Quick — what do a speck of dust, a blood cell and a single bacterium have in common?
They’re all around one ten-thousandth of an inch.
That might not sound like much. But if you’re a machinist, that one ten-thousandth (or .0001) of an inch matters. Because that might be the level of accuracy you have to meet in order to fabricate an industrial part correctly.
Fortunately, we have machines to help achieve that extreme level of precision (to a single bacterium, “just a hair” looks huge!). Machinists operate these machines in order to create the metal parts that are used in manufacturing processes. Sometimes machinists make a single, unique — but necessary — part; other times they might oversee a process that produces identical parts by the thousands.
Here’s a very simple machinist job description: Machinists use tools to cut. They use another set of tools to grind. Then they use yet another set of tools to polish.
In other words, machinist jobs are all about mastering your tools — knowing when and how to use each machine, how to modify your machines with attachments and accessories for different uses, and how to operate the machines safely.
If you’re a machinist, you’re a true craftsperson. You want to cut each part with perfect precision. (You don’t want to cut yourself!)
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A MACHINIST IN GEORGIA
Machinist jobs typically involve the following day-to-day tasks, which are varied.
- Set up and operate special tools like lathes, shapers, grinders and computer-controlled machines (these can be fun tools to work!)
- Look at blueprints or virtual 3D models to figure out a needed item’s exact measurements and specifications
- Plan production schedules to construct complex parts within a set of deadlines
- Cut, fabricate and modify pieces, following the specs
- Examine and measure pieces to certify they’re correctly “machined”
- Test pieces to ensure they’re strong enough for the job (there are several ways to do this)
- Smooth and polish rough edges on a piece to get it just right
- Maintain and repair production equipment
- Create draft sketches, diagrams and blueprints to show what a piece should look like
WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A MACHINIST
Today’s skilled machinists say you need to be:
- Good at math. You’ve got to bring your A-game in math, because machinists often use math to calculate specs and operate computers to manage production processes.
- Technically minded. That’s because you’ll be working with a lot of highly technical documents, like blueprints, virtual 3D models and lists of specifications. You’ll also be managing and fixing machines.
- Good with your hands. Since being a machinist is such precision work, you will need steady hands and good hand-eye coordination.
- Strong and energetic. You might spend a lot of hours on your feet and do repetitive tasks for a long time. You might also work overtime, evenings and weekends to make sure pieces get produced on schedule.
IS THIS YOU?
Here are a few things to think about as you decide whether machinist jobs are right for you.
- As a machinist, you’ll get the opportunity to use both creativity and skill to create things almost from scratch, in the most precise and efficient way. If you like making things, it’s a really rewarding job.
- You’ll practice your trade alongside a team, as an essential part of the whole process that makes the shop or factory function.
- You won’t be stuck doing the same thing from day to day. You’ll always be figuring out the best way to design and produce a new part, so there are always interesting problems to solve.
- The factory floor or the machine shop is often loud and sometimes dangerous. You will need to protect your eyes with safety glasses and your hearing with earplugs — and protect yourself by closely following all safety regulations.
- In some instances, the pay in this job can be lower than average for similar trade positions.
A FEW DETAILS OF INTEREST
How much do machinists make?
The average salary for a machinist in Georgia is $43,100 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2016).
How do you become a machinist?
For machinist training, you have a variety of options! You could attend a vocational school or technical college, train through a machinist apprenticeship program or learn on the job.
To really excel at your trade as a machinist and get the best jobs, you’ll need to get several years of technical training as well as on-the-job training.
- In a machinist apprenticeship, you’ll get paid while you train — usually working 40 hours per week and learning technical stuff in the evening. The apprenticeships usually last at least a year. You will need a high school diploma or the equivalent. These programs can be competitive, so you should also make your application as strong as it can be! Good grades in algebra and trigonometry will help.
- You might also be able to get hired to learn on the job while attending a community or technical college for the technical training part. Georgia offers some of these programs at our community and technical colleges (see the section below).
Many machinist training programs offer certification that meets standardized requirements for the trade. This credential can help you boost your rep and become a more competitive candidate for the job.
FIND A MACHINIST TRAINING SCHOOL IN GEORGIA
APPLY FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
If you’re a high school senior and want to get machinist training at one of Georgia’s technical colleges, why not apply for a Trade Five Scholarship? OK! Bring on the application >
OUTLOOK FOR MACHINISTS
Machinist jobs are projected to increase by about 6% from 2014 to 2024, which is about average for all jobs.
WANT TO MEET A MACHINIST?
Here’s a good 3-minute video featuring one. (But remember – there are all kinds of machinists!)
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
Download this handy PDF for some facts on-the-go.