Industrial Maintenance

Good pay, varied work, growing demand
Watch video: Job talk: Industrial Mechanic
Industrial maintenance workers install, maintain, and troubleshoot the industrial equipment that makes day‐to‐day business possible in manufacturing plants, refineries, mines, and more. If the machines don't work, the factory doesn't work, so industrial maintenance workers are a vital part of any industry that uses precision equipment. If you like problem solving, enjoy hands‐on work, and want to get into a growing industry, industrial maintenance could be for you.

What is Industrial Maintenance?

Industrial maintenance mechanics work across many industries—manufacturing, refineries, mines, energy plants, food processing—installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting the equipment.

If the equipment fails, it can mean millions of dollars in lost business for a company in a single day. So the main job of an industrial mechanic is to make sure that nothing goes wrong in the first place. This is called preventative maintenance. The other part of the job is troubleshooting a malfunctioning piece of equipment and then figuring out how to fix it, which is called reactive maintenance.

That's the big picture, but there are some different types of roles in this trade that require different levels of training:

Title Description Average Annual Salary
Machinery Maintenance Worker
  • Do basic maintenance and repairs (e.g. lubricate and clean machinery)
  • Determine whether major repairs are necessary (for which an industrial mechanic is called in)
  • Requires less training
Industrial Mechanic
(also called Industrial Machinery Mechanic or Maintenance Machinist)
  • Do proactive maintenance to keep machines in working order
  • Troubleshoot problems and make repairs
  • Millwrights make repairs and do maintenance, but they are also able to install new machines and disassemble existing ones
  • Most highly‐trained industrial maintenance specialty
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Why Industrial Maintenance?

Growing demand

As manufacturing equipment gets more sophisticated, industries will need more skilled mechanics and millwrights to keep them in good working order. In a nutshell: more automated processes and computer‐controlled machines actually mean more work for industrial mechanics, not less.

Projected job growth for industrial machine mechanics from 2012-2024

Area Growth rate
National 7%
Oregon 15%
Washington 7%
Source: CareerOneStop

Good pay

Industrial mechanics and millwrights across the US make average salaries in the $50,000 range. And in some areas of the country they command even higher average salaries.

Area Job Average Annual Pay
Oregon Millwright $60,430
Oregon Industrial Mechanic $55,750
Oregon Industrial maintenance worker $42,160
Washington Millwright $61,320
Washington Industrial Mechanic $58,930
Washington Industrial maintenance worker $52,580

Variety of industries

"Some days I work on machines big enough to crawl inside. Other ones are so tiny I can barely get my fingers on the bolts. It's different every day. Every day, I don't know what I'm going to be working on."
— Jessica Poirier, Industrial Mechanic

As an industrial mechanic, there's a lot of skilled problem solving that goes into the job. One day you might be fixing air compressor at an energy plant, the next day mining equipment. There's also a huge variety of industries—from paper mills to factories—to work in.

Huge range of skills

"The perception was there for so long that the trades are if you can't go to university. It isn't. You have to know math...We have to know hydraulics and pneumatics. We have to be able to read blueprints. I do a little plumbing and work on air compressors. You literally do a little bit of everything."
Jennifer, Industrial Mechanic & Millwright

As an industrial mechanic, you will learn a huge range of skills. You may train to use many different tools and high tech pieces of equipment from optical lasers to overhead cranes. And you could become skilled at everything from welding to plumbing.

More Reasons

Satisfaction of diagnosing and fixing a problem on your own.
Stable career path. Industrial mechanics must be very skilled and work onsite, which makes this job very hard to outsource.
Active Work. Active jobs like industrial maintenance require a lot of movement and lifting. And active work comes with health benefits like reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

Is Industrial Maintenance right for me?

If you enjoy tinkering with machines and don't mind some regional travel, then industrial machinery maintenance could be for your. But, keep in mind, this is not a job for the desk‐bound. You'll mostly be on the factory floor, using complex tools, and problem‐solving on the go.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you enjoy working with your hands?
  • Do you have good dexterity?
  • Do you like to work with machines and tools?
  • Are you thorough and detail‐oriented?
  • Are you willing to travel out of state and sometimes work with an uncertain schedule?
  • Do you have good communication skills (you'll need to both diagnose and explain a problem)?

Watch a day in the life of a millwright or see what it's like to be a millwright's apprentice.

How would I get started in Industrial Maintenance?

Industrial maintenance workers will need a high school diploma or the equivalent to get started. You can even start your training during high school in some apprenticeship programs. In addition to training, you'll also need strong math, communication, and problem‐solving skills.

The amount and type of training you need to get started depends on what job you want:

Industrial maintenance worker Licensed Industrial mechanic Millwright
Cost $1,500‐$5000 $2,000‐$9,000 $2,000‐$9,000
Training options
  • 1 year+ on‐the‐job training (most common)
  • Certificate
  • 1 year+ on‐the‐job training (most common)
  • Certificate (most common)
  • 2‐year associate's degree
  • Certificate
  • Associate's degree
  • 3‐4 year apprenticeship (most common)
Explore Opportunities ›

More Industrial Maintenance FAQs

This article has a good breakdown of some different schools with apprenticeship or certificate programs.
This article has a good breakdown of schools that offer industrial maintenance certificate or associate's degree programs.

Learn more about other careers