What Is a CNC Machinist?

If you're considering a career working with precision tooling in a machine shop, read on. Learn about the job duties and training requirements for computer numerically controlled (CNC) machinists. Schools offering Machining & Manufacturing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

CNC Machining Defined

Many parts, such as those found in cars, household appliances, computer hardware or other pieces of machinery, can be described as a mathematical series of lines and curves. CNC machining is the process of mapping out these parts' specifications on a computer software program and turning them into operating instructions for a lathe, mill or press. This process ensures that a part is produced with the same precision, every time.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Pay (2018) $43,630 (for all types of machinists)
Work Environment Machine shops and factories
Key SkillsManual dexterity, math skills, technical skills, physical stamina
Similar OccupationsWelders, plastic and metal machine workers, industrial machinery mechanics, millwrights

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Tasks and Job Duties

As a CNC machinist, you are responsible for setting up a machine to make the proper sequence of cuts. This could entail writing programming instructions or making adjustments to a program should you discover problems during a test run. You may also replace worn out parts and monitor the production process.

Education and Training Options

You will generally need to receive some formal education at a trade school or community college before beginning work as a CNC machinist. Available certificate, diploma and associate degree programs include introductory courses in machine shop fundamentals, measurement techniques, math, blueprint reading, statistical process control, mechanical drawing and CNC operations. Advanced course topics focus on different types of CNC programming for lathes, mills and grinders.

You might also receive on-the-job training through a trade school or community college's apprenticeship program. Students in these 4-year programs usually attend classes while maintaining full-time employment with a machine shop or manufacturing company. Some locally based professional organizations may also offer apprenticeship programs.

Job Outlook

Employment opportunities for all machinists were expected to grow two percent over the 2016-2026 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Your job prospects may improve if you know how to operate more than one machine type. As of May 2018, most professionals in this field worked in the machine shop, machinery manufacturing, and metalworking machinery manufacturing industries.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

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  • Milwaukee Area Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Wisconsin: Milwaukee
  • Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Wisconsin: Shell Lake
  • Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Georgia: Valdosta
  • Westmoreland County Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: Youngwood
  • Western Piedmont Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • North Carolina: Morganton
  • West Virginia University at Parkersburg

    Campus Locations:

    • West Virginia: Parkersburg
  • West Shore Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Michigan: Scottville
  • Pearl River Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Mississippi: Poplarville
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Kentucky: Paducah