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.

NOC Number(s):7231.1
Minimum Education:Apprenticeship Trade
Employment Outlook:Job openings generated due to employment turnover. Occupational outlook currently unavailable.
Interests:O I M

Related Videos:


Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study


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 vernier 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
  • fit parts to mechanisms and verify dimensions.

Machinists must understand the effects of heat treatment on metals and be skilled in heat treatment processes.

Machinists may work in job or production shops. 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 or too costly to purchase them. In Alberta, small production runs are typical.

Working Conditions

Shops may be noisy or dusty and have materials that may be dirty. Machinists often stand for long periods of time and may work in a rushed environment. They work a 37.5 to 40 hour week, usually five weekdays, but may be required to work overtime in emergency situations. Night or evening shifts are common in some shops. 

Machinists may be required to lift and move items that weigh over 20 kilograms. There is risk of injury involved in working with high speed machinery and sharp metals and tools.

Personal Characteristics

Machinists need the following characteristics:

  • the ability to use their hands skillfully and quickly
  • mechanical ability
  • the ability to estimate and measure sizes and distances accurately
  • the ability to work independently at tasks that require concentration as well as physical effort.

They should enjoy doing creative work with machinery that requires a high degree of skill and precision. 

Educational Requirements

To work in Alberta, a machinist must be ONE of the following:

  • a registered apprentice
  • an Alberta-certified journeyperson
  • someone who holds a recognized related trade certificate  
  • someone who works for an employer who is satisfied that the worker has the skills and knowledge expected of certified journeyperson
  • self-employed.

To register with Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training, apprentices must:

  • have an Alberta high school transcript with at least English Language Arts 10-2, Math 10-3 and Science 10, or equivalent, or pass an entrance exam.
  • find a suitable employer who is willing to hire and train an apprentice. Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates. Basic computer knowledge is required.

The term of apprenticeship is four years (four 12 month periods) that include a minimum of 1,560 hours of on-the-job training and eight weeks of technical training each year. High school students can earn credits toward apprenticeship training and a high school diploma at the same time through the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP).

Applicants who have related training or work experience may be eligible for credit or certification.

Machinist apprentices may take the interprovincial exam in the final period of their apprenticeship training to earn a Red Seal (certification recognized in most parts of Canada).

Technical training is arranged by Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training and is currently offered at:

  • the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton
  • the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary.

NAIT also offers technical training by distance delivery.

For more information, visit the Technical Training Centre on the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training website.

Outside the apprenticeship program,  the following Alberta post-secondary institutions offer related training:

  • the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) offers a one year CNC Machinist Technician certificate program that includes eight weeks of work experience. The entrance requirement is Grade 10 with English and math but recent successful applicants have had Grade 12 English and math.
  • the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) offers a one year Machinist Technician certificate program. The entrance requirement is 70 Alberta high school credits or equivalent with English Language Arts 20-1 or 20-2 and Pure or Applied Math 10 or Math 10c or Math 10-3. SAIT also offers a CNC Operator certificate program through Continuing Education.

Pre-employment programs for prospective apprentices and continuing education programs for journeypersons may be offered on an as needed basis by the institution(s) listed above or other schools.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

Section revised May 2013

Employment and Advancement

Machinists are employed wherever equipment is manufactured or repaired. Some are employed by large organizations such as government departments, or repair and maintenance companies.

Experienced machinists may advance to positions such as inspector, foreman or superintendent or CNC machinist and programmer. Some machinists start businesses of their own. Alberta certified journeyperson machinists who have the supervisory or management skills required by industry may apply for an Achievement in Business Competencies Blue Seal by contacting Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training.

Machinists are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 7231: Machinists and Machining and Tooling Inspectors. In Alberta, 86 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • time of year (in some industries)
  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised November 2013


Journeyperson wage rates vary but generally range from $24 to $32 an hour plus benefits (2009 estimate). Apprentice machinists earn at least 55 per cent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, 65 per cent in the second, 75 per cent in the third and 85 per cent in the fourth.

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Machinists and Machining and Tooling Inspectors occupational group earned on average from $21.40 to $33.22 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $27.45 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Apprenticeship and Industry Training website:

EDinfo website:

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

Related Occupational Profiles
Aircraft Maintenance Technician
Field Heat Treatment Technician
Natural Gas Compression Technician

Related High School Subjects
Trades, Manufacturing and Transportation (Fabrication)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Trades, Industrial and Related Training

Produced June 2009
Top of Profile

For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.

Government of Alberta, Human Services