Training through apprenticeship programs, or through community
colleges coupled with on-the-job training, generally lasts 4
Despite projected slower-than-average employment growth, skilled
applicants should have good job opportunities.
About 54 percent of millwrights belong to labor unions, one
of the highest rates of membership in the economy.
Nature of the Work
Millwrights install, repair, replace, and dismantle the machinery
and heavy equipment used in many industries. About half of all
millwrights work in a variety of manufacturing industries; another
third work for construction builders and contractors. The wide
range of facilities and the development of new technologies require
millwrights to continually update their skills—from blueprint
reading and pouring concrete for machinery to set on to diagnosing
and solving mechanical problems.
The millwright's responsibilities begin when machinery arrives
at the jobsite. New equipment must be unloaded, inspected, and
moved into position. To lift and move light machinery, millwrights
use rigging and hoisting devices, such as pulleys and cables.
With heavier equipment, they may require the assistance of hydraulic
lift-truck or crane operators to position the machinery. Because
millwrights often decide which device to use for moving machinery,
they must know the load-bearing properties of rope, cables, hoists,
Millwrights consult with production managers and others to determine
the optimal placement of machines in a plant. When this placement
requires building a new foundation, millwrights either prepare
the foundation themselves or supervise its construction. As a
result, they must know how to read blueprints and work with a
variety of building materials.
To assemble machinery, millwrights fit bearings, align gears
and wheels, attach motors, and connect belts, according to the
manufacturer's blueprints and drawings. Precision leveling and
alignment are important in the assembly process, so millwrights
measure angles, material thickness, and small distances with tools
such as squares, calipers, and micrometers. When a high level
of precision is required, devices such as lasers and ultrasonic
measuring and alignment tools may be used. Millwrights also work
with hand and power tools, such as cutting torches, welding machines,
hydraulic torque wrenches, hydraulic stud tensioners, soldering
guns, and with metalworking equipment, including lathes and grinding
In addition to installing and dismantling machinery, many millwrights
work with mechanics and maintenance workers to repair and maintain
equipment. This includes preventive maintenance, such as lubrication
and fixing or replacing worn parts. (For further information on
machinery maintenance, see the section on industrial machinery
installation, repair, and maintenance workers, except millwrights,
elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Increasingly sophisticated automation means more complicated
machines for millwrights to install and maintain, requiring millwrights
to specialize in certain machines or brand names. For example,
millwrights install and maintain turbines in power plants that
can weigh hundreds of tons and contain thousands of parts. This
machinery requires special care and knowledge, so millwrights
receive additional training and are required to be certified by
the manufacturer of the turbine
Working conditions vary by industry. Millwrights employed in
manufacturing often work in a typical shop setting and use protective
equipment to avoid common hazards. For example, protective devices,
such as safety belts, protective glasses, and hardhats may be
worn to prevent injuries from falling objects or machinery. Those
employed in construction may work outdoors in difficult weather
Advances in some equipment, such as hydraulic wrenches and hydraulic
stud tensioners, have made the work safer and eliminated the need
for millwrights to use a sledge hammer to pound bolts into position.
Other equipment has reduced the amount of heavy lifting and other
strenuous tasks that would often cause injuries in the past.
Millwrights work independently or as part of a team. Their tasks
must be performed quickly and precisely, because disabled machinery
costs a company time and money. Many millwrights work overtime;
about 4 in 10 millwrights report working more than 40 hours during
a typical week. During power outages or other emergencies, millwrights
are often assigned overtime and shift work.
Millwrights that work at construction sites may have to travel
long distances to reach different worksites. For example, millwrights
who specialize in turbine installation travel to wherever new
power plants are being built.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Millwrights normally receive training through 4- to 5-year apprenticeship
programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction,
or through community college programs coupled with informal on-the-job
training. These programs include training in dismantling, moving,
erecting, and repairing machinery. Trainees also may work with
concrete and receive instruction in related skills, such as carpentry,
welding, and sheet-metal work. Millwright apprentices attend about
one week of classes every three months. Classroom instruction
covers mathematics, blueprint reading, hydraulics, electricity,
computers, electronics, and instruction in specific machinery.
