Machinists use machines such as lathes, grinders, and boring mills to grind and cut metals and other materials to produce precise parts needed for other machinery or other projects. Machinist jobs require skilled craftsmanship, attention to detail, a talent for reading blueprints and charts, the ability to work independently, and an aptitude in spatial reasoning. These skills can be developed or learned in apprenticeship programs, on the job, in vocational high school programs, or at community or technical colleges.
Different skills should be developed depending on the type of machinist jobs an applicant is seeking. Production machinists produce one part in large quantities. These machinists often work with computer control programmers to determine how a machine should be set up to machine a part. The machinist decides the cutting path, speed of cut, and rate of feed, which the programmer then inputs into the machine instructions. Production machinists then monitor the production of the specific part and ensure the machine is functioning appropriately by listening for sounds, checking temperatures, adjusting speeds, and gauging the accuracy of cuts.
Production machinists would be well served to study Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) processes. Learning to make modifications to this type of process will improve production efficiency, and machinist jobs entailing mass production require a machinist to focus on manufacturing time, tool wear, and appropriate use of automation. These machinists are good at making large numbers of accurately cut pieces in a short amount of time.
Maintenance machinist jobs require yet another skill set. These machinists produce new parts or repair old parts for existing machinery. To correctly repair an existing part, maintenance machinists must closely follow blueprints and specifications used to produce the original parts. Whereas production machinists become expert in one or two industries and efficiently produce mass quantities of just a few different parts, maintenance machinists become expert in many industries and produce just one or two of many different parts.
Machinist jobs can be found in any manufacturing environment for production machinists and just about any other environment that uses machines of any kind for maintenance machinists. Numerous training programs exist for machinists and the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) has developed national skills standards, though certification is not required to become a machinist. Receiving Journeyworker certification from a state apprenticeship board would certainly enhance job prospects, however. Being mechanically inclined with a focus on accuracy is the first indication one would do well in the search for machinist jobs.