What Machinists and Tool and Die Makers Do
Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.
Machinists and tool and die makers work in machine shops, toolrooms, and factories. Although many work full time during regular business hours, overtime may be common, as is evening and weekend work.
How to Become a Machinist or Tool and Die Maker
Machinists and tool and die makers typically are trained on the job. Some learn through training or apprenticeship programs, vocational schools, or community and technical colleges. Although machinists typically need just a high school diploma, tool and die makers may need to complete courses beyond high school.
The median annual wage for machinists was $44,420 in May 2019.
The median annual wage for tool and die makers was $53,920 in May 2019.
Overall employment of machinists and tool and die makers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Many job opportunities are expected to arise from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation each year.
Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.
Machinists typically do the following:
- Read blueprints, sketches, or computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) files
- Set up, operate, and disassemble manual, automatic, and computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools
- Align, secure, and adjust cutting tools and workpieces
- Monitor the feed and speed of machines
- Turn, mill, drill, shape, and grind machine parts to specifications
- Measure, examine, and test completed products for defects
- Smooth the surfaces of parts or products
- Present finished workpieces to customers and make modifications if needed
Tool and die makers typically do the following:
- Read blueprints, sketches, specifications, or CAD and CAM files for making tools and dies
- Compute and verify dimensions, sizes, shapes, and tolerances of workpieces
- Set up, operate, and disassemble conventional, manual, and CNC machine tools
- File, grind, and adjust parts so that they fit together properly
- Test completed tools and dies to ensure that they meet specifications
- Smooth and polish the surfaces of tools and dies
Machinists use machine tools, such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders, to produce precision metal parts. Many machinists must be able to use both manual and CNC machinery. CNC machines control the cutting tool speed and do all necessary cuts to create a part. The machinist determines the cutting path, the speed of the cut, and the feed rate by programming instructions into the CNC machine.
Although workers may produce large quantities of one part, precision machinists often produce small batches or one-of-a-kind items. The parts that machinists make range from simple steel bolts to titanium bone screws for orthopedic implants. Hydraulic parts, antilock brakes, and automobile pistons are other widely known products that machinists make.
Some machinists repair or make new parts for existing machinery. After an industrial machinery mechanic discovers a broken part in a machine, a machinist remanufactures the part. The machinist refers to blueprints and performs the same machining operations that were used to create the original part in order to create the replacement.
Some manufacturing processes use lasers, water jets, and electrified wires to cut the workpiece. As engineers design and build new types of machine tools, machinists must learn new machining properties and techniques.
Tool and die makers construct precision tools or metal forms, called dies, that are used to cut, shape, and form metal and other materials. They produce jigs and fixtures—devices that hold metal while it is bored, stamped, or drilled—and gauges and other measuring devices.
Dies are used to shape metal in stamping and forging operations. They also make metal molds for die casting and for molding plastics, ceramics, and composite materials.
Tool and die makers use CAD to develop products and parts. They enter designs into computer programs that produce blueprints for the required tools and dies. Computer numeric control programmers, described in the metal and plastic machine workers profile, convert CAD designs into CAM programs that contain instructions for a sequence of cutting-tool operations. Once these programs are developed, CNC machines follow the set of instructions contained in the program to produce the part. Machinists normally operate CNC machines, but tool and die makers often are trained to both operate CNC machines and write CNC programs and thus may do either task.
Machinists held about 388,100 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of machinists were as follows:
|Transportation equipment manufacturing||12|
Tool and die makers held about 72,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of tool and die makers were as follows:
|Metalworking machinery manufacturing||20%|
|Motor vehicle parts manufacturing||16|
|Aerospace product and parts manufacturing||6|
|Machine shops; turned product; and screw, nut, and bolt manufacturing||5|
|Plastics product manufacturing||4|
Injuries and Illnesses
Because machinists and tool and die makers work around machine tools that may present hazards, these workers must follow precautions to avoid injuries. For example, workers must wear protective equipment, such as safety glasses, to shield against bits of flying metal, earplugs to dampen the noise produced by machinery, and masks to limit their exposure to fumes.
Although many machinists and tool and die makers work full time during regular business hours, some work evenings and weekends because facilities may operate around the clock. Some work more than 40 hours a week.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of machinists and tool and die makers.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
Boilermakers assemble, install, maintain, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$63,100|
Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and Millwrights
Industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights install, maintain, and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$52,860|
Metal and Plastic Machine Workers
Metal and plastic machine workers set up and operate machines that cut, shape, and form metal and plastic materials or pieces.
|See How to Become One||$36,990|
Sheet Metal Workers
Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$50,400|
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers use hand-held or remotely controlled equipment to join, repair, or cut metal parts and products.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$42,490|
For more information about machinists and tool and die makers, including training and certification, visit
For information about manufacturing careers, including machinery and tool and die makers, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Machinists and Tool and Die Makers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/machinists-and-tool-and-die-makers.htm (visited ).