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How to Become an Industrial Machinery Mechanics and Maintenance Worker

Both industrial machinery mechanics and machinery maintenance workers typically need a high school diploma. However, industrial machinery mechanics need a year or more of training after high school, whereas machinery maintenance workers typically receive on-the-job training that lasts a few months to a year.

Education and Training

Employers of industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers generally require them to have earned at least a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. However, employers increasingly prefer to hire workers with some training in industrial technology. Employers also prefer to hire workers who have taken high school or postsecondary courses in mechanical drawing, mathematics, blueprint reading, computer programming, or electronics.

Industrial machinery mechanics usually need a year or more of formal education and training after high school to learn the necessary mechanical and technical skills. Although mechanics used to specialize in one area, such as hydraulics or electronics, many factories now require every mechanic to understand electricity, electronics, hydraulics, and computer programming.

Some mechanics complete a 2-year associate’s degree program in industrial maintenance. Others may start as helpers or in other factory jobs and learn the skills of the trade informally or by taking courses offered through their employer.

Employers may offer onsite technical training or send workers to local technical schools while they also receive on-the-job training. Classroom instruction focuses on subjects such as shop mathematics, blueprint reading, welding, electronics, and computer training. In addition to technical instruction, mechanics train on the specific machines that they will repair. They can get this training on the job, through dealers’ or manufacturers’ representatives, or in a classroom.

Machinery maintenance workers typically receive on-the-job training that lasts a few months to a year. They learn how to perform routine tasks, such as setting up, cleaning, lubricating, and starting machinery. This training may be offered by experienced workers, professional trainers, or representatives of equipment manufacturers.

Important Qualities

Manual dexterity. When handling very small parts, workers must have a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination.

Mechanical skills. Industrial machinery and maintenance workers must be able to reassemble large, complex machines back together after finishing a repair.

Problem-solving skills. Workers must be able to inspect damaged parts of large machinery and figure out why the machinery is not working.

Technical skills. Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers use sophisticated diagnostic equipment to figure out why machines are not working.  

Troubleshooting skills. Industrial machinery and maintenance workers must observe and properly diagnose and fix problems that a machine may be having.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition