materials.

Many tool and die makers use CAD to develop products and parts. Designs are entered into computer programs that produce blueprints for the required tools and dies. Computer-numeric control programmers, found in the metal and plastic machine workers profile, convert CAD designs into CAM programs that contain instructions for a sequence of cutting tool operations. Once these programs are developed, CNC machines follow the set of instructions contained in the program to produce the part. Machinists normally operate CNC machines, but tool and die makers often are trained to both operate CNC machines and write CNC programs and thus may do either task.

Work Environment About this section

Machinists and tool and die makers
Because many manufacturers run machinery for many hours, evening and weekend work is common.

Machinists and tool and die makers held about 477,500 jobs in 2014. Machinists held about 399,700 jobs in 2014. Tool and die makers held about 77,800 jobs in 2014. The vast majority worked in manufacturing, including machine shops, toolrooms, and factories.

The industries that employed the most machinists and tool and die makers in 2014 were as follows:

Fabricated metal product manufacturing 31%
Machinery manufacturing 20
Transportation equipment manufacturing 14

Injuries and Illnesses

Although the work of machinists and tool and die makers is not inherently dangerous, working around machine tools presents hazards, and workers must follow precautions. For example, workers must wear protective equipment, such as safety glasses, to shield against bits of flying metal, earplugs to dampen the noise produced by machinery, and masks to limit their exposure to fumes.

Work Schedules

Although many machinists and tool and die makers work full time during regular business hours, some work on evenings and weekends because facilities may operate around the clock. Overtime is also common.

How to Become a Machinist or Tool and Die Maker About this section

Machinists and tool and die makers
Machinists and tool and die makers must have a high school diploma or equivalent.

There are many different ways to become a machinist or tool and die maker. Machinists train in apprenticeship programs, vocational schools, or community or technical colleges, or on the job. To become a fully trained tool and die maker takes several years of technical instruction and on-the-job training. Good math and problem-solving skills, in addition to familiarity with computer software, are important. A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary.

Education

Machinists and tool and die makers must have a high school diploma or equivalent. In high school, students should take math courses, especially trigonometry and geometry. They also should take courses in blueprint reading, metalworking, and drafting, if available.

Some advanced positions, such as those in the aircraft manufacturing industry, require the use of advanced applied calculus and physics. The increasing use of computer-controlled machinery requires machinists and tool and die makers to have experience using computers before entering a training program.

Some community colleges and technical schools have 2-year programs that train students to become machinists or tool and die makers. These programs usually teach design and blueprint reading, how to use a variety of welding and cutting tools, and the programming and function of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines.

Training

There are multiple ways for workers to gain competency in the job as a tool or die maker. One common way is through long-term on-the-job training, which lasts 1 year or longer.

Apprenticeship programs, typically sponsored by a manufacturer, provide another way to become a machinist or tool and die maker, but they are often hard to get into. Apprentices usually have a high school diploma or equivalent, and most have taken algebra and trigonometry classes.

Apprenticeship programs often consist of paid shop training and related technical instruction lasting several years. The technical instruction typically is provided in cooperation with local community colleges and vocational–technical schools.

Apprentices usually work 40 hours per week and receive technical instruction during evenings. Trainees often begin as machine operators and gradually take on more difficult assignments. Machinists and tool and die makers must be experienced in using computers to work with CAD/CAM technology, CNC machine tools, and computerized measuring machines. Some machinists become tool and die makers.

A number of machinists and tool and die makers receive their technical training from community and technical colleges. Employees may learn this way while being employed by a manufacturer that supports the employee’s training goals and provides needed on-the-job training as well.

Even after completing a formal training program, tool and die makers still need years of experience to become highly skilled.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

To boost the skill level of machinists and tool and die makers and to create a more uniform standard of competency, a number of training facilities and colleges offer certification programs. The Skills Certification System, for example, is an industry-driven program that aims to align education pathways with career pathways. In addition, journey-level certification is available from state apprenticeship boards after completing an apprenticeship.

Completing a recognized certification program provides machinists and tool and die makers with better job opportunities and helps employers judge the abilities of new hires.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Machinists and tool and die makers must understand highly technical blueprints, models, and specifications so that they can craft precision tools and metal parts. 

