Model maker job

I was recently offered a trial journeyman at a model making company. Though I am excited about the offer, I am in a dilemma to choose model making as a career. I am interested and capable in this path but I wanted to be a designer too. I want to know what career growth can I foresee as model maker. And, if I return to design, say after 3-5 years, will model making experience help my design career?
By the way, the company is startup that works on high profile projects in consumer electronics.

You are excited about the job, that is the best indicator. Model making is key to the design process and what you will learn can only help your abilities as a designer. You can be a designer and a model maker concurrently, just keep thinking of new ways to make things as you build other designs.

Thanks Nxakt and daniel. I think model making is a great skill that supports design. The reason for my questions is the career itself. The company is a startup and they explained about their biggest competition- China. I just hope I could stay as long as I could. But if they have to let me go, I can rebound to ID.
Does anyone know the salary expectation for model makers- entry level?

Looking through these $47K seems the lowest, with $87K near the top (Senior Model Maker with management duties (training, supervision, materials control, QC & QA control, etc.)

Location would of course have an influence as well. Holding a degree in industrial design may elevate the salary level somewhat, but most employers of model makers require a high school diploma and work experience in “machine shop” trades; welding, fabrication, lathe, milling machine, etc.

Hard to say exactly about salary, it can depend on the industries the company does business with and what your skill sets are worth to them. When you look at these salary website I think a lot of the time they make no distinction between a Toolmaker and Modelmaker. A Toolmaker is the highest trained of the machine tool tradesman, they can get a much higher salary.

What are you referring to as “trail journeyman”? That sounds like your entering an some kind of apprenticeship.

My advice to you would be take this job. No reason to waste time holding out for something better, it sounds like your essentially going to receive paid training. The practical knowledge you are going to learn is going to increase your abilities to make decisions as a designer.

Lew: The company is a startup in Silicon valley with 3 employees. They branched out from Frog design, and inclined towards industrial design prototypes and models. They mostly do CNC and some manual work. Not much on welding and fabrication as they dont seem to work on those projects yet. I dont know their background, but they are well experienced model makers.

Earthman: This is a paid trial period job for few months, so they can access my capabilities. Later they may offer apprenticeship/intern/journeyman. I am definitely taking this offer and I believe this would increase my design ability.

Go for it , unless you have something better going on right now. I had a model making internship and at the end of the internship they offered me a job, I turned it down to pursue a design job, 2.5 years later I landed a design job. That put me 2.5 years behind in my career though I did gain a lot of non-design related experience in that time which has benefited me personally, plus the pride of sticking to my goals.


In this economy if you’re deciding between unemployment or a job that machines/monkeys can do and this opportunity, it’s a no-brainer. Roll the dice.

Oh, and the whole China model making competition thing, eh, I wouldn’t sweat it, there’s a reason it’s cheaper, and it isn’t because they have model makers with design degrees doing the work.

Greenman: Did you mean, you turned down the job offer after interning for 2.5 yrs. That left you 2.5 yrs behind in your design career.

Absolutely, without any doubt Go-For-It!

There are so many positive aspects to working with your hands, different materials, and problem-solving that a model maker with a solid design background can enjoy. This includes good to great pay once you become established.

As an ID with 10+ years under my belt, there are few things that I enjoy more than getting my hands dirty and problem solving on the work bench while creating beautifully crafted models/functional prototypes that make customers say WOW!

A good design sense and a model makers grasp of reality will bring you far.


While it may not apply to China, the model houses I’ve used out of Asia (Taiwan/Korea) have far exceeded our US vendors in virtually every area (quality, price, engineering, turn around time). The biggest downside being communication if something goes wrong.

Like others mentioned - if there’s nothing else on the table it can’t hurt - especially if it’s something that interests you.

But at the same time if you see it being a way of jumping into a job and you feel you’re ready for the market (IE have a solid portfolio ready to go) then it may not be a bad time to try and land a real ID job. Things seem to be slightly up in terms of hiring for the past few months and this may be a good time to look for work before more kids graduate in May or before the economy hits the crapper again.

Keep in mind most model houses are very small, which means if the workload isn’t supporting the headcount you may be the first one to go.