What is a Machinist?

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The manufacturing industry is in a state of flux. Covid-19 has forced companies to adjust both how they operate and how they hire. These changes are leading some industrial employees to consider career swaps.

If that’s you, then you may be interested in pursuing the role of a machinist. Machinists make good money, are always needed, and can work in a variety of settings.

But understanding exactly what a machinist is can be difficult, given the many different things they do. If you’d like to learn more about machinists, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn everything that you need to know about the position and what you can do to qualify for it.

If you’re ready to begin searching for machinist jobs now, use Surehand to do so.

What does a machinist do?

Machinists do several things. They operate machine tools, such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders. Machinists often use tools like these to create precision parts that will be used in the manufacturing of new machine tools. 

PART CREATION

For example, a machinist can make everything from the bolts that will secure a manufacturing machine to automobile pistons. What they make will vary based on who they’re employed by.

To create parts like these, machinists need to be able to operate machines in a highly precise manner. That’s why they begin every job by reviewing the blueprints and specifications for what they’re going to create.

After that, a machinist will calculate where they should begin cutting the piece of steel, aluminum, titanium, plastic, or silicon that they’re working on. This involves assessing how quickly to feed the material into the machine and figuring out how much of it needs to be removed.

During the cutting process, the machinist needs to pay close attention to what they’re doing in order to ensure a precise end-product. They’ll constantly be monitoring the feed rate and speed of the machine, as well as its temperature.

Machinists also need to be familiar with the normal sounds that a machine produces. They often use irregular sounds as a cue that something is off in the manufacturing process.

CNC MACHINE OPERATION

Today, many of the machines that machinists use are controlled by computers. These are called computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines.

CNC machines use a computer program to control the cutting of new parts. The machinist inputs information into the CNC machine that tells it what to do. They help the tool determine the correct cutting path, speed of cut, and feed rate.

CNC machines are becoming more and more common. That’s why most new machinists spend some time training in CNC programming before they enter the workforce.

MACHINE MAINTENANCE

There’s a subset of machinists called maintenance machinists, which focus on the maintenance of existing machines. These workers identify problems in the machines they work with and repair them.

For example, a maintenance machinist might discover that a part has broken in one of their facility’s manufacturing machines. It would be their job to remove the broken part from the machine, create a new part, install that part in the machine, and then ensure that it’s working properly.

Where do machinists work?

Machinists work primarily in manufacturing plants, but can also work in machine shops, tool rooms, and other types of factories. This can vary based on the industry that the machinist works in.

For example, mining industry machinists tend to work at mine sites. Similarly, oil industry machinists tend to work in oil fields. These two jobs may require the machinist to spend weeks away from home at a time, which is something to keep in mind before applying to these types of positions.

In the past, the role of the machinist was often a hazardous one. They worked in locations with flying debris and constant loud noises. There’s still some of that today, but the work environment of the machinist has improved greatly in recent years.

Machinists today often work in machine shops that are clean, ventilated, and at least partially enclosed. This keeps the noise down and reduces the risk of flying debris.

Do machinists make good money?

The pay for a machinist will vary based on a few factors. The first is where the machinist is located. For example, consider the following salary differences:

The average salary for a machinist is greatest in Massachusetts. There, machinists receive an average of just over $45,000 per year

Machinists make the least in Florida. There, they receive an average of $32,656 per year. That equates to $15.70 per hour and $628 per week.

Overall, the average base salary for a machinist is currently $21.49 per hour or about $45,000 per year.

Another factor that influences a machinist’s pay is the industry they work in. Manufacturing machinists make roughly the amount shown above. But those who work in the mining industry and the oil or gas industries can make as much as $10,000 per year more.

This is because the work environment is more challenging in those industries.

What education do you need?

You can train to become a machinist in several different ways. Some people go to technical colleges where they pursue certifications. Others go into apprenticeship programs where they learn from experienced machinists. You can also just learn on the job after you’ve been hired.

The furthest level of education that you must complete before becoming a machinist is high school. If you’re still in high school, then you can take classes that will prepare you for this line of work now. 

You’ll benefit from math courses like trigonometry and geometry, as well as any classes that your school has available in blueprint reading, metalworking, and drafting.

Are there certifications you have to get?

You don’t have to get any certifications in order to become a machinist. But there are a few that are worth pursuing anyway, as doing so could help you secure employment and make more money.

It’s a good idea to become a certified CNC Setup Programmer, given the widespread usage of these machines in modern workplaces. The National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) also offers a machinist certification.

To earn the NIMS machinist certification, you need to pass a test, which will test the skills that are required of a machinist. There are several different NIMS machinist certification levels. As you advance in your career, earning these certifications can make you stand out amongst your peers.

How do you build a career as a machinist?

Building a career as a machinist is a four-step process. Here’s what to do:

STEP 1: RESEARCH THE JOB

You need to know what the role of the machinist entails. This will show you what you need to learn in order to become a machinist. The information that we’ve provided above should be enough to get you started.

STEP 2: TAKE PREPARATORY COURSES

You need to finish your high school degree or its equivalent before setting down the path of becoming a machinist. It’s all a good idea to take some classes in metalworking, drafting, and blueprint reading if you haven’t already. Other classes that are worth taking include:

STEP 3: SECURE AND COMPLETE AN APPRENTICESHIP

Your apprenticeship is when you’ll learn the real-world skills that are needed to work as a machinist. Apprenticeship programs can take as long as four years to complete, but the exact length of time can vary.

During your apprenticeship, you’ll learn everything that you need to know to get hired as a machinist. This includes safety practices, the basics of CNC machine operation, metallurgy, computer-aided design (CAD), and more.

STEP 4: PUT TOGETHER YOUR RESUME AND BEGIN APPLYING

Once your internship is finished, you’re ready to begin seeking employment as a machinist. You may want to pursue certifications, such as the ones covered above, before you start hunting for a job. But you don’t need to.

When you build your resume, make sure to highlight your hands-on training. Employers want to see that you have the experience and skills needed to hit the ground running.

It’s also a good idea to highlight your ability to use CNC machines, as these are becoming more and more common in a machinist’s workplace.

Other skills that employers will want to see include:

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