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Careers for people who like to build models

18 replies
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  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • From: Chicago, USA
Careers for people who like to build models
Posted by MonsterZero on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 4:17 AM

If I like to build models, but I can't build models for a living, what other career can I pursue that will use similar skills?

I used to be a front-end website designer many years ago, 1999-2002, during the Wild West years of that industry when everybody was designing.

I drifted away from that to pursue something "practical" but I miss those years and would like to get involved in something more creative but can't come up with ideas.

It's a boring world out there, especially the job market.

  • Member since
    November, 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 9:19 AM

How about machinist?

The model makers at the companies I worked for (airframe companies) got their start as machinists.  Work as a machinist for a company that has its own wind tunnels.  These guys got their start making wind tunnel models, the better ones also were asked to make advertising models, which are fancier.

You might also try getting a job making models for an architectural company.



Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    December, 2002
  • From: Fort Knox
Posted by Rob Gronovius on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 9:45 AM

I liked building tanks as a kid. I ended up joining the Army as a tanker. Lots of examples of how in service tanks and armored vehicles look like. Lots of first hand information on detailing tanks. Some of my attention to detail in modeling helped me in my career when I ran a maintenace school and selection to my final assignment as Deputy Director of Tactical Wheel Vehicle Development at the Pentagon (which I turned down and chose to retire instead).

  • Member since
    April, 2013
Posted by KnightTemplar5150 on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 9:57 AM

Building models was insturmental in helping me to enter into a career as a jeweler. A lot of the same materials, tools, and skill sets are common to both modelling and smithing, so the transition was fairly easy. What I learn working at my bench at home is used in the shop and vice versa.

  • Member since
    December, 2003
  • From: 37deg 40.13' N 95deg 29.10'W
Posted by scottrc on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 11:09 AM

Don is right, there is a demand for tool die and pattern makers, even with 3D modeling and printing, we still need someone to actually make a part or pattern or do assembly.  I do industrial engineering, and although I 3D model a design, I may end up with hundreds of 3D printed or machined parts I have to assemble into a working prototype.  I guess you can say I bring my hobby to work.  

  • Member since
    September, 2007
  • From: Finland funland
Posted by Trabi on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 12:00 PM

Prop (or set) builder for theaters/movies/tv/ads/magicians/etc.

Sounds fancy, but in fact hard work. Tight timetables, working time 24/7.... Still I love my job!Cool

"Space may be the final frontier, but it´s made in Hollywood basement." RHCP, Californication

  • Member since
    May, 2013
  • From: From the Mit, but live in Mason, O high ho
Posted by hogfanfs on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 12:08 PM

CAD detailer/designer, maybe. Working with 3D models and 2D drafting can be interesting.




  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 12:31 PM


  • Member since
    January, 2013
Posted by BlackSheepTwoOneFour on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 2:27 PM

Auto restorer

Engine builder/mechanic

  • Member since
    March, 2014
Posted by BarrettDuke on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 2:35 PM

Scale model builder for an architectural firm. Architects will often create a small, fairly detailed, replica of a project they are proposing. It is great work if you can find it. Barrett

  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • From: Cincinnati, Ohio
Posted by ridleusmc on Thursday, April 13, 2017 1:59 AM

Aircraft mechanic, 

But you may need schooling to get a Airframes and Powerplant licenses from the FAA.  I ended up assembling aircraft components for an industry supplier.  I assemble for work, I assemble for fun. 

  • Member since
    January, 2017
  • From: Colorado Springs
Posted by mawright20 on Thursday, April 13, 2017 10:12 AM
I built models as a kid. Joined the Air Force and spent almost 22 years as an airplane mechanic and then a flight officer on transport planes.
  • Member since
    January, 2012
  • From: Barrie, Ontario
Posted by Cdn Colin on Thursday, April 13, 2017 10:23 AM

Be careful of taking something you love to do recreationally, and turning it into work.

I build 1/48 scale WW2 fighters.

Have fun.

  • Member since
    January, 2015
  • From: Lacey, WA.
Posted by M. Brindos on Thursday, April 13, 2017 1:39 PM

I've been looking for a model building career for years. Sadly the movie industry has moved mostly to 3D these days. Those few model builders that are left are not looking for apprentices as far as I can tell.

So for the last four weeks I've been working on a 1:1 tug boat. The Point Thompson. Seems there is some good history behind the "Point" boats. There were four of them made in the 80's and they're all still around and working.

The Thompson is going into dry dock at the Foss shipyards this week to have her restoration completed before she's back to work.

Its been really hard work, but rewarding. Restoration is tough work, but the skills translate on a huge scale.

The nice thing about scale models is that you don't have to scrape years of paint over rust before you can start painting lol!

So our hobby does translate to 1:1 in many ways. Just keep your eyes out for it. It is out there. :)

- Mike Brindos

Figure Painting Moderator -- Genessis-Models

  • Member since
    October, 2004
  • From: Northern Virginia
Posted by ygmodeler4 on Thursday, April 13, 2017 2:16 PM
Do you have any research experience? I don't know if you're one of them but a lot of the skills and fun that go into making quality modeling happens doing research. Lots of different kinds of research jobs


  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • From: Austin, TX
Posted by smeosky on Thursday, April 13, 2017 3:20 PM

Model building influenced me to go into Industrial Design. We do mostly cad and aesthetic design for consumer products. Laptops, point of sale kiosks, bio med devices, dog toys etc. I elected to made a G scale model passenger train as my thesis. Modeled in cad, CNCed and bondoed/painted. Now a days we do most of our 'model making' in cad and sit behind computers all day sending parts out to be made. I miss the shop days big time.

  • Member since
    June, 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Friday, April 14, 2017 9:42 AM

I am sorry ;

   I can't comment till I get this off my chest . Did you photoshop your avatar ? or How did you get your cat to sit still and let you degrade Him /Her that way ? Now that said . I have done commission builds for Lawyers ( before computer graphics got better in Home/Office machines ). Goood Money !

 This required a full backstopping with all the learned knowledge of my engineering degree . Plus four Years as a design draftsman for someone else . Designing boats and Mobile homes was actually fun though.

   I have done commissions for advertising ( four scales in forced perspective on one model/dio) .And then models for pre-production engineering in boatbuilding firms . Again , Goood Money

 The fact is , sadly , with computer modeling , especially the better equipped firms the most done is now private commissions . You will Not make a good living at it unless you are known and your rep is solid . Other than that , for most it's feast or famine . I am not going to do anymore after this commission is done . I think fifty five years is enough doing for others . It's my turn to build my models . T.B.

  • Member since
    June, 2005
  • From: Walworth, NY
Posted by Powder Monkey on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 2:56 PM

How about photo etching? There are several etching shops around the country.

  • Member since
    January, 2014
Posted by Silver on Thursday, April 27, 2017 6:20 PM

The dream job of a career building models for profit or other situations ,plain don't exist.It takes time to put out a number of models let alone the quality to attain for sale.The mini tv series adventures in scale modeling very long ago was a luck chance that happened.The modelers on that show were at the right place and time to get that job.Building for profit or tv .Its best that I would win the lottery and produce a show and hire you for the job."


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