Welding and Machining Careers

Trained workers are in demand

Mechanically inclined individuals who take pride in a job done to perfection are the kind suited for a career in welding and machining. Those who choose to do this difficult and precise work are well on their way to exciting job possibilities.

How long will it take?

Machinists, including tool and die makers, often complete their training through four or five year apprenticeship programs, where they work full-time and attend school.

Technical schools and community colleges also offer a number of programs that provide associate degrees in about two years. Keep in mind that graduates will still be required to put in a large number of working hours before becoming fully qualified. Whichever route you choose, do some research to find out if the course will offer recognized certification or any other benefits.

CNC programmers require technical school training for the most part, but specialized programming jobs may require a programmer with an engineering degree. Many of these workers are already trained as machinists, but that is not a requirement.

Welders can become trained for an entry-level position in several weeks through vocational or trade school programs. Welders may need to take additional courses for different types of welding or to become further qualified.

Skills and requirements

Workers in the metal-working industry must have a variety of intellectual and manual skills. Good eyesight, hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity are important. It's also important for these professionals to make precise calculations and perform difficult tasks accurately. They must be able to work independently and solve problems as they arise.

General courses for machining jobs
(Depending on the machining job you perform, these courses may not apply)

  • Math
  • Blueprint reading
  • Mechanical drawing
  • Materials Science
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Metallurgy
  • Computer programming
  • Electricity basics
  • Safety

Programs typically offered at welding and machinery schools:

Welding, soldering and brazing - Welders join metal parts together using hand tools or partially automated machines that apply intense heat. The most skilled welders work with materials like titanium and plastics, while others may just work with steel or perform jobs that have been planned and laid out for them. Soldering and brazing professionals join metal in a different way; only the metal connecting pieces is melted to attach pieces together. Brazing melts metals with higher melting points and creates stronger joints.

Machine setter, operator and tender - These workers do relatively simple tasks related to automated welding machines such as loading parts and monitoring the process.

Machining - These professionals, known as machinists, use lathes, drills or milling machines to shape metal and sometimes plastic. Steel, aluminum, titanium, copper…you name it, a machinist can manipulate it.

A machinist sets up one or more machine tools to make a required part. They may make one part or thousands at a time. When many parts are needed, CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines are often used. They are computer-controlled machines that need to be programmed to perform a certain task. CNC machines make the machinist's job easier and save hours when it comes to setting a machine up for a different task. They are extremely precise and provide increased job flexibility. After the pieces are made the machinist performs quality checks.

Within machining some workers become more highly trained for jobs such as tool and die maker or CNC programmer.

  • Machine setter, operator and tender - These are the jobs many machinists do before entering apprenticeship programs or becoming licensed. Once the production process is designed by machinists and computer control programmers and operators, these workers perform comparatively simple operations to ensure production runs smoothly
  • Tool and die - These highly skilled machinists make jigs, gauges, dies and molds.