California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Tool and Die Makers in California

May also be called: Bench Stamping Die Makers; Bench Tool Makers; Die Casting and Plastic Molding Mold Makers; Die Finishers; Die Sinkers; Plastic Fixture Builders; Plastic Tool Makers; Saw Makers; Stamping Die Makers; Tap and Die Maker Technicians; Tool and Die Machinists; Tool Makers; Trim Die Makers; Wire Drawing Die Makers

What Would I Do?

Almost everything people touch on a daily basis has been created by metal forming—cars, doorknobs, razor blades, paper clips, shovels, beds, skateboards, and musical instruments are just a few examples. Tool and die making is fundamental to the manufacturing process. Tool and Die Makers set up and operate the tools, dies, jigs, fixtures, and gauges used in mass production machines to manufacture identical parts made of metal or combinations of metal and other materials. Although Tool and Die Makers use common tools and techniques, the resulting products differ. Tool Makers use machine tools to make jigs and fixtures that hold metal parts being shaved, stamped, or drilled. Die Makers craft metal forms, or dies, that shape metal in stamping and forging operations.

Tool and Die Makers commonly use computer-aided design (CAD) to develop products and specifications for tools and dies. The designs are then sent to computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines to produce the die. In shops that use numerically controlled (NC) machine tools, Tool and Die Makers often assist in planning and writing NC programs. Other tools used include grinders, protractors, micrometers, scribes, rulers, drill presses, and numerically controlled machine tools, such as lathes and milling machines.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Study blueprints, sketches, models, or specifications to plan sequences of operations for fabricating tools, dies, or assemblies.Design
Visualize and compute dimensions, sizes, shapes, and tolerances of assemblies, based on specifications.Mathematics
Set up and operate conventional or computer numerically controlled machine tools such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders to cut, bore, grind, or otherwise shape parts to prescribed dimensions and finishes.Mechanical
File, grind, shim, and adjust different parts to properly fit them together.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Fit and assemble parts to make, repair, or modify dies, jigs, gauges, and tools, using machine tools and hand tools.Equipment Selection
Conduct test runs with completed tools or dies to ensure that parts meet specifications; make adjustments as necessary.Troubleshooting
Inspect finished dies for smoothness, contour conformity, and defects.Near Vision
Verify dimensions, alignments, and clearances of finished parts for conformance to specifications, using measuring instruments such as calipers, gauge blocks, micrometers, and dial indicators.Problem Sensitivity
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Most Tool and Die Makers work either in large manufacturing plants or in contract shops that specialize in making tools and dies. These firms are concentrated in urban areas. Work spaces are relatively pleasant and generally quieter and cleaner than production machine shops. Some moderately heavy lifting is involved. As with any use of hand or power tools, injury is possible, but the work is generally safe for those who take reasonable care, use protective equipment, and adhere to safety rules. Companies employing Tool and Die Makers traditionally operate only one shift per day. Overtime and weekend work are common, especially during peak production periods.

Tool and Die Makers could belong to a variety of unions depending on the industry and employer, such as the International Association of Machinists or the United Auto Workers.

Will This Job Fit Me?

Tool and die making will appeal to those who enjoy solving practical, hands-on problems, working on their own, and making decisions. This occupation satisfies those who enjoy activities that do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others. Tool and Die Makers need extreme patience and attention to detail since they must create a product that will meet strict specifications—commonly within one ten-thousandth of an inch.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2020 for Tool and Die Makers in California is $60,930 annually, or $29.29 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Employer benefits typically offered include medical and dental, retirement plans, sick leave, and vacation.

What is the Job Outlook?

New products and changing product designs require new tools and dies, which have historically guaranteed employment of Tool and Die Makers. However, the Tool and Die Makers' growth rate has slowed as recent improvement in the machines that Tool and Die Makers use boost the productivity of each worker. Manufacturers continue to experience a shortage of both qualified experienced and inexperienced Tool and Die Makers despite the use of numerically controlled machine tools and increased importation of finished goods and precision metal products.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Tool and Die Makers is expected to decline between 2016 and 2026.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Tool and Die Makers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Tool and Die Makers undergo extensive training to perform the complex tasks necessary in the trade. They acquire these skills in one or a combination of the following paths: formal apprenticeship, vocational school, or on-the-job training.

Many community colleges offer manufacturing, machine, or machine tool technology certificates or degrees. Some community colleges offer tool design technology courses. Programs accredited by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) are listed on their Web site.

On-the-job training is another way Tool and Die Makers learn the trade. On-the-job training is generally not as thorough and may take longer than an apprenticeship program, as there is no formally planned schedule of work experience and related training.

Since the work involves intricate manipulation of tools and instruments, Tool and Die Makers need a mechanical aptitude, the ability to understand and analyze the workings of machinery, knowledge of shop mathematics, and the capacity to visualize mechanical and physical relationships between objects.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in this kind of work should take mathematics, especially trigonometry, as well as drafting, and metal shop courses.

Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs

Training in a four-year apprenticeship program is spent in the classroom and on the job. Apprentices learn to operate hand and power tools, and other mechanical equipment. They also study heat-treating and other metal working processes. In addition to shop work, apprentices receive classroom instruction in mathematics, mechanical drawing, tool designing, CAD, tool programming, and blueprint reading. For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.

Some Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) also offer training that prepares individuals to apply technical knowledge and skills for making tools and die.  To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Although Tool and Die Makers do not have formal continuing education requirements, they need to keep up with new technologies. Employers may provide training on new equipment and development of new skills. Individuals can gain knowledge from personal study of trade publications or manuals. Tool and Die Makers also may obtain information from coworkers who help them with on-the-job challenges.


Competency-specific certificates are available through NIMS. Credentials are available to applicants after paying the appropriate fees and passing the theory and performance tests. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Tool and Die Makers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing29.5%
Machinery Manufacturing13.1%
Aerospace Product & Parts Manufacturing12.4%
Plastics & Rubber Products Manufacturing10.1%
Motor Vehicle Manufacturing6.5%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Community colleges offer job search assistance to graduates of degree or certificate programs in tool and die making or machining. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide sources for job listings. Unions representing Tool and Die Makers can provide job opportunities as well. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Tool and Die Makers.

  • Die Makers
  • Machine Shops
  • Metal Castings
  • Metal Cutting Tools
  • Metal Fabricators
  • Metal Rolling and Forming
  • Metal Spinning
  • Metal Stamping
  • Plastic Fabricators
  • Sheet Metal Work
  • Tool Designers

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

The more skilled and knowledgeable Tool and Die Makers become, the more valuable they are to their company, and the higher the salary they can earn. Some specialized tasks are quite complicated and may take several years to learn. Skilled Tool and Die Makers may advance to tool inspectors, lead persons, or supervisors. Tool design and programming are also possibilities, as are management positions with the company. Some Tool and Die Makers start their own businesses.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Tool and Die Makers with links to more information.

Cutters and Trimmers, HandProfile
Cutting, Punching, and Press Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and PlasticProfile
Forging Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and PlasticProfile
Grinding, Lapping, Polishing, and Buffing Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and PlasticProfile
Molders, Shapers, and Casters, Except Metal and PlasticProfile
Numerical Tool and Process Control ProgrammersGuide
Printing Press OperatorsProfile
Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and TendersProfile

Other Sources

  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
  • International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
  • National Institute for Metalworking Skills
  • National Tooling and Machining Association
  • Precision Metalforming Association
  • Precision Machined Products Association

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification51-4111
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Tool and Die Makers51-4111.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RIC