To build everything workshops and factories around the country rely on the handiwork of machinists, and tool and die makers. Starting from blueprints, sketches, or computer-aided design files, they set up the machines that produce parts. Once products are made, they file and grind them to meet project specifications, giving them a final smoothing and polish to finish. Machinists run computer numerically controlled or CNC—machines… that produce precision metal parts and tools. They may produce a large number of one part– such as automobile pistons… or many small batches— like bone screws for medical implants… or even one-of-a-kind items. They need to be skilled with a wide range of machines and techniques. Toolmakers craft precision tools for cutting and forming metal, and create different gauges and other measuring devices. Die makers construct metal forms used to shape metal, and make molds for shaping plastics, ceramics, and composite materials. Tool and die makers are trained to write CNC programs as well as operate the machines. Workers wear safety glasses, earplugs, and masks when needed to protect themselves during hazardous phases of their work. Schedules are generally full time, with some shifts on evenings and weekends to keep production running around the clock. A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary, and skills in math and problem-solving are important. Machinists may train in on the job, apprenticeship, or at technical colleges. Becoming a tool or die maker takes several years of instruction and on-the-job training.
What they do:
Analyze specifications, lay out metal stock, set up and operate machine tools, and fit and assemble parts to make and repair dies, cutting tools, jigs, fixtures, gauges, and machinists' hand tools.
On the job, you would:
Verify dimensions, alignments, and clearances of finished parts for conformance to specifications, using measuring instruments such as calipers, gauge blocks, micrometers, or dial indicators.
Study blueprints, sketches, models, or specifications to plan sequences of operations for fabricating tools, dies, or assemblies.
Set up and operate conventional or computer numerically controlled machine tools such as lathes, milling machines, or grinders to cut, bore, grind, or otherwise shape parts to prescribed dimensions and finishes.
Engineering and Technology
Math and Science
arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, or statistics
Manufactured or Agricultural Goods
manufacture and distribution of products
Arts and Humanities
thinking about the pros and cons of different ways to solve a problem
listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions
noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it
Hand and Finger Use
put together small parts with your fingers
hold or move items with your hands
communicate by speaking
listen and understand what people say
Ideas and Logic
notice when problems happen
group things in different ways
People interested in this work like activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions.
They do well at jobs that need:
Attention to Detail
You might use software like this on the job:
Computer aided design CAD software
Dassault Systemes CATIA
Computer aided manufacturing CAM software
OPEN MIND Technologies hyperMILL
certificate after high school or associate's degree usually needed
Get started on your career:
New job opportunities are less likely in the future.