Do you like working with your hands and have a good attention to detail? Are you comfortable around machines used to cut, shape and form raw materials into finished goods? If so, a job in manufacturing might be right for you. There are many types of manufacturing careers, but these four metal four metal based crafts are particularly popular among those looking to make their mark on the industry.
So what's the best fit for your personality and skill set? Machinist vs tool & die vs sheet metal vs welder—what is each career really about? How do each compare in terms of salary, education level required and potential growth? To help you decide which manufacturing career is right for you, here's an overview of each position along with some details about their daily tasks, training requirements and future outlooks.
Machinists work with heavy machinery and equipment like lathes, mills and grinders. They read blueprints and schematics and use this information to guide the machine that cuts or bends a product's parts. Tool & die makers also read blueprints as they create tools used in production lines. Sheet metal workers make products from sheet metal using tools like saws, presses and lasers. Finally, welders join pieces of metal together through processes like heating or hammering them into place.
Machinists are highly skilled workers who make, modify or repair metal parts. They often use technical engineering drawings to create the components of machines and other tools. Machinists may use lathes, CNC machines, and grinding machines to shape their material into the desired form. Since machining work is precise, it is essential that machinists possess good math skills as well as a strong attention to detail.
You can become a machinist through training or an apprenticeship program in a machine shop or at a technical training school. To get started, you will need to have at least high school diploma and be able to pass background checks for certain jobs.
Tool & Die Makers
You can think of a tool and die as a metal mold. They create the tools to bend and shape large metal pieces. As a Tool & Die Maker you'll create metal tools, dies and fixtures to be used in the manufacturing process. You'll work with metals such as aluminum, brass, bronze and steel as well as metal alloys and composites like carbon fiber. Some duties may include working with plastics. Together you'll use computer aided design (CAD) software to create prototypes of new products or parts. Using an array of machine tools you'll shape, cut and finish parts to precise specifications. At the end of your career path you could be leading a team or teaching the skills you've learned to others following in your footsteps.
Sheet Metal Workers
Sheet metal is thin malleable metal that can be cut and bent into shapes. You commonly see it in HVAC systems to move cool or hot air to different rooms without changing the temperature too much. Sheet metal workers do not need to be as precise as machinists and tool makers which is nice if you like to work fast and make progress quickly. You also get mre opportunities to work out in the field and visit job sites as a sheet metal worker.
Welders work with all kinds of materials, including carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminum. They use the material in their hands to join components together or fill holes, indentations and seams on metal parts. Using various welding processes, they use equipment to create a specific amount of heat and pressure in order to melt the metals being used. Welders also need a good understanding of safety practices, because welding exposes them to extreme temperatures and dangerous gases. You can increase your chances at getting a job as a welder by applying through Classet and pursuing certification through training programs.
Find out if one of these careers is right for you.
If you're curious about any of the manufacturing careers mentioned in this article, there are a few key questions that can help you decide whether it's a good fit for you. It's important to understand what kind of education and training is required, as well as what the job prospects look like. Here's what we recommend asking yourself:
- What kind of training do I want? Some professionals complete apprenticeships while others get formal classroom education in college or technical school. Different jobs require different types of training.
- What kind of classes will I be taking? Again, this varies by career choice, but having some idea of what you'll be learning ahead of time can help you make a decision with more confidence.
- How much money can I expect to make? The average salary for these professions varies significantly between machinists, tool and die makers, sheet metal workers, and welders—and it also differs based on experience level and location. It's important to have realistic expectations so that you're not disappointed later on after putting time into your education or career path.
- Where are the available opportunities for my chosen career? It may be worthwhile to look at which locations have the most demand for workers in your field—especially if moving is an option for you!