Employers prefer applicants with a high school diploma or equivalency
and some vocational training or experience. Courses in science,
mathematics, mechanical drawing, computers, and machine shop practice
are useful. Millwrights are expected to keep their skills up-to-date
and may need additional training on technological advances, such
as laser shaft alignment and vibration analysis.
Because millwrights assemble and disassemble complicated machinery,
mechanical aptitude is very important. Strength and agility also
are necessary for lifting and climbing. Millwrights need good
interpersonal and communication skills to work as part of a team
and to effectively give detailed instructions to others.
Advancement for millwrights usually takes the form of higher
wages. Some advance to the position of supervisor or superintendent,
while others may become self-employed contractors.
Millwrights held about 59,000 jobs in 2004. Most work in manufacturing,
primarily in durable goods industries, such as motor vehicle and
parts manufacturing and iron and steel mills. About 1 in 3 millwrights
are employed in construction, where most work for contracting
firms. Although millwrights work in every State, employment is
concentrated in heavily industrialized areas.
Employment of millwrights is projected to grow more slowly than
average for all occupations through the year 2014. Because millwrights
will always be needed to maintain and repair existing machinery,
dismantle old machinery, and install new equipment, skilled applicants
should have good job opportunities. Prospects will be best for
millwrights with training in installing newer production technologies.
In addition to employment growth, many job openings for these
workers will stem from the need to replace experienced millwrights
who transfer to other occupations or retire.
Employment of millwrights has historically been cyclical, rising
and falling in line with investments in automation in the Nation’s
factories and production facilities. To remain competitive in
coming years, firms will continue to require the services of millwrights
to dismantle old equipment and install new high-technology machinery.
Additionally, as the services sector of the economy grows, there
is an increasing number of companies in this sector employing
new technology to make them more efficient, which will likely
offset the loss of manufacturing work. Warehouse and distribution
companies, for example, are deploying highly automated conveyor
systems which are being maintained by millwrights. Employment
growth from new automation will be dampened somewhat by foreign
competition and the introduction of new technologies, such as
hydraulic torque wrenches, ultrasonic measuring tools, and laser
shaft alignment, which allow fewer millwrights to perform more
work. In addition, the demand for millwrights may be adversely
affected as lower paid workers, such as electronics technicians
and industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers, assume
some installation and maintenance duties.
Median hourly earnings of millwrights were $21.02 in May 2004.
The middle 50 percent earned between $16.53 and $27.07. The lowest
10 percent earned less than $13.02, and the highest 10 percent
earned more than $32.17. Earnings vary by industry and geographic
location. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing the
largest numbers of millwrights in May 2004 were as follows:
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing
Building equipment contractors
About 54 percent of millwrights belong to labor unions, one of
the highest rates of membership in the economy.
To set up machinery for use in a plant, millwrights must know
how to use hoisting devices and how to assemble, disassemble,
and sometimes repair machinery. Other workers with similar job
duties include industrial machinery installation, repair, and
maintenance workers, except millwrights; tool and die makers;
aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians;
structural and reinforcing iron and metal workers; assemblers
and fabricators; and heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service
technicians and mechanics. Millwrights also machine parts and
operate computer-controlled machine tools like machinists and
computer control machine tool programmers and operators. Millwrights
often use welding and soldering to assemble and repair machines
like welding, soldering and brazing workers.
Sources of Additional Information
For further information on apprenticeship programs, write to
the Apprenticeship Council of your State's labor department, local
offices of your State employment service, or local firms that
employ millwrights. In addition, you may contact:
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 6801
Placid St., Las Vegas, NV 89119. Internet: http://www.carpenters.org/
Associated General Contractors of America, 333 John Carlyle
St., Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22314. Internet: http://www.agc.org/
Associated Builders and Contractors, Workforce Development
Dept., 2300 Wilson Blvd., Suite 400, Arlington, VA 22201. Internet:
National Tooling and Machining Association, 9300 Livingston
Rd., Fort Washington, MD 20744. Internet: http://www.ntma.org/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition