Careers in Machining

The demand for machine tool technicians and operators historically has been great, and the jobs reach across a variety of industries, from manufacturing to aerospace.

When you hear the word “machining”, do images of running high-powered drills, cutting sheets of metal, and reading blueprints come to mind? If so, you’re right—machining careers involve all that and so much more! At its core, machining is a process that takes raw material, often metal or plastic, and transforms it into a desired shape and size. If you’ve ever used a nail file, flown in an airplane, or jotted down notes with a pen, you can probably thank a machinist for it. Sounds like a pretty cool job, right? We think so!

An In-Demand Career

The demand for machine tool technicians and operators historically has been great, and the jobs reach across a variety of industries, from manufacturing to aerospace. There are over 200 machine shops in North Alabama alone, and the need for entry level technicians and operators in the service area is greater than the current supply of qualified individuals. Long story short? Now is the perfect time to get into the field of machining!

Programs of Study

There are a number of top-notch machining programs available across Alabama- concentrations of study include manual machining, precision inspection, CNC turning, CNC milling, CNC CAM, and CNC EDM. Each program places an emphasis on safety, math, measuring tools, hand and bench tools, blueprint reading, drill press operations, lathe operations, milling operations, layout, grinding operations, computer numerical control (CNC), and tool and die. These programs offer varying levels of awards for completion- ranging from short certificates to associate degrees.

College Today, Aerospace Tomorrow

Wes Kirkpatrick attended Southern Union State Community College, where he earned an associate degree in Machine Shop Technology and a certificate in Engineering Graphics and Design. His studies in advanced manufacturing prepared him well for his current career as a CNC machinist with an aerospace manufacturing company. He explained, “We produce finished part assemblies for several high profile aerospace industry leaders.”

Jobs Are Everywhere

Wes stresses the fact that attending a four year university isn’t necessary for all students- attending a two-year college might be the best decision. He shared, “If a bachelor’s degree isn’t for you, that’s fine. Jobs are everywhere, and industry leaders are struggling to find fresh young minds with skilled hands.  An associate degree will give anyone the tools they need for a rewarding, engaging career in anything from advanced manufacturing to robotics, electronics, or HVAC/industrial maintenance, to name a few.  Each one of these industries gives students the opportunity to earn as much as or more than a four year degree graduate of the same age and experience.”

College Lifestyle for 10% of the Cost

“To someone expecting to complete, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree, starting at a two year college has many advantages. My entire associate degree (five semesters) cost me less than one semester at a state university,” Wes explained.  “Completing an associate degree then enrolling for a bachelor’s is a very cost effective, smart way of going about earning your bachelor’s degree. And there’s no reason you still have to live at home with Mom and Dad! Live the college lifestyle for 10% of the cost.”

Learn more by contacting your local community college:

Calhoun Community College

Awards offered: Short Certificates, Long Certificate and Associate Degree


Northeast Alabama Community College

Awards offered: AAS, Certificate, and Short Term Certificate


Shelton State Community College

Awards offered: Certificate and Associate in Applied Science


Central Alabama Community College

Awards offered: Short Certificates, Long Certificate, and Associate Degree

Program: Applied Engineering and Machining


Northwest Shoals Community College

Program: Precision Machining


Gadsden State Community College

Awards offered: AAS, Certificate, Short Term Certificate

Program: Precision Machining Building


Wallace State Community College – Hanceville

Awards offered: Certificate (MTT – 4 Semesters), Certificate (CNC – 2Semesters), Associate in Applied

Science Degree (5 Semesters)

Program: Machine Shop Technology


Southern Union State Community College

Awards offered: Certificate, Short Certificate, and Associate in Occupational Technologies (AOT)

Program: Machine Shop Technology


Other Machining and Machine Tool Technology Programs can be found at the following Alabama Community Colleges:

  • Bishop State Community College
  • Bevill State Community College
  • Coastal Alabama Community College
  • A. Lawson State Community College
  • Council Trenholm State Community College

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