Similar Titles

Craftsman, Model Builder, Model Maker, Product Development Carpenter, Sample Builder, Sample Maker, Sample Worker, Scale Model Maker, Design Prototype Specialist, Prototype Fabricator

Job Description

When we think of models, we might picture the small model cars or trains that hobbyists like to assemble. But models serve important functions in several industries such as architecture, automotive engineering, and industrial manufacturing!

In manufacturing, for instance, before a product is ready to be mass-produced and sent to stores, it’s got to be tested out. Part of that process is to build prototypes and mock-ups to demonstrate that the product’s design works in real life. The models are then rigorously checked for quality assurance and consumer friendliness before being approved for production.

These detailed product models are carefully crafted by Model Makers to give stakeholders and testers something they can see, touch, and try for themselves. The models are crucial for providing “proof of concept” – and for revealing any underlying problems that may require finetuning or redesign.

Working closely with designers and engineers, Model Makers ensure their finished models accurately represent the intended design and function within the requested parameters. They use hand tools and operate a wide array of machines to create precision parts out of materials like wood, plastics, and metals. They also incorporate other components, such as internal electronic devices, as needed.

Although it’s a relatively small career field, Model Makers are crucial players in the manufacturing industry. Without their hard work and diligence, we wouldn’t have half the products we use and rely on every day! 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Bringing ideas to life through physical models
  • Contributing to product development and innovation
  • Opportunities to work with advanced manufacturing technologies
  • Collaborating with creative and technical professionals
2023 Employment
2034 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Model Makers typically work full-time in workshops, manufacturing facilities, or design studios. Their schedules may have to flex to accommodate deadlines and production cycles.

Typical Duties

  • Examine drawings, blueprints, and technical specifications for proposed models
  • Collaborate with engineers and designers to adjust designs, as needed
  • Use CAD and CAM software to modify design elements
  • Determine dimensions for necessary materials to build models
  • Determine the necessary equipment and plan out the sequence of operations
  • Program CNC machines to fabricate model parts, or collaborate with CNC machinists or operators
  • Adjust machine components such as blades, holding fixtures, etc.
  • Determine which blank types to use to create a workpiece. Verify the tolerance of materials to be machined
  • Operate machines such as lathes, saws, presses, etc. to create parts or molds
  • Mark guidelines and reference points on materials. Use patterns or other references, as needed
  • Use hand tools, files, grinders, sanders, hammers, dies, molds, jigs, and other tools, as needed to shape and smooth workpieces to the required dimensions
  • Use power tools to insert holes in parts
  • Align and join parts using bolts and screws, or via welding or gluing
  • Insert mechanical, electrical, and electronic components into models, ensuring proper wiring and soldering
  • Screen items for defects. Make adjustments to machinery as needed
  • Use measuring instruments to determine the dimensions of the final fabricated pieces. Verify that completed products comply with requirements
  • Test prototypes for proper functioning
  • Rework parts as necessary to ensure they meet standards
  • Present models to stakeholders for feedback and approval

Additional Responsibilities

  • Keep track of all details such as materials used, final dimensions of parts, production processes, etc. to ensure standardization for future work
  • Maintain and repair tools and equipment
  • Wear required personal protective equipment and follow established safety protocols
  • Stay up-to-date on technical manuals and new technologies
  • Maintain technical documentation and spreadsheets of data
  • Train and supervise junior model makers and apprentices
  • Participate in product development meetings
  • Ensure compliance with safety and environmental regulations
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Alertness
  • Analytical
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication skills
  • Compliance-oriented
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Discipline
  • Independent
  • Observation
  • Organization
  • Patience
  • Planning
  • Problem-solving
  • Stamina
  • Teamwork
  • Time management

Technical Skills

Different Types of Organizations
  • Manufacturing companies
  • Design firms
  • Architectural firms
  • Film and entertainment studios
  • Prototype development firms
  • Educational institutions
Expectations and Sacrifices

Model Makers are expected to produce highly accurate, detailed models within allotted timeframes. This requires expertise, precision, and often long hours to meet project deadlines.

The work can be physically demanding, requiring fine motor skills and attention to safety protocols. But the satisfaction of turning a concept into a tangible, functioning product can be very rewarding!

Current Trends

3D printing and CAD software have revolutionized model making, enabling more intricate models while reducing production time and costs. There’s also an industry shift towards replacing traditional materials with biodegradable or recyclable alternatives. In addition, companies are turning more to eco-friendly processes that reduce waste and energy consumption.

