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Machinists set up and operate precision metal cutting and grinding machines such as lathes, milling machines, drills and grinders to make and repair products made from metals, plastics, rubber textiles, fibreglass and space age alloys.

Machinists work according to very precise specifications. When there are no prints or other specifications, they determine dimensions by logic or by measuring samples using instruments such as micrometers and calipers. Electronic instruments have digital readouts and require the operator to program them for use.

To perform a typical machining task, machinists:

  • study specifications, charts, drawings or sample parts to determine the machining operation to be performed,
  • calculate dimensions and tolerances, and prepare working sketches if necessary,
  • measure and mark metal and other materials,
  • set up and operate tools, which may be computer numerically controlled, to perform precision machining operations, and
  • fit parts to mechanisms and verify dimensions.

Machinists must understand the effects of heat treatment on metals. For more information regarding tasks and activities, review the Trade Regulation.



Working Conditions

Machinists may work in shops with manual or Computer Numeric Controlled equipment and machine tools. In job shops, they make a wide variety of repair parts for different types of machinery and industrial equipment in different situations. In production shops, they produce parts using mass production methods including CNC machining and other tools. They make parts when it is impossible to purchase them or they are too costly. They may work in a rushed environment. In Alberta, small production runs are more typical.

Machinists work in shops with state of the art machines and with machines where technology is required. Some shops may be noisy or dusty and have materials that may be oily and require cleaning. Machinists may stand for long periods of time.

They work approximately 40 hours a week, usually five weekdays, but may be required to work overtime in emergency situations. Night or evening shifts are common in many shops. Machinists enjoy working on the leading edge in production.

Safe working practices are required as there may be risk of injury involved in working with high speed machinery with sharp metals and tools.


Skills and Abilities

The work is most rewarding for those who enjoy doing creative work with machinery that requires a high degree of skill and precision.

To be successful in their trade, machinists must have:

  • the ability to use their hands skillfully and quickly,
  • mechanical ability,
  • the ability to estimate and measure sizes and lengths accurately,
  • strength, stamina and the use of proper lifting techniques required to handle items weighing up to 25 kilograms,
  • the ability to work independently at tasks that require concentration as well as physical effort, and
  • basic computer knowledge.


Employment and Advancement

Machinists are employed wherever equipment is being manufactured or repaired. Some are employed by large organizations such as government departments or repair and maintenance companies. Employment is generally steady for machinists.

Journeyperson wage rates vary, but generally range from $28 to $34 an hour, plus benefits.

Experienced machinists may advance to positions such as quality assurance managers, engineers, lead hands and supervisors. Some machinists start their own businesses.


Working in Alberta

To work as a machinist in Alberta, a person must:

  • be a registered apprentice, an Alberta-certified journeyperson, hold a valid recognized credential , OR
  • work for an employer who is satisfied that the worker has the skills and knowledge expected of a certified journeyperson, OR
  • be self-employed.

Individuals possessing a valid recognized credential in Alberta are eligible to receive a Blue Seal business credential after completing the necessary requirements.


Apprenticeship Training

The term of apprenticeship for a machinist is 4 years (four 12-month periods) including a minimum of 1560 hours of on-the-job training and 8 weeks of technical training each year.

  • An applicant who previously completed courses of study or work experience related to the machinist trade or holds a related journeyperson certificate and has the employer's recommendation, may qualify for credit that could reduce the term of apprenticeship. Inquiries about credit for previously completed courses of study or work experience can be directed to an apprenticeship representative toll-free at 1-800-248-4823.
  • A person who has previous training or work experience in the trade and wants to determine their level of skill and knowledge for entry or advanced standing in an apprenticeship program may complete the online Prior Learning Assessment Application.  
  • A high school student can become an apprentice and gain credits toward apprenticeship training and a high school diploma at the same time under the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP).

To learn the skills required of a Machinist in Alberta and be issued an Alberta Journeyman Certificate, a person must:

Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates and may select apprentices from among their current employees.

For holders of an existing trade certificate, it can serve as your entrance requirement equivalency when registering in an additional trade.

  • complete the online Apprenticeship Application and Contract
  • pay the non-refundable application fee as part of the application process 
  • complete the required on-the-job training
    - during on-the-job training, apprentice machinists earn at least 55 percent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, 65 percent in the second, 75 percent in the third, and 85 percent in the fourth year.
  • complete all of the program requirements as identified in the Course Outline
  • enroll in technical training
  • successfully complete all required (See Exam Counselling Sheet)
  • Technical Training Resource List
    • Each period of technical training requires apprentices to purchase specific resources and supplies.
    • Contact the training provider where you will be attending training for a complete list.

Apprentices may attempt the Interprovincial Exam in the final period of their apprenticeship training and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal.

When apprentices attend technical training, they are required to pay the applicable tuition fee and purchase course supplies.

Student loans, grants, scholarships and other financial assistance may be available. For more information see Financial Assistance, visit an Apprenticeship and Industry Training office or call toll-free to 1-800-248-4823.


Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program

A machinist who holds a valid trade certificate from Alberta or from another Canadian province or territory may apply to write the Interprovincial Exam and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal under the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. The Red Seal is recognized throughout most of Canada.

To prepare for the exam (See Exam Counselling Sheets) and review available Resource Materials.


Qualification Certificate Program

For a Qualification Certificate based on a recognized credential or work experience, in order to prepare for the exam(s) please refer to the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available Resource Materials.

Time spent on supervisory or foreman duties, counter work, heading the tool crib, or on training course is NOT counted as 'hands-on' work experience


Equivalency Program

A person who holds a valid recognized credential does not require an Alberta equivalency document to work in the trade in Alberta.

However, some employers may require Alberta documentation as proof that the holder is allowed to work in the trade or that the holder's credential is recognized.

Click for more information on the Equivalency Program.