How Do You Become a CNC Programmer? - Requirements & Description

Look at what it takes to become a computer numerically controlled programmer. Learn about job duties, education requirements, salary, and job outlook to see if a role as a CNC programmer is of interest. Schools offering Machining & Manufacturing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Computer numerically controlled programmers or CNC programmers create computer programs responsible for operating the machines within metal or plastic manufacturing plants. These programs essentially tell the machines how to form the necessary parts. Check out the table below for quick info on the requirements and responsibilities of this career.

Education Required High school diploma with some college coursework needed
Educational Field of Study CNC programming or related field
Key Skills Computer, mechanical, detail-orientation, and precision
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 16% (computer numerically controlled machine tool programmers, metal and plastic)
Median Salary (2017)* $52,550 (computer numerically controlled machine tool programmers, metal and plastic)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do CNC Programmers Do?

CNC (computer numerically controlled) programmers work in manufacturing plants. They are responsible for developing programs that align with the language of a machine's controller so those programs can precisely instruct machines as to what parts/pieces should be cut and the specific shapes they should be cut into. If mistakes are present in the programs, they are required to make edits to resolve those issues. Additionally, they can be required to assess work orders or blueprints and create data to calculate the specifications of certain machines, such as speed or tool selection.

What Are The Education & Training Requirements?

All CNC programmers are required to have a high school diploma or the equivalent. It is highly preferred that they have also completed some post-secondary courses in CNC programming or a similar field. A certificate or courses in CNC programming or a similar field can offer greater chances of advancement in this field.

What Are The Skill Requirements?

Since this role is highly technical, skills such as precision and detail orientation are very useful to possess. Additionally, strong computer skills are also required to meet the demands of the role. Solid mechanical skills and a background in machinery would be of added benefit.

How Much Can I Earn?

The median annual salary for CNC programmers as of May 2017 was $52,550, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These programmers are most apt to work full-time. Overtime is often granted to employees in this role, as machinery often runs on a continuous cycle to include nights and weekends.

What Is The Job Outlook?

The BLS projects a growth of 16% for CNC programmers, despite an expected decrease in demand for metal and plastics workers, as well as production occupations. This growth for CNC programmers is largely due to the widespread shift of many companies to CNC machinery. As more companies transition, the demand for programmers will increase to meet demand.

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.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • 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