Precision Machinists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

For entry-level jobs most employers prefer high school or vocational school graduates. To prepare yourself for a metalworking career, you should take courses in algebra, geometry, mechanical drawing, blueprint reading, machine shop, drafting, and computer applications. If available, classes in electronics and hydraulics can also be useful.

Postsecondary Training

To become a precision machinist, you need to either complete formal training through an apprenticeship or postsecondary program or receive extensive on-the-job training. Apprenticeships generally consist of four to five years of shop training combined with related classroom instruction. During shop work, apprentices learn filing, dowel fitting, and the operation of various other machine tools. The operation and programming of computer-controlled tools are also covered. Classroom instruction includes industrial math, blueprint reading, precision machining, computer numerical control concepts, machine tool technology, and manufacturing processes.

Increasingly, prospective machinists receive postsecondary training through community or technical school programs. Many training facilities have incorporated a set curriculum established by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS). After students complete the established courses and pass performance evaluations and written exams, they receive a formal recognition of competency, a NIMS credential. This designation aids in their job search by confirming their skills and knowledge of the metalworking field.

You can also enter the field directly from high school or vocational school and receive on-the-job training. In this case, newly hired workers are supervised by experienced machinists, training with one machine to another. Trainees usually begin as machine operators. Then, as they show the necessary aptitude, they are given additional training on the machines they are operating. Further instruction in the more technical aspects of machine shop work is obtained through studying manuals and classroom instruction. The amount of progress depends on the skill of the worker.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Certification may be available from state apprenticeship boards and college certification programs. A certificate increases the job opportunities availble to machinists.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

To become a precision machinist, you need to either complete formal training through an apprenticeship or postsecondary program or receive extensive on-the-job training.

Machinists need experience reading blueprints and working with computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing software. They should know how to set up cutting tools, as well as how to operate machines to produce parts to specifications. They must also be skilled at inspecting finished pieces to ensure that they are made to proper dimensions and do not contain defects.

A precision machinist must have an aptitude for using mechanical principles in practical applications. Knowledge of mathematics and the ability to understand and visualize spatial relationships is also needed to read and interpret engineering drawings.

Machinists must have excellent manual dexterity, good vision and hand-eye coordination, and the concentration and diligence necessary to do highly accurate work. Because their work requires a great deal of standing, lifting, and moving, machinists must also be in good physical condition. Finally, it is necessary for machinists to be able to work independently in an organized, systematic way.