Careers and Job Ideas for: Millwrights


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  • School Subjects: Mathematics, Technical/shop
  • Personal Skills: Mechanical/manipulative; Technical/scientific
  • Work Environment: Indoors and outdoors; One location with some travel
  • Minimum Education Level: Apprenticeship
  • Salary Range: $28,790 to $45,630 to $71,540+
  • Certification or Licensing: None available
  • Outlook: More slowly than the average
  • DOT: 638
  • GOE: 05.03.01
  • NOC: 7311
  • O*NET-SOC: 49-9044.00
  • TI JOB


Millwrights install, assemble, and maintain heavy industrial machinery and other equipment. If necessary, they construct foundations for certain large assemblies.They may also dismantle, operate, or repair these machines. Approximately 59,000 millwrights are employed in the United States.


The history of the millwright dates back to the industrial revolution. While milling machines, power looms, drill presses, lathes, and other equipment made mass production of goods possible, these new machines were too complicated for the average worker to understand. It became necessary to assign workers with specialized training to install, maintain, and repair equipment. With the growth of industrial establishments and the increasing complexity of machines, the millwright became an integral part of the labor force.


Millwrights are highly skilled workers whose primary function is to install heavy machinery. When machinery arrives at the job site, it must be unloaded, inspected, and moved into position. For light machinery, millwrights use rigging and hoisting devices such as pulleys and cables to lift and position equipment. For heavier jobs, they are assisted by hydraulic lift-truck or crane operators. To decide what type of device is needed to position machinery, millwrights must know the load-bearing properties of ropes, cables, hoists, and cranes.


Millwrights work in every state but are concentrated in highly industrial areas. Most are employed in industries that manufacture durable goods, such as automobiles, steel, and metal products, or in construction. Others work in plants that manufacture paper, chemicals, knit goods, and other items, or with utility companies. Manufacturers and retailers of industrial machinery often employ millwrights, usually under contract, to install machines for their customers. There are approximately 59,000 millwrights employed in the United States.


The usual entry method is through an apprenticeship. Most apprentices start out with unskilled or semiskilled work in a plant or factory. As they gain experience and job openings become available, they move into positions requiring more skilled labor. Openings are generally filled according to experience and seniority.


Most advancement for millwrights comes in the form of higher wages. With the proper training, skill, and seniority, however, workers can move to supervisory positions or work as trainers for apprentices. Others may choose to become self-employed contractors.


Millwrights are typically paid by the hour. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, hourly earnings averaged $21.94 (or $45,630 annually) in 2006. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $13.84 an hour (or $28,790 annually) and the highest 10 percent earned more than $34,39 an hour (or $71,540 annually).

Most workers in this field receive a benefits package that includes life and health insurance, paid vacation and sick leave, and a retirement pension. Salary rates can vary depending on experience, geographic location, industry, and union membership. Approximately 54 percent of millwrights are represented by labor unions, one of the highest rates of membership for one profession. The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America; the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America are three unions to which millwrights belong.


Approximately 40 percent of all millwrights work more than 40 hours a week. They often work overtime and in varying shifts to accommodate production schedules. Millwrights may be called to work at unusual times or for longer hours during emergencies. An equipment breakdown can affect an entire plant’s operation and be very costly, so machines need to be immediately tended to when problems arise. Rearranging whole production lines often requires long hours.

Depending on the industry, working conditions vary from indoors to outdoors and from one location to much travel. In manufacturing jobs, millwrights work indoors in a shop setting. In construction jobs, they may work outside, in all weather conditions. Millwrights that do contract work may travel from plant to plant. Others are employed by a single manufacturer and remain on site much of the time.

What is consistent throughout the profession is the amount of labor involved. Millwrights often endure hard physical labor in surroundings made unpleasant by heat, noise, grime, and cramped spaces. In addition, the work can be hazardous at times, although protective gear and other safety regulations serve to protect workers from injury.


Employment for millwrights is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. New automation, the introduction of new, labor-saving technologies, limited growth in industrial construction, and the use of lower-paid workers for installation and maintenance of machinery are contributing to this slow growth. However, millwrights will still be needed to keep existing machinery in working order, dismantle outdated machinery, and install new equipment. Many openings will arise each year as experienced workers transfer to other jobs or retire.


For information about training and education programs, as well as legislative issues affecting the construction industry, contact

Associated General Contractors of America

2300 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 400

Arlington, VA 22201-3308

Tel: 703-548-3118


For information on union membership, contact:

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

9000 Machinists Place

Upper Marlboro, MD 20772-2687

Tel: 301-967-4500

International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America

Solidarity House

8000 East Jefferson Avenue

Detroit, MI 48214-2699

Tel: 313-926-5000

For information on available publications, conventions and seminars, contact:

National Tooling & Machining Association

9300 Livingston Road

Fort Washington, MD 20744-4914

Tel: 800-248-6862

To learn about apprenticeships and training programs and the benefits of union membership, visit the following Web site:

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America

50 F Street NW

Washington, DC 20001-1530

Tel: 202-546-6206

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