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Machine Setter Job Description, Career as a Machine Setter, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Machine setters in the metalworking and plastics industries set up machines for operation and production and may adjust the machinery during its operation. Many workers both set up and operate equipment. Because the setup process requires an understanding of the entire production process, setters usually have more training and are more highly skilled than those who simply operate or tend machinery. As machinery becomes increasingly automated, however, it is expected that the setup process will require less skill.

Setters are usually identified by the type of machine with which they work, such as drilling- and boring-machine tool setters. Job duties vary with the size of the manufacturing plant and the type of machine being operated. Although some workers specialize in one or two types of machinery, many are trained to set up a variety of machines. Increasing automation allows machine setters to work on multiple machines simultaneously. Rotating assignments result in more varied and interesting work, but also require workers to have a wider range of skills.

Machine setters may specialize in one or two types of machinery, but many are trained to set up a variety of machines. (© Roger Ball/Corbis.)

Machine setters in the metal industries set up machines that cut and form all types of metal parts. Machine setters in the plastic industries set up machines, most commonly injection-molding machines, that produce a variety of plastic consumer goods such as toys, tubing, and auto parts. Setup workers read blueprints or other instructions, plan the order of operations, and set up machines. They often use computer programs in this process. Setters or technicians are responsible for repairing any major problems that crop up during production.

Education and Training Requirements

Machine setters learn their skills on the job. Trainees begin by observing and assisting experienced workers, sometimes in formal training programs. These employer-sponsored programs for experienced operators often combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. They may need a year or more to advance to the more highly skilled job of setter.

Employers prefer to hire high school graduates with good basic skills. Reading and writing ability, good communication skills, mechanical aptitude, manual dexterity, and experience working with machinery are helpful. High school mathematics, shop, and blueprint reading courses are helpful in preparing to become a machine setter. Basic computer skills are also important as machinery becomes increasingly automated.

Getting the Job

Apply directly to companies or manufacturing concerns. State employment offices may list job openings. Also, check newspaper want ads and Internet job sites for work as a machine setter.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Certification in a particular machining skill, either through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills or the Society of Plastics Industry, can enhance job opportunities and prospects for advancement. Some machine setters may advance to supervisory positions with further on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program.

Machine setter positions are expected to decline through 2014. Widespread adoption of automated machinery, foreign competition, and increased production efficiency are anticipated to reduce the demand for machine setters. However, a large number of machine setters are expected to retire by the end of 2010, leading to some openings in this field. The most experienced workers who can set up multiple machines should have the best employment prospects.

Working Conditions

Machine setters usually stand while they work. Their work areas are generally noisy but well lit and air-conditioned. To prevent accidents, setters wear protective clothing, earplugs, and safety glasses and follow strict safety regulations. They generally work forty hours per week. Shift work is often required. Premium wages are generally paid for night shifts, and overtime is sometimes available. Many machine setters belong to labor unions.

Where to Go for More Information

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
9000 Machinists Place
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772-2687
(301) 967-4500

National Institute for Metalworking Skills
3251 Old Lee Hwy., Ste. 205
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 352-4971

National Tooling and Machining Association
9300 Livingston Rd.
Fort Washington, MD 20744
(800) 248-6862

Precision Metalforming Association Educational Foundation
6363 Oak Tree Blvd.
Independence, OH 44131-2500
(216) 901-8800

Society of Plastics Industry
1667 K St., NW, Ste. 1000
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 974-5200

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings for machine setters vary by size of the company, whether a plant is unionized, and skill level and experience of the setter. In 2004 the highest median hourly earnings of $21.28 were paid to model makers, metal and plastics. The lowest median hourly wage of $11.63 was paid to molding, coremaking, and casting machine setters. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesManufacturing & Production