Machining For Dummies
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Ask any shop owner to describe his or her biggest obstacle to company growth and nine out of ten will say the same thing: finding qualified people. For whatever reason, machining has grown less popular as a career choice over the past few decades, despite the increasing demand, better technology, and higher wages.

A Google search of machinists' wages in 2017 reveals that average salaries are approaching $50,000 per year in the United States, which is substantially more than photographers, medical technicians, fitness trainers, and embalmers. Granted, you don't get to wear spandex or make dead people look nice for grieving relatives, but machining is a good paying, rewarding career that lets you make cool parts and play with robots.

For those with an eye toward upward mobility, machining is a gateway to even more challenging careers such as machine tool programming, applications or manufacturing engineering, tool and die design, equipment sales, or even going into business for yourself. Contrary to what the media has been saying, all the manufacturing work hasn't gone to China. Yes, parts are less expensive to produce in countries with low labor costs, but those companies that have tried sourcing parts based solely on price frequently (and painfully) discover that the old adage, "you get what you pay for" is abundantly true.

The result is that many of the products that have gone offshore over recent years are now being re-shored. Procurement people, tired of long lead times and questionable promise dates, are sourcing more parts on this side of the ocean. Quality is difficult to control when parts are made thousands of miles away, with late night or early morning meetings to resolve complaints the norm. And consumers recognize that "buying local" is good for them and their neighbors. Long story short, manufacturing is back, whether you live in Milwaukee or Minneapolis, Alameda or San Antonio.

So, forget about what you may have heard. Machining is a high-tech, clean, and lucrative profession. If you're interested in machining (which you surely must be, since you're reading this) and have even a smidgeon of mechanical aptitude, chances are good you can find a shop willing to take you on. If you're thinking about college but aren't sure what you want to be when you grow up, skip the philosophy major and the burdensome student loans and head to the nearest technical college. If you're already skilled and are looking for a better job, start knocking on doors. The point is, the machining water is warm. Come on in.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Kip Hanson finished school in 1979 and got a job at a small machine shop in Minneapolis. Over the next thirty years, he worked his way up and eventually moved into manufacturing consulting and freelance writing. Today he has nearly 600 published articles across dozens of magazines and websites, covering everything from machinery and tooling to metrology and 3D printing.

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