Machinist Skills for Career Advancement

April 17, 2024

This article was originally published on

Machinist skills for career advancement

In machining, you must master specific skills if you want to advance in your career. Using equipment with precision, becoming a skilled machinist, and embracing the latest advances in technology are just some of the building blocks of job requirements for success in this field.

Read on to discover basic machinist skills that are required to remain current and essential skills to remain in demand in the field.

Is a Machinist a Skilled Trade?

A machinist is a skilled machinery operator tradesman who follows engineering specifications to precisely craft metal parts, components, or tools. This role typically involves techniques such as milling, turning, and grinding to shape raw materials into finished products for industries such as:






Oil and gas

Tool and die-making

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 389,000 individuals employed in the machinists and tool and die makers sector. These professionals typically work in machine shops and factories, where they are responsible for:

  • Blueprint reading and interpreting engineering drawings and specifications.
  • Setting up and operating machine tools such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders.
  • Selecting appropriate cutting tools, fixtures, and machining parameters.
  • Monitoring machining manufacturing processes to ensure accuracy, quality, and adherence to specifications.
  • Performing routine maintenance on machine tools and equipment.
  • Inspecting finished machine parts using precision measuring instruments.

Essential machinist skills list for career development

1. Mastering precision: A machinist’s foundation

Precision is the cornerstone of machining. The smallest difference in measurements can determine success or failure, so being able to consistently produce parts within tight tolerances is a direct reflection of your expertise.

To set your proficiency apart from other candidates and prepare for career advancement, strengthen your:

  • Measurement techniques using tools like micrometers, calipers, and gauges to assess dimensions and tolerances accurately.
  • Understanding of tolerances and ability to work within specified limits.
  • Tool setting and calibration to ensure accuracy in cutting operations.
  • Surface finish optimization to minimize imperfections and irregularities.
  • Ability to adjust cutting parameters such as speed, feed rate, and depth of cut to optimize machining processes.

Regular calibration of equipment, staying abreast of new measurement technology, and regularly practicing refined cutting methods are all part of the machinist’s journey.

2. Embracing technology: CNC and automation

As machining evolves, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technology has taken center stage and opened the doors to new career development opportunities.

How can you boost CNC machinist skills?

Familiarize yourself with CNC fundamentals, including machine components, tooling, and programming basics.

Invest time in learning G-code, a CNC programming language, and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software to create efficient machining instructions.

Practice using CNC machines regularly to build muscle memory and improve operational proficiency.

Enroll in CNC training programs or workshops to gain structured knowledge and hands-on experience.

Automation is also transforming the machinist’s workflow. Research reveals that 38% of businesses have witnessed speed improvements of up to 20% through automation. To optimize this technology and boost productivity, start by exploring CNC automation, studying PLC programming, and becoming familiar with robotic systems.

Equipping yourself with relevant skills in CNC machinery and automation can position you at the forefront of the industry, so you’ll be ready to take on more complex and rewarding projects.

3. Programming proficiency: Beyond the machine

The ability to write and troubleshoot code that directs machine tools are skills that are highly valued. They allow for greater control over the machining process and open up possibilities for creating intricate designs and achieving unequaled precision.

Here are several programming languages relevant to the world of machining:

G-code: controlling the movement and actions of CNC machine tools.

PLC programming languages: programming industrial automation systems to control manufacturing machinery and processes (e.g., ladder logic or structured text).

Macro programming languages: automating repetitive tasks and customizing machining operations on CNC machines.

High-level languages: analyzing data, automating scripting, and integrating CNC systems with other software platforms (e.g., Python or C++).

Learning to use Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and CAM software can help you bridge the gap between production and design and prepare you for more career advancement opportunities. These software platforms are essential tools in the modern machinist’s arsenal and enable the translation of complex designs into reality.

4. Soft skills that sharpen your edge

In machining, being skilled technically is important, but having the right soft skills is what truly empowers machinists in the long term. For instance, clear communication ensures that project specifications are understood and met, while teamwork can lead to more efficient problem-solving and innovation. Other machinist skills needed include:

Attention to detail to ensure precise work.

The ability to identify and troubleshoot issues to maintain productivity and quality control standards.

Flexibility and adaptability in the face of changes in materials, tools, or project specifications.

Time management to meet deadlines and optimize workflow.

Adhering to safety protocols and practices to prevent accidents and ensure a secure working environment.

These soft skills not only make you more resilient but also more likely to be seen as a leader among your peers, which can pave the way for career growth opportunities.