What Is an Aerospace Machinist?

Mar 4, 2021 ·
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Are you fascinated by planes and all things space? Becoming an aerospace machinist may be the perfect career choice.

The aerospace industry encompasses all types of flight vehicles, from unpowered gliders and sailplanes to military aircraft and even space launch vehicles. There are many different avenues to take if you’re looking to work in the industry — including the machining side of things.

If becoming an aerospace machinist sounds interesting to you, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn all about this career path, including job duties, salary, how to become an aerospace machinist and more.

What Does an Aerospace Machinist Do?

Before getting into the specific duties of an aerospace machinist, let’s get a better understanding of exactly what the aerospace industry entails.

According to Britannica, the aerospace industry refers to the assembly and manufacturing of parts used in air and space vehicles used within and beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Those who work in the industry are involved with the research, development and manufacturing of various vehicles, including:

  • Gliders
  • Sailplanes
  • Balloons
  • Airships
  • Airplanes
  • Military aircraft
  • Missiles
  • Spacecraft

So where do aerospace machinists fit into the equation?

These professionals create detailed aircraft and spacecraft parts using different types of computer and mechanically controlled machines, like lathes and grinders. They may create parts for a specific type of aircraft, like rotary-wing airplanes, and ship them to a buyer, who will use them in production.

Aerospace Machinist Job Description

There are two main types of aerospace machinists: production machinists and maintenance machinists.

  • Production machinists specialize in creating large amounts of one particular component. They may utilize computer numerical control (CNC) machines during the manufacturing process, which involves changing tools and controlling the speed of the cutting tool. In overseeing this process, their job is to ensure every part meets the required specifications for proper use. In some cases, production machinists will collaborate with computer programmers in the development of the CNC software.
  • Maintenance machinists primarily conduct repairs or create parts for machines in use. For example, someone may give them a broken part, and they will then analyze it and determine whether it can be repaired or needs to be replaced. When creating replacement parts, the maintenance machinist will read blueprints to ensure all of the specifications are correct.

Aerospace Machinist Skills

The job of an aerospace machinist, or a machinist in general, requires a specific set of skills. Some of these include:

  • Eye for detail
  • Ability to problem-solve
  • Manual dexterity
  • Tech-savvy
  • Creativity
  • Good communication
  • Effective time management
  • Adaptability
  • Math and science skills
  • Strong work ethic

Aerospace Machinist Salary

As with most industries, the salary of an aerospace machinist can vary based on several factors, like employer, specialty and level of experience.

Some machinists start out as CNC operators and choose to take their knowledge and skills to the aerospace industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for computer numerically controlled (CNC) tool operators was $42,260 in May 2020.34 This means half of CNC machinists earned more and half earned less. While this might not be the exact salary of an aerospace machinist, it can provide a general idea of income potential for those working in the field. Also keep in mind that salary depends on several factors, including experience, employer, demand and cost of living in the area.

How to Become an Aerospace Machinist

When it comes to training to become an aerospace machinist, there are several different routes you can take. Some choose to complete apprenticeship programs, where they learn skills on the job and work their way up to a machinist role.

A CNC machine is used to make a precision cut.

There is also a need for aerospace machinists in the military, so those interested in taking this path can try to enter the field after they complete their introductory training. They will most likely go through classroom and hands-on training to learn to work on airplanes, helicopters and other types of aircraft used in the military.

Another option is to take a CNC machining training program like Universal Technical Institute’s CNC Machining Technology program. This is a great way to gain a foundation of knowledge you can build upon as you start working in the industry.1

The CNC machining program is designed to equip students with the skills needed to craft sophisticated performance parts and components from raw materials. In just 36 weeks, students learn everything from reading blueprints to the setup and operation of CNC mills and lathes.

Courses in the program include:

  • Basic Machine Shop Skills
  • Mathematics, Materials and Maintenance
  • Interpreting Blueprints
  • Manual Machining Basics
  • CNC Basics
  • CNC Turning
  • CNC Milling
  • CAD and CAM

By the end of the 36 weeks, you’ll have skills you can take with you as you pursue careers in a variety of different industries, from aerospace and defense to electronics and medical.2

As a graduate, you’ll most likely have to complete some form of on-the-job training once you enter the workforce. However, completing a training program like this can catch the eye of employers and give you a head start on what you’ll need to know for your career.

Get Trained for a Career

UTI’s CNC Machining Technology program is available at the NASCAR Technical Institute campus in Mooresville, North Carolina. In addition to offering hands-on training, the Employment Assistance team at NASCAR Tech offers a variety of resources to assist students in their job search after graduation, including:

  • Professional résumé development
  • On-campus interviews
  • Career development classes and coaching
  • Access to a nationwide job database

Classes for the CNC machining program begin every six weeks, so you can start training and prepare for your career sooner.

To learn more, visit our program page and request information to get in touch with an Admissions Representative today.

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