Another trend is the integration of augmented and virtual reality, allowing designers to project digital models into real-world environments or become immersed in a 3D space for real-time interaction. To some extent, these new technologies are actually reducing the need for physical model-making, but they’re also making it much easier to collaborate on projects remotely. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Model Makers are very hands-on people who might have enjoyed creating things from a young age. They likely spent hours on hobbies such as model building, woodworking, or crafting. Many grew up with a natural curiosity about how things are made!

Education and Training Needed
  • The educational requirements to become a Model Maker aren’t set in stone
  • Some get started with a bit of vocational training or a certificate. Others may pursue an associate degree or even a bachelor’s degree in industrial design, manufacturing technology, or a related field
  • Common course subjects include:
  1. 3D printing
  2. Blueprint reading
  3. CAM programming and G-code
  4. CNC machining
  5. Computer-aided design
  6. Dimensional metrology
  7. Manufacturing processes
  8. Material science
  9. Math (calculus, trigonometry, linear algebra, geometry, statistics)
  10. Mechanical drafting
  11. Milling applications and programming
  12. Prototyping techniques
  13. Shop safety
  14. Welding and metal joining
Things to look for in an University
  • Model Makers don’t usually need a four-year degree but often take classes related to CAD, CNC machining, industrial design, manufacturing technology, or related fields.
  • Look for programs with well-equipped, modernized workshops where you can get practical hands-on experience and learn about the latest technologies.
  • Programs should have seasoned faculty members and, ideally, opportunities for internships or cooperative learning with local employers.
  • Consider the cost of tuition, discounts, and local scholarship opportunities (in addition to federal aid).
  • Think about your schedule and flexibility when deciding whether to enroll in an on-campus, online, or hybrid program. Some courses may be better done in person to get hands-on experience.
  • Also consider programs that can train you on using AR and VR tools in relation to model making!
Things to do in High School and College
  • Sign up for plenty of math (arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry), physics, computer science, materials science, design, art, and shop classes in high school
  • Consider learning mechanical drawing and blueprint reading
  • Enroll in a community college or vocational/technical school program to learn about CAD, CAM, CNC machining, 3D printing, welding, virtual reality, and other related topics
  1. You can also take online courses from Coursera, Udemy, edX, Pluralsight, LinkedIn Learning, etc.
  • Gain real-world experience via part-time jobs related to machining or shop work
  • Start crafting your resume and add to it as you learn and gain work experience
  • Review job postings in advance to see what the average requirements are
  • Request to do an informational interview with a working Model Maker
  • Make a list of your contacts (including email addresses or phone numbers) who might serve as future job references
  • Study books, online articles, and video tutorials related to model-making
  • Join online forums to ask questions and learn from experienced professionals
  • Engage with clubs and groups to learn, share, make friends, and grow your network
  • Build a portfolio of projects to showcase your skills
Typical Roadmap
Model Maker Roadmap
How to Land your 1st job
  • Check out job portals such as Indeed, Simply Hired, Glassdoor, and Craigslist
  • Get as much practical shop work experience under your belt as you can before applying
  • Consider enlisting in the military in a machinist career field. You’ll get free paid training and can earn job experience that can be used in a civilian career, too
  • Seek out apprenticeships sponsored by employers, unions, or trade associations
  • Ask a working Model Maker for job-seeking tips
  • Consider getting a certificate or associate’s degree. Academic credentials may help you stand out against the competition
  • Ask your school’s career center for help connecting with recruiters and job fairs
  • Ask potential references in advance to see if they’ll recommend you or write letters of reference
  • Check out online Model Maker resume templates and review potential job interview questions
  • Before going into an interview, brush up on the latest news about the field. Be ready to discuss your insights about relevant trends and changes 
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Study manufacturer and software guides. Become an expert on the programs and machines you use
  • Ask your supervisor how you can improve your CAD, CAM, and CNC machine knowledge and skills to better serve the company
  • Knock out specialized certifications related to cutting-edge technologies like AR and VR
  • Demonstrate that you can work independently and collaborate effectively on teams
  • Train new workers patiently and thoroughly. Make sure to always wear appropriate personal protective equipment to avoid mishaps and hazards
  • Write “how-to” articles to establish yourself as an industry leader
  • Branch out into different types of model-making to expand your horizons
  • Consider relocating if needed to advance your career!
Plan B

Model Makers are key players in the manufacturing industry. But the career field is relatively small, and may not be suitable for everyone, so check out our list of related occupations below for additional career ideas!  

  • Architectural Drafter
  • CAD Technician
  • CNC Programmer
  • Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assembler    
  • Engine Assembler
  • Industrial Designer
  • Industrial Machinery Mechanic
  • Machinist
  • Manufacturing Engineer
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Patternmaker
  • Product Designer
  • Prototype Technician
  • Set and Exhibit Designer
  • Structural Metal Fabricator
  • Tool and Die Maker


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