What is a Machine Shop Technology Degree?

Machinists support manufacturing industries by making and modifying metal parts. Degree programs in machine shop technology teach students about the machining industry’s production methods, materials, and processes.

The typical curriculum includes training in:

  • set-up and operation of various machine tools
  • set-up, programming, and operation of computer numerical control (CNC) machines
  • metallurgy precision measuring, layout, and inspection
  • industrial drawing and blueprint reading
  • computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM)
  • machine shop safety procedures

Program Options

Apprenticeship in Machine Shop Technology – Three to Four Year Duration
Certificate in Machine Shop Technology – Fifteen Month Duration
Associate Degree in Machine Shop Technology – Two Year Duration

Machinist apprenticeships are often sponsored by manufacturing firms or labor unions, in partnership with vocational schools.

In the case of apprenticeships that accept applicants with a high-school diploma or equivalent, the vocational school provides the technical classroom instruction part of the apprentice training. Other apprenticeships may only accept candidates who first complete a certificate or degree program in machine shop technology.

Below is a snapshot of the training that aspiring machinists undergo:

  • Safe Work Practices – shop floor safety awareness, hazardous materials, fire safety
  • Mathematics for Machinists – math skills to apply in machining
  • Engineering Drawing / Blueprint Interpretation – reading and drawing sketches
  • Layout and Measuring – selection, use, and maintenance of layout and measuring tools
  • Support Machines – how to safely use a drill press, power saw, grinding machine, and hydraulic press
  • Lathe Operations – hands-on training in the operation of engine lathes
  • Mill Operations – set-up and operation of vertical and horizontal milling machines
  • Materials and Metallurgy – the chemical, mechanical, and physical properties of different types of metals
  • Maintenance and Service – selecting the right lubricants and hydraulic fluids for different types of equipment
  • Grinding Operations – the fundamentals of precision surface grinding, selecting the right grinding wheels
  • Oxyacetylene Cutting and Welding – in-shop training
  • Concepts of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) – introduction to CNC theory, types of machines, and operation
  • Computer Numerical Control (CNC) – machine construction, numerical control versus computer numerical control
  • Assembly Project – students build project components, ‘machine’ them according to engineering drawing specifications, and assemble them
  • Programming Fundamentals – basics of manual part programming, data input, coordinating system pre-sets and tool offsets
  • Programming Turning Centers – principles of lathe programming including canned and multiple repetitive cycles
  • Programming Machine Centers – principles of machine center programming including drilling, tapping, and boring cycles
  • Set-up and Operation of Turning Centers – topics include home position, work coordinates, tool offsets, screen reading, tool set-up, and job holding
  • Set-up and Operation of Machine Centers – topics include home position, work coordinates, tool offsets, screen reading, tool set-up, and job holding
  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD) – 2D and 3D geometry creation and editing in Mastercam, a suite of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software apps
  • Computer-Aided Manufacturing – 2D and 3D tool path creation, tool editing, post processing, job set-up, and part machining
  • Coordinate Measuring Machines – how to accurately measure and record finished parts using a coordinate measuring machine

Degrees Similar to Machine Shop Technology

Computer Hardware Engineering
Computer hardware engineering students study mathematics, physics and computer science. They apply knowledge in these areas to design and develop computer hardware.

Drafting Technology
This degree field teaches students to use computer programs to create specialized drawings that are used in engineering, construction, and manufacturing.

Manufacturing Engineering
Degree programs in manufacturing engineering teach the skills required to design, implement, monitor, and improve manufacturing processes and increase productivity.

Mechanical Engineering
Students of mechanical engineering learn how to research, design, develop, and test mechanical and thermal devices, including tools, sensors, engines, and machines. These devices serve many industries, including the aerospace, medical, energy, and manufacturing sectors. In addition to coursework in engineering and design, degree programs in the field include classes in mathematics, life sciences, and physical sciences.

Mechanical Engineering Technology
Mechanical engineering technology programs teach the skills required to help engineers design mechanical systems.

Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, Heating and Gas Technology
Students who pursue training in this technology learn how to install, maintain, and repair refrigeration, air conditioning, and heating and gas systems.

Robotics Engineering
Robotics engineering is focused on designing robots and robotic systems than can perform duties that humans are either unable or prefer not to perform.

Welding students learn the process of joining metals using extreme heat. They study metallurgy, the properties of different types of metals, and different types of welding.

Skills You’ll Learn

Graduates of machine shop technology programs come away from their studies with several transferable skills:

  • Active learning – evolving technology in the field means that machinists ‘learn how to learn’ and keep up with the latest information in their field
  • Attention to detail
  • Blueprint reading
  • Capacity to work to deadlines
  • Communication and teamwork – machine shop projects are rarely one-person jobs; they call for an ability to interact with others
  • Complex problem-solving – machine shop technology can present complicated challenges and problems
  • Computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Critical thinking – machinists need the capacity to think logically and analytically
  • Health and safety awareness
  • Manual dexterity
  • Spatial visualization
  • STEM skills: science, technology, engineering, mathematics

What Can You Do with a Machine Shop Technology Degree?

While students who complete training in machine shop technology tend to become employed directly in the machining sector, they do have several choices as to the specific industry in which they work.

These are some of the options:

  • Machine Shops / Precision Turned Product Manufacturing – manufacturing of metal bolts, nuts, screws, rivets, washers, and other industrial fasteners
  • Metalworking Machinery Manufacturing – manufacturing of industrial metalworking machines such as positioners, saws, sanders, milling machines, grinders, lathes, and presses
  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing
  • Automobile Parts Manufacturing
  • Commercial and Industrial Machinery Maintenance and Repair
  • Building Equipment – electrical, water, heating, and cooling systems
  • Forestry
  • Innovative Technologies – new products and processes
  • Medical Equipment and Supplies Manufacturing
  • Mining

In each of these sectors, depending on the extent of their training and experience, machine shop technologists may work as:

  • Lathe and turning machine operators – operate machines that rotate a workpiece on an axis to perform operations like cutting, threading, and drilling
  • Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine programmers – develop machining and processing computer programs for manufacturing industries
  • Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine operators – operate computer-controlled machines or robots
  • Machinists – set up machine tools to produce precision parts and instruments
  • Quality assurance (QA) technicians – test processes to prevent defects in manufacturing and product lifecycle


Find out what graduates typically earn.

Read about Salary