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
2016 Median Pay $43,160 per year
$20.75 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 468,600
Job Outlook, 2016-26 1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2016-26 3,200

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 and tool and die makers typically are trained on the job. Some learn through training or apprenticeship programs, vocational schools, or community and technical colleges. Although machinists typically need just a high school diploma, tool and die makers may need to complete courses beyond high school.

Pay

The median annual wage for machinists was $41,700 in May 2016.

The median annual wage for tool and die makers was $51,060 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of machinists and tool and die makers is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026. Job opportunities for these workers should be good because of the number of job openings arising each year from the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation.

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 typically use blueprints, sketches, or computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) files.

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:

  • Read blueprints, sketches, or computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) files
  • Set up, operate, and disassemble manual, automatic, and computer numerically 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.

Some manufacturing processes use lasers, water jets, and electrified wires to cut the workpiece. As engineers design and build new types of machine tools, machinists must learn new machining properties and techniques.

Tool and die makers construct  precision tools or metal forms, called dies, that are used to cut, shape, and form metal and other materials. They produce jigs and fixtures—devices that hold metal while it is bored, stamped, or drilled—and gauges and other measuring devices.

Dies 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.

Tool and die makers use CAD to develop products and parts. They enter designs into computer programs that produce blueprints for the required tools and dies. Computer numeric control programmers, described 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
Some machinists and tool and die makers work evenings and weekends because facilities may operate around the clock.

Machinists held about 396,200 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of machinists were as follows:

Machine shops 21%
Machinery manufacturing 20
Transportation equipment manufacturing 12
Employment services 5
Merchant wholesalers, durable goods 4

Tool and die makers held about 72,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of tool and die makers were as follows:

Metalworking machinery manufacturing 23%
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing 16
Forging and stamping 8
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 5
Machine shops; turned product; and screw, nut, and bolt manufacturing 5

Injuries and Illnesses

Because machinists and tool and die makers work around machine tools that may present hazards, these workers must follow precautions to avoid injuries. 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 evenings and weekends because facilities may operate around the clock. About 1 in 4 worked more than 40 hours a week in 2016.

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 typically are trained on the job.

Machinists and tool and die makers typically are trained on the job. Some learn through training or apprenticeship programs, vocational schools, or community and technical colleges. Although machinists typically need just a high school diploma, tool and die makers may need to complete courses beyond high school.

Education

Machinists typically have a high school diploma or equivalent, whereas tool and die makers may need to complete courses beyond high school. High school courses in math, blueprint reading, metalworking, and drafting are considered useful.

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, the use of 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 machinist or tool or die maker. One common way is through long-term on-the-job training, which lasts 1 year or longer.

Trainees usually work 40 hours per week and take additional 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.

Some new workers may enter apprenticeship programs, which are typically sponsored by a manufacturer. Apprenticeship programs often consist of paid shop training and related technical instruction lasting several years. The technical instruction usually is provided in cooperation with local community colleges and vocational–technical schools. Workers typically enter into apprenticeships with a high school diploma or equivalent.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

A number of organizations 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 the completion of an apprenticeship.

Completing a 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 technical blueprints, models, and specifications so that they can craft precision tools and metal parts.

Manual dexterity. Machinists’ and tool and die makers’ work must be 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 be experienced in 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.

Physical stamina. Machinist and tool and die makers must stand for extended periods and perform repetitious movements.

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 2016

Tool and die makers

$51,060

Machinists and tool and die makers

$43,160

Machinists

$41,700

Metal workers and plastic workers

$37,560

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for machinists was $41,700 in May 2016. 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 $25,900, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,590.

The median annual wage for tool and die makers was $51,060 in May 2016. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,230.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for machinists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Transportation equipment manufacturing $45,640
Machinery manufacturing 42,660
Machine shops 40,410
Merchant wholesalers, durable goods 39,550
Employment services 34,140

In May 2016, the median annual wages for tool and die makers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Aerospace product and parts manufacturing $64,180
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing 57,080
Forging and stamping 50,530
Machine shops; turned product; and screw, nut, and bolt manufacturing 48,890
Metalworking machinery manufacturing 47,480

The pay of apprentices is tied to their skill level. As they 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 evenings and weekends because facilities may operate around the clock. About 1 in 4 worked more than 40 hours a week in 2016.

Job Outlook About this section

Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Total, all occupations

7%

Machinists

2%

Machinists and tool and die makers

1%

Metal workers and plastic workers

-3%

Tool and die makers

-7%

 

Overall employment of machinists and tool and die makers is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Employment of machinists is projected to grow 2 percent from 2016 to 2026, slower than the average for all occupations. With 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 systems.

Employment of tool and die makers is projected to decline 7 percent from 2016 to 2026. Advances in automation, including CNC machine tools, should reduce demand for tool and die makers to perform tasks, such as programming how parts fit together, that computer software can perform.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for machinists and tool and die makers are expected to be good, primarily because of the number of job openings arising each year from the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation.

Employment projections data for machinists and tool and die makers, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Machinists and tool and die makers

468,600 471,900 1 3,200

Machinists

51-4041 396,200 404,600 2 8,500 employment projections excel document xlsx

Tool and die makers

51-4111 72,500 67,200 -7 -5,300 employment projections excel document 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
Boilermakers

Boilermakers

Boilermakers assemble, install, maintain, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases.

High school diploma or equivalent $62,060
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 $49,100
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.

See How to Become One $34,840
Sheet metal workers

Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets, such as ducts used in heating and air conditioning systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $46,940
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 in metal products.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,390

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)

Manufacturing Institute (MI)

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, Machinists and Tool and Die Makers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/machinists-and-tool-and-die-makers.htm (visited November 20, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

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 CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

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).

2016 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 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

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, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

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 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 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 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.