Manual dexterity. The work of machinists and tool and die makers must be highly accurate. For example, machining parts may demand accuracy to within .0001 of an inch, a level of accuracy that requires workers’ concentration and dexterity.

Math skills and computer application experience. Workers must have good math skills and be experienced using computers to work with CAD/CAM technology, CNC machine tools, and computerized measuring machines.

Mechanical skills. Machinists and tool and die makers must operate milling machines, lathes, grinders, laser and water cutting machines, wire electrical discharge machines, and other machine tools. They may also use a variety of hand tools and power tools.

Physical stamina. The ability to endure extended periods of standing and performing repetitious movements is important for machinists and tool and die makers.

Technical skills. Machinists and tool and die makers must understand computerized measuring machines and metalworking processes, such as stock removal, chip control, and heat treating and plating.

Pay About this section

Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Tool and die makers

$50,290

Machinists and tool and die makers

$42,110

Machinists

$40,550

Metal workers and plastic workers

$36,730

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for machinists was $40,550 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,290.

The median annual wage for tool and die makers was $50,290 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,010, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,530.

The pay of apprentices is tied to their skill level. As they gain more skills and reach specific levels of performance and experience, their pay increases.

Although many machinists and tool and die makers work full time during regular business hours, some work on evenings and weekends because facilities may operate around the clock. Overtime is also common.

Job Outlook About this section

Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Machinists

10%

Total, all occupations

7%

Machinists and tool and die makers

6%

Metal workers and plastic workers

-5%

Tool and die makers

-13%

 

Overall employment of machinists and tool and die makers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Employment of machinists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Despite improvements in technologies, such as computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools, autoloaders, high-speed machining, and lights-out manufacturing, machinists will still be required to set up, monitor, and maintain these automated systems.

In addition, employers will continue to need machinists, who have a wide range of skills and are capable of using modern production techniques in a machine shop. As manufacturers invest in new equipment, modify production techniques, and implement product design changes more rapidly, they will continue to rely heavily on experienced machinists.

Employment of tool and die makers is projected to decline 13 percent from 2014 to 2024. Foreign competition in manufacturing and advances in automation, including CNC machine tools and computer-aided design (CAD), should reduce employment of tool and die makers.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities for machinists and tool and die makers should be very good, as employers continue to value the wide-ranging skills of these workers. Also, many young people with the education and skills needed to become machinists and tool and die makers prefer to attend college or may not wish to enter production occupations. Therefore, the number of workers learning to be machinists and tool and die makers is expected to be smaller than the number of job openings arising each year from the need to replace experienced machinists who retire or leave the occupation for other reasons.

Employment projections data for machinists and tool and die makers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Machinists and tool and die makers

477,500 506,600 6 29,000

Machinists

51-4041 399,700 438,900 10 39,200 [XLSX]

Tool and die makers

51-4111 77,800 67,700 -13 -10,100 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of machinists and tool and die makers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers

Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and Millwrights

Industrial machinery mechanics and machinery maintenance workers maintain and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery, such as conveying systems, production machinery, and packaging equipment. Millwrights install, dismantle, repair, reassemble, and move machinery in factories, power plants, and construction sites.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,410
Metal and plastic machine workers

Metal and Plastic Machine Workers

Metal and plastic machine workers set up and operate machines that cut, shape, and form metal and plastic materials or pieces.

High school diploma or equivalent $34,080
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers use hand-held or remotely controlled equipment to join or cut metal parts. They also fill holes, indentations, or seams of metal products.

High school diploma or equivalent $38,150

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about machinists and tool and die makers, including training and certification, visit 

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA)

National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS)

For information about manufacturing careers, including machinery and tool and die makers, visit 

American Mold Builders Association (AMBA)

Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT)

National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA)

Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA)

Precision Metalforming Association (PMA)

O*NET

Machinists

Tool and Die Makers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Machinists and Tool and Die Makers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/machinists-and-tool-and-die-makers.htm (visited April 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

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How to Become One

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Pay

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State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

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Similar Occupations

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Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.