10 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming a Machinist

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Industrial jobs are an excellent career option for people who love to work with their hands. They pay well, offer opportunities for advancement, and don’t usually require much of an investment in education in order to qualify.

One of the best examples of this is the job of the machinist. A machinist uses their technical know-how to set up, operate, and maintain machines in industrial workplaces.

Choosing to become a machinist can be the first step towards a rewarding lifelong career. But you shouldn’t make the decision lightly. Instead, it’s important that you spend some time reviewing the most important aspects of the job before committing to it.

If you’d like to learn more about getting hired as a machine operator, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are 10 things that you need to know before becoming a machinist.

You won’t work much with other people

As you probably imagined, machinists tend to spend the vast majority of their working hours working on or with machinery. This doesn’t leave much time to communicate with coworkers or to develop bonds with your colleagues that can blossom into friendships.

Sure, you can still connect with your coworkers when you’re a machinist. But doing so will require more effort than it would in many other workplaces.

That’s why it’s important that you understand who you are and what keeps you happy before you become a machinist. If you’re a people person who loves interacting with others above all else, then becoming a machine operator may not be in your best interest.

The opposite is also true. If you love working with machines and prefer to do it mostly on your own, then becoming a machinist could be your ideal career path.

There are different levels of machinery certification

Working machinists are commonly classified into three distinct levels. These are sometimes called A, B, and C, and other times referred to as 1, 2, and 3. Level C workers have the least amount of experience and their pay reflects this.

The best-paying machinist jobs are available to people who are graded as A-level operators. These workers have the most experience and are often involved in leadership roles to train younger employees.

You can move up the ladder over time by gaining experience, pursuing certifications, and taking advantage of employer-sponsored training. But these things take time.

Most machinists will need to spend at least the first few years of their career within the lower two levels of the scale. You need to become a true expert before you can be hired in a Class A role and you should expect that to take around five to eight years unless you’re able to develop an expert’s skill set quicker than most.

The future may change your role

Machinists are currently needed to operate a wide variety of machines across many different industries. But automation is coming and has already arrived in many of the most common workplaces of the machinist.

This is a process that involves implementing automated systems that will perform the rote tasks that previously needed to be completed by professional machinists. As automation grows in popularity and technology improves, it has the potential to fundamentally shift the way that machinists are used.

This isn’t to say that the job of the machinist will disappear one day. Skilled operators will always be needed to ensure that equipment is functioning optimally. But it could change the skills that are valued the most by employers.

Whatever changes automation brings to industrial workplaces, it’s a good idea to start thinking about how you can prepare for the shift now. Beginning the training process before the changes occur will make it easier for you to transition seamlessly if workplaces do end up altering how they use machinists.

Choose your specialty carefully

Many machinists choose to specialize in the operation of a specific type of machinery. This can be invaluable in helping you to qualify for the higher-paying jobs that require a specialist’s touch.

But make sure that you’re fully aware of what a specialty entails before you decide to pursue it. Your pay, working conditions, and hours can be impacted greatly by the industry that you choose to work in. 

You should also be aware of the types of machinists that are hired most often in your region before specializing. For example, you wouldn’t want to specialize in the operation of mining equipment if there are no mines near your home and you aren’t willing to move to find employment.

So make sure that you put some thought into a specialization before you decide to pursue it.

You may need specialized training

Machinist jobs vary considerably in how difficult they are to qualify for. Some simple manufacturing machine operator positions are available to virtually anyone who’s handy with a set of tools. 

Other positions, such as specialty machinist roles within mining operations, can require an extensive amount of specialized knowledge and ability. It’s these roles that often pay the most.

So, if you’d like to maximize your income while working as a machinist, then the chances are high that you’ll need to have at least some type of training while you learn a specialty.

You don’t have to get started with that training immediately. Instead, it’s a good idea to spend some time working as a machinist in a specific industry before you decide to invest the time, money, and energy required to specialize in it.

It’s best for people with special sets of skills

We each have an innate set of abilities that define how easy or how difficult any individual task is for us to complete. There are some people who are innately talented in a way that will make them a great machinist. Others may need to work a bit harder to achieve the same results.

According to a recent survey of CNC machinist employers, these are the skills that the industry values the most in its hires:

Your work as a machinist will come naturally to you if you’re a technical, detail-oriented person. That doesn’t mean you can’t become a machinist if you don’t have these skills. Rather, you may just need to spend some time developing them, which you can do before and after you’ve become a machinist.

Your working conditions can change drastically

The average day of a machinist can be very different from one industry to another. For example, machinists who work in manufacturing tend to work normal hours and in comfortable-enough conditions.

Those who work in mining operations tend to have it much worse. They often spend entire days in cramped, uncomfortable positions. Additionally, since mining sites are usually remote, machinists who work at them may have to spend weeks away from home at a time.

The machinists who work in tougher conditions are typically rewarded for it with a higher salary. Keep this in mind when you’re deciding which type of machine operation work you’d like to do.

Machinists enjoy average job growth

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks the projected growth rate of most jobs in the country. The average rate of growth for a career is somewhere between 3-5% depending on the year.

Jobs for machinists are projected to grow at a rate of 3% between 2019 and 2029. This puts its growth at the low end of average.

Understand that these numbers are only a projection. But they are worth considering as you decide whether pursuing a career as a machinist is a good choice for you.

Your pay depends on several factors

The average wage for a machinist in 2019 was $44,420. But that number could be higher or lower than what you make. The amount that you’re paid as a machinist will depend on a combination of several factors.

The first contributing factor is where you’re located. Parts of the area with higher costs of living tend to pay their machinists more than those where the cost of living is lower.

Your experience and education will also have a large impact on how much you make. As is typical in any industry, those with more experience and more education tend to command higher salaries than those without much of either.

The industry you work in also matters a great deal. Those that are viewed as more challenging, such as mining and construction, typically offer their machinists more pay than is standard.

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