How to Become a Machinist: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


Machining is the process of making an object into a particular shape by removing material. Metal is the most commonly-machined material, but woods, ceramics, and plastics can also be machined. A machinist sets up and runs the industrial machines that do the machining. Increasingly, these machines are computer-controlled, and machinists need specialized knowledge of how to run them. Machinists also need to know how to read blueprints, designs or manufacturing files in order to shape products perfectly to specification.


Annual salaries for machinists will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2013, the average annual salary for machinists working in the U.S. was $41,020 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for machinists, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work as a Machinist

California leads the nation in employment for machinists, where 34,000 are making an average annual salary of $41,610. Texas is second in employment, with 33,480 machinists working in the state, who make an average salary of $40,100 yearly.

The metro areas employing the most machinists are:

  • Chicago-Joliet (14,260)
  • Houston-Sugar Land (13,240)
  • Warren, MI (9,910)

The metro areas employing the highest concentration of machinists are:

  • Monroe, MI (20.77 jobs per thousand)
  • Rockford, IL (19.66 jobs per thousand)

The metro areas employing the best-paid machinists are:

  • Honolulu, HI (annual average salary $65,790)
  • Springfield, IL (annual average salary $63,470)

Employment and Salary Information for Machinists

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as a machinist. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Employment and Information Data for Machinist

Why Become A Machinist?

Here’s a safe bet: you are currently surrounded by objects which have parts that have been machined. Here are some of the reasons to consider becoming a machinist:

  • Work with your hands. If the office doesn’t appeal to you, a machinist position might suit you.
  • Skilled job. You need an education—whether on the job, or increasingly through training programs—to be a good machinist.
  • Make objects you can take pride in. A product machined to specifications will become part of products people see and use every day.
  • Opportunities to upskill. As computer-numerically-controlled machines become a bigger part of machining, requiring even more sophisticated skills, there are chances to learn valuable new skills.

Machinist: What You Need To Know

There’s no ‘close enough’ in machining. A part that’s going into a car or an aircraft has to be right every time. That means reading the plans, calibrating the machine tools, and running the equipment perfectly. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Understanding of Tools and Machine Tools
  • Manual Skills
  • Reading Blueprints and Designs
  • Precision
  • Attention to Detail
  • Basic Physics and Math

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about machinist careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Machinist Careers

On-the-Job Training

Some machinists are trained by apprenticeships on the job. Almost always, machinists need a high school diploma.


Community colleges, technical, trade, and vocational schools, offer programs for machinists, giving students a background on the equipment used in the field, as well as instruction in the latest technology in some industries. As well as hands-on experience, most machinists will have post high-school education in trigonometry, geometry, drafting, metalworking, and blueprinting.


Those in more advanced positions, in aerospace or aircraft manufacturing for instance, often have a degree. Degree programs give students a strong background in the use of common tooling and equipment, design, the programming and operation of computer-numerically controlled machines, and more advanced subjects such as calculus and physics.

Even with an education, machinists often require extensive to prepare them for their specific job and the products they’ll make.