Honing Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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Honing technicians earn a median salary of about $32,220. Is this worth the education and training requirements? Learn the truth about the career outlook for this field and read job postings from employers to decide whether this occupation is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Honing Technician

In manufacturing, honing is typically the last machining process before parts are assembled. Following is a list of pros and cons that can help you decide if becoming a honing technician is suitable for you:

Pros of Becoming a Honing Technician
Can get job with a high school diploma*
Can get on-the-job training through an apprenticeship**
Usually work in environments with good lighting and ventilation**
Good earning potential for education requirements (highest-paid 10% earned more than $48K as of May 2014)**

Cons of Becoming a Honing Technician
May suffer eye injury from flying metal pieces**
May be exposed to loud noises from machinery**
Often have to work overtime to meet production goals**
Negative job growth projected from 2012-2022**

Sources: *Job postings from Dec. 2012, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Info

Honing is described as a finishing process that uses abrasive stones to remove machine marks, scratches and small traces of material from the surfaces of cylindrical parts. This process is done using a honing machine, which is a grinding and lapping tool.

Honing technicians usually have to manufacture parts according to precise specifications, which might require the use of computer numeric controlled (CNC) tools. You might use CNC tools to obtain specific dimensions and surfaces for parts such as bearing bores, hydraulic cylinders and pistons. Honing technicians also use tools to correct or modify non-square parts. Some other job duties you would have in this position include adjusting, setting up and troubleshooting machines, using tools to sharpen, buff and polish corners and edges of workpieces and monitoring machines during production.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), honing technicians fall under the broad job category of metal and plastic machine workers and the more specific category of grinding, lapping, polishing and buffing machine tool setters, operators and tenders. Metal and plastic machine workers were expected to have a six percent decline in growth in employment from 2012-2022. Some reasons for this sluggish job growth were overseas competition, automated technology advances and varying demand for goods. As of May 2014, the BLS noted that the lowest-paid 10% of grinding, lapping, polishing and buffing machine tool setters, operators and tenders earned about $21,310, while the highest-paid 10% earned approximately $48,780.

What Are the Requirements?

According to job postings, honing technicians are usually required to have at least a high school diploma. To work in this field, you should have an aptitude for mechanics, manual dexterity and an understanding of a variety of tools that are necessary to maintain, operate and repair machinery. You should also have strong analytical skills to interpret technical drawings. As a honing technician, you might have to load heavy parts into machines and stand for long periods of time, which requires physical strength and endurance.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Job postings for honing technicians, also referred to as honing and lapping operators, revealed that at least two years of experience generally is required. Following is a list of postings that can help you understand what real employers were looking for in December 2012.

  • A California staffing agency for the manufacturing industry looked for a candidate to operate horizontal, vertical, fixed and reciprocating spindle honing machines. The candidate needed a high school diploma or the equivalent, basic math skills and knowledge of shop safety procedures. This position also required the ability to use a variety of tools and lift 30-50 pounds routinely. Job duties included setting up and adjusting machines, chaining parts and interpreting drawings.
  • A staffing firm in Chicago, IL, sought lapping/honing operators with 2-3 years of experience. Job duties included activating machine start-up switches to cut, grind and hone parts according to specifications, adjusting and monitoring machines, computing machine indexes and settings, reading blueprints and selecting machine tooling. Candidates were required to have a high school diploma or equivalent education.
  • A staffing agency in Tucson, AZ, wanted to hire a lapping/honing machinist for a full-time position. Job functions included setting up grinding and honing machines, adjusting and troubleshooting equipment, and using tools to maintain production of parts.
  • An aerospace and electronics company in Burbank, CA, looked for a hone and lap operator with at least two years of experience. The candidate would set up machines to hone and lap the inside diameter of various precision parts, interpret blueprints and manufacture documentation, operate air gauges and clean parts.

How to Beat the Competition

You can gain a competitive advantage in this field by completing postsecondary training in machinery. Several community colleges and vocational training institutions offer certificate and associate's degree programs in areas such as machine tool technology and CNC machinery. You can also receive training by completing an apprenticeship program. Many states offer employer-sponsored apprenticeships. Typically, apprenticeships for machinists take four years to complete and consist of about 8,000 hours of on-the-job training.

You also might stand out by becoming certified with the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS). NIMS offers entry-level, journeyman and master's-level credentials in machining. Topics covered for the machining credential include CNC programming setup and operations, measurements and materials, manual milling, grinding, turning operations and shop safety.

Other Careers to Consider

Industrial Machinery Mechanic

You also can have a career working with machines as an industrial machinery mechanic. In this position, you would calibrate and repair equipment such as packaging, production and other factory machinery. You would also be responsible for testing equipment to ensure optimal performance and understanding technical documentation that diagrams operating procedures. According to the BLS, employers usually require industrial machinery mechanics to have at least one year of postsecondary training, preferably in industrial technology. As of May 2011, these professionals earned a median wage of approximately $46,000, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported that industrial machinery mechanics were projected to have 22% job growth from 2010-2020.

Tool and Die Maker

You can also set up and operate CNC and manual machine tools as a tool and die maker. Some other job duties you would have in this role include adjusting and grinding parts for assembly, polishing tools and dies to achieve a smooth surface and computing accurate dimensions for shapes and sizes of parts. To work in this field, you usually need to have 4-5 years of technical experience and on-the-job training. According to the BLS, employment for these professionals was expected to undergo little or no change from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, the BLS found that tool and die makers earned a median salary of about $47,000.

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