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Machinists - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Machinists can advance in several ways. Experienced machinists may become CNC programmers, tool and die makers, or mold makers, or be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions in their firms. A few open their own machine shops.

Machinists held about 421,500 jobs in 2008. About 78 percent of machinists work in manufacturing industries, such as machine shops and machinery, motor vehicle and parts, aerospace products and parts, and other transportation equipment manufacturing. Maintenance machinists work in most industries that use production machinery.

Job Outlook
Although employment of machinists is projected to decline slowly, job prospects are expected to be good.

Job Growth
Employment of machinists is projected to decline by 5 percent over the 2008–18 decade, due to rising productivity among these workers and strong foreign competition in the manufacture of goods. Machinists are becoming more efficient as a result of the expanded use of and improvements in technologies such as CNC machine tools, autoloaders, high-speed machining, and lights out manufacturing. This allows fewer machinists to accomplish the same amount of work. Technology is not expected to affect the employment of machinists as significantly as that of some other production workers, however, because machinists monitor and maintain many automated systems. Due to modern production techniques, employers prefer workers, such as machinists, who have a wide range of skills and are capable of performing almost any task in a machine shop.

Despite the projected decline in employment, job opportunities for machinists should continue to be good, as employers value the wide-ranging skills of these workers. Also, many young people with the necessary educational and personal qualifications needed to become machinists prefer to attend college or may not wish to enter production occupations. Therefore, the number of workers learning to be machinists is expected to be less than the number of job openings arising each year from the need to replace experienced machinists who retire or transfer to other occupations. Employment levels in this occupation are influenced by economic cycles—as the demand for machined goods falls, machinists involved in production may be laid off or forced to work fewer hours.

Median hourly wages of machinists were $17.41 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.66 and $21.85. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.79, while the top 10 percent earned more than $26.60.

Apprentices earn much less than experienced machinists, but earnings increase quickly as they improve their skills. Also, most employers pay for apprentices' training classes.

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