Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights held about 447,600 jobs in 2012. Most worked in factories, power plants, or at construction sites.
Injuries and Illnesses
Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers suffer common injuries, such as cuts, bruises, and strains. They also work in awkward positions, including on top of ladders or in cramped conditions under large machinery. To avoid injuries, workers must follow safety precautions and use protective equipment, such as hardhats, safety glasses, steel-toed shoes, and earplugs. Even so, industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers experience rates of injuries and illnesses that are much higher than the national average.
Most industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers are employed full time during regular business hours. However, mechanics may be on call and work night or weekend shifts. Overtime is common, particularly for mechanics.
Millwrights typically are employed on a contract basis and can spend only a few days or weeks at a single site. As a result, workers often have variable schedules and may experience downtime between jobs.
Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights typically need a high school diploma. However, industrial machinery mechanics need a year or more of training after high school, whereas maintenance workers typically receive on-the-job training that lasts a few months to a year.
Millwrights mostly go through an apprenticeship program that lasts about 4 years. Programs are usually a combination of technical instruction and on-the-job training. Others learn their trade through a 2-year associate’s degree program in industrial maintenance. A high school diploma or equivalent is the typical education needed to become a millwright.
Employers of industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights generally require them to have at least a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. However, employers increasingly prefer to hire workers with some education in industrial technology from a community or technical college. 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 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. These skills allow mechanics to troubleshoot a much larger range of machine problems.
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 on the job or take courses offered through their employer.
Employers may offer onsite technical training or send workers to local technical schools in addition to on-the-job training. Classroom instruction focuses on subjects such as shop mathematics, blueprint reading, the use of hand tools, 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.
A high school diploma is the typical education needed to become a millwright. However, there are 2-year associate’s degree programs in industrial maintenance that also provide good preparation for prospects. Employers may give workers classroom instruction in addition to on-the-job training.
Most millwrights learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. On the job, apprentices learn to set up, clean, lubricate, repair, and start machinery. During technical instruction, they are taught welding, mathematics, how to read blueprints, how to use electronic devices, pneumatics (using air pressure), and how to use grease and fluid properly. Many also receive computer training.
After completing an apprenticeship program, millwrights are considered fully qualified and can usually perform tasks with less guidance.
Apprenticeship programs are often sponsored by employers, local unions, contractor associations, and the state labor department. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:
- Minimum age of 18
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Physically able to do the work
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 on-the-job, by professional trainers hired by the employer, or by representatives of equipment manufacturers.
Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as an industrial machinery mechanic and maintenance worker and millwright, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights should also possess the following specific qualities:
Manual dexterity. When handling very small parts, workers must have a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination.
Mechanical skills. Workers must be able to reassemble large, complex machines after finishing a repair.
Technical skills. Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights use technical manuals and sophisticated diagnostic equipment to figure out why machines are not working.
Troubleshooting skills. Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights must observe and properly diagnose and fix problems that a machine may be having.
The median annual wage for industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights was $45,840 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,020, and the top 10 percent earned more than $69,990.
In May 2012, median annual wages for industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights were as follows:
- $49,510 for millwrights
- $46,920 for industrial machinery mechanics
- $40,620 for machinery maintenance workers
Most industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers are employed full time during regular business hours. However, mechanics may be on call or assigned to work evenings, nights, or weekends. Overtime is common, particularly for mechanics.
Millwrights are sometimes employed on a contract basis and can spend only a few days or weeks at a single site, as that is what it takes to assemble or disassemble an industrial machine. As a result, workers often have variable schedules and may experience downtime between jobs.
Compared with workers in all occupations, industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.
Overall employment of industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers and millwrights is projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty.
Employment of industrial machinery mechanics is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Increased adoption of sophisticated manufacturing machinery will require more highly-skilled mechanics to keep machines in good working order.
Employment of machinery maintenance workers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Increased automation, including the use of many new computer-controlled machines in factories and manufacturing plants, should spur demand for maintenance workers in order to keep machines operating well.
Employment of millwrights is projected to grow 18 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. The use of machinery in manufacturing will require millwrights to install and disassemble this equipment, as well as perform some repair work.
Overall, applicants with a broad range of skills in machine repair should have very good job prospects.
Faster-than-average employment growth and the need to replace many older workers who are expected to retire over the coming decade should result in numerous job openings.
Those that complete apprenticeships and educational programs designed for industrial machinery repair should have the best job prospects.
For information about industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers, visit
For information about millwrights and the precision machined products industry, training, and apprenticeships, visit
For further information on apprenticeship programs, write to the Apprenticeship Council of your state's labor department or to local firms that employ machinery mechanics and repairers. You can also find information about registered apprenticeships, together with links to state apprenticeship programs, on the U.S. Department of Labor website: Employment and Training Administration. Apprenticeship information is available as well from the U.S. Department of Labor toll-free help line: (877) 872-5627.