How to Become a Machinist
Job Duties of a Machinist
Skills and Qualities of a Machinist
Machinist Salaries
Influential Professional Machinists
Leading Organizations for Machinists
Top Cities for Machinist Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Machinist

To become a machinist you should focus your educational background on math, science, and metal working. Many technical schools and community colleges offer programs to help train people who want to become machinists. It also helps to become familiar and comfortable with various power tools such as drill presses, lathes, and milling machines.

Some schools, in addition to training, also offer apprenticeships or assistance with job placement. These types of programs can be very valuable.

What does a Machinist do?

Machinists use various machine tools and their knowledge of metals to modify or create parts through a process known as machining. While these parts are often metal, they can also include plastic, wood, or other material as needed. These parts are generally made to meet detailed specifications that are usually spelled out in blueprints.

Machinists are usually called on to produce parts that require precision cutting. Sometimes these parts are unique and, other times, there may be a call for thousands or even millions of these parts. Often this can be a part used in the production of a larger machine but it can also be something that stands alone.

Machinists use numerous different tools and each has a specific function. For instance, one may be used to shave excess material while another may be used to shape the material. It is not unusual for a machinist to need many different tools in the course of creating one finished product.

To form a comparison, it can be said that a machinist is to metal as a sculptor is to his clay. In a sense, the machinist is the artist and the metal of choice is their raw material. The most common metals used in machining are brass, copper, steel, and aluminum. Various alloys of these metals may also be used. Less frequently, a machinist can be called on to use rubber, glass, wood, or plastic. In very rare cases, a machinist may be required to work with exotic metals including, but not limited to: vanadium, titanium, beryllium, chromium, or tungsten.

Since the machinist routinely has to use his tools to cut through hard metals, his tools are made of even tougher and harder materials such as high speed steel, tungsten carbide, ceramics, borazon, or even diamond.

Machinists often have to b>work to very precise specifications and measurements, usually within 1/100th of an inch or one quarter of a millimeter and sometimes within 1/10,000th of an inch.

Machinists typically handle all facets of the shaping, cutting and, sometimes, even the forming of the material they are using. The exception is usually welding which is a different specialty and a separate trade.

Machinists are expected to be ,b>proficient in the use of six different grades of tools: measuring tools (including various rulers), scales, and calipers, hand tools (including various wrenches and ratchets that you would expect to find in a mechanics tool box), machine tools (such as drilling, milling, turning, and grinding machines), work holders (which may include vises), chucks, tool holders and various cutting tools.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Machinist?

A machinist should at least have a high school diploma or equivalent and many machinists have completed coursework at technical schools or community colleges. Machinists need to have excellent hand-eye coordination. They also need to possess the ability to follow instructions and pay strict attention to detail.

A successful machinist must be able to maintain strong concentration on his work and complete his work error free. Knowledge of computer skills, especially as they apply to computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools are a significant plus. Machinists should enjoy working with their hands and the more dexterous they are the better.

How much do Machinists make?

According to information provided by the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for a machinist is $16.71 while the middle 50% earned between $13.14 and $20.82. These figures are as of May 2006, which is the most recent data available. The hourly wage a machinist earns will vary depending on their level of experience. Apprentice machinists tend to earn much less than their experienced counterparts, however their pay tends to increase quickly as their skills improve.

As skilled laborers, most machinists receive benefits in addition to their base pay either directly through their employers or through their labor union. These benefits usually include paid vacation, medical, retirement and other benefits but can vary depending on the employer.

Who are some leading professionals in this field?

Thomas Buffenbarger is the International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and has been a machinist for over thirty years.

Lee Pearson, Dave Ritchie, Robert Roach, Jr. Lynn Tucker, Robert Martinez, Richard Michalski, and Phillip J. Gruber, are all executive council members for IAM and, as officers of the union, they are very influential within the machining industry.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The aforementioned organization, IAM, is a labor union that was originally formed in 1888 by nineteen machinists in Georgia. They now have over 730,000 members working in various industries related to machining.

IAM is comprised of hundreds of smaller local organizations spread throughout all 50 United States as well as 10 Canadian Provinces and 3 territories. Each of these local organizations is influential within the machining industry in their particular area.

What are the top cities for Machinist jobs?

The top jobs cities for machinist jobs are currently: Houston (Texas), Long Island (New York), and Cincinnati (Ohio). Additional opportunities also exist in Phoenix (Arizona) and Los Angeles (California) with Dallas (Texas), Baltimore (Maryland), Fort Worth (Texas), Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), and Charlotte (North Carolina) rounding out the top ten.

Skilled machinists can generally find work throughout the United States, especially in major metropolitan and industrial areas.

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