Machine Technician Job Description
Machine technicians install, maintain, and repair mechanical equipment in many different industries, whether it’s manufacturing, chemical processing, construction, or another highly mechanized field. They are detail oriented and able to stay focused on delicate tasks while adhering to the highest standards of safety. This is an ideal career for someone who works well on a team as well as on their own with minimal supervision. While they usually work full time during normal business hours, it’s common for machine technicians to be on call and work overtime, nights, and weekends.
Machine Technician Duties and Responsibilities
Although there may be different equipment associated with different industries, all machine technicians share a few core tasks. An analysis of real resumes and job listings shows that these tasks are:
Machine technicians interpret schematics, blueprints, and other technical documents before installing a new piece of equipment. They calibrate different parts of the machine and ensure everything runs smoothly, then test it for accuracy. Finally, they complete all work orders, logs, or other documentation that show what work has been done.
Perform Preventative Maintenance
Addressing problems before they even begin is a crucial responsibility of machine technicians. They regularly inspect equipment to make sure it conforms to normal operational standards, then take steps to correct any abnormalities. If they find defective equipment that cannot be fixed immediately, they schedule the next available opportunity to make upgrades.
Diagnose and Repair Problems
Should equipment suddenly break, the machine technician works quickly to repair the problem and minimize unplanned downtime. They rely on equipment manuals, schematics, computer-driven diagnostic tools, and their own intuition to find and fix the malfunction’s source.
Uphold Safety Standards and Regulations
There are safety protocols associated with many aspects of a machine technician’s daily tasks, including confined spaces, hot work, and heavy equipment. Whether a rule is company policy or federal regulation, machine technicians follow it to the letter. They also ensure that equipment and buildings meet government regulations at all times.
Coordinate with Vendors
Communicating with outside vendors and suppliers falls to the machine technician. Should a machine require a part or tool, it’s the technician’s responsibility to find the appropriate supplier and place an order. It may also be necessary to maintain professional networks and relationships over time in order to get the best deal.
Machine Technician Skills and Qualifications
Machine technicians possess a solid grasp of mechanical fundamentals and are adept at wielding a variety of tools. They are self-motivated individuals who spend much of their time working with complex or dangerous equipment with minimum supervision. Employers typically prefer that candidates have an associate’s degree, two to three years of experience, and the following skills:
- Mechanical and electrical experience – proficiency with hydraulics, pneumatics, electrical components, and other tools is the basis for all of a machine technician’s responsibilities
- Document interpretation – machine technicians are able to read and follow schematics, blueprints, and diagrams. They also understand work orders, logs, and other forms of documentation
- Troubleshooting – one of the most common tasks of a machine technician is preventative maintenance and problem repair, therefore they must be able to diagnose and solve malfunctions using a combination of technical expertise and analytical thinking
- Physical dexterity – in addition to the strength needed for lifting heavy objects, some tasks require keen hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
- Attention to detail – this skill is necessary for sequencing parts, identifying problems in complex machinery, and dutifully following all safety protocols
Tools of the Trade
In addition to the general tools used by many laborers, machine technicians use the following on a regular basis:
- Mechanical equipment (including hydraulic and pneumatic tools)
- Electrical equipment (such as panels and programmable logic controllers)
- Heavy machinery (such as forklifts)
Machine Technician Education and Training
Machine technicians generally have a two-year associate’s degree in industrial maintenance, machining technology, or a related field. Coursework includes mathematics, welding, hydraulics, and pneumatics. Other essential skills to learn are how to use blades, mills, saws, and grinders.
On-the-job-training is common for machine technicians, especially for those with no prior experience. As the use of automated equipment increases, employers will likely look for more machine technicians with programmable logic controllers (PLC) programming experience, which can be acquired through an associate’s degree or continuing education courses.
Machine Technician Salary and Outlook
A machine technician’s duties and responsibilities are very similar to those of industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers, as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the BLS, these mechanics earn a median annual wage of about $50,000. The highest 10 percent earn more than $76,000, while the lowest 10 percent earn less than $32,000. Level of education, willingness to work overtime, and additional skills, such as PLC programming, may contribute to a machine technician’s salary.
Increases in sophisticated and automated equipment is encouraging job growth for machine technicians. The BLS estimates that employment in this sector will grow 7 percent through 2026, which is as fast as the average of all occupations.
Ready to begin an active and engaging career as a machine technician? We’ve compiled a list of resources to help prepare you for the role:
Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals – in addition to providing educational resources, conferences, and symposiums, this 6,000-member organization offers a certification program for maintenance professionals
The Association for Manufacturing Technology – this association’s “career pathways” section is an excellent resource for prospective machine technicians considering schools and career advancement options
Audel Mechanical Trades Pocket Manual – don’t let the small size and comprehensive overview fool you: this book is essential reading even for seasoned professionals. As one reader put it, “I have been in the mechanical trades for forty years and this tome is in my tool truck”
Technician’s Guide to Programmable Controllers – with automation becoming more and more common, an understanding of programmable logic controllers is a good way for machine technicians to increase their competitiveness