What is a CNC Machinist (Description, Requirements, Salary) – Ultimate Guide

Most of the students want to become a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machinist to have a better life. CNC machinists have high demand around the world and they have good programming skills and expertise in modern machinery. Many teens in our time are willing to become a qualified CNC machinist and succeed in this profession. However, they have to know about the job responsibilities as well as the educational requirements for CNC machinists before choosing this profession. 

Being a qualified CNC machinist is a hands-on career with the modern manufacturing technology which produces the parts required in different industries. If you like computer technology and keen on problem-solving and have an eye for detail, then you can prefer the CNC machinist career option right now. 

Job Description 

The main role of the CNC machinist is to make machine parts and tools by using precision computer equipment. CNC machinists set up, adjust, and maintain the best-in-class nature of the equipment to enhance their routine job activities. They have the responsibility to create the programming instructions for all the parts they manufacture. Once the industrial team has produced tools or parts, CNC machinist inspects such finished products and make certain that these products meet all specifications. 

Well experienced and dedicated CNC machinists work in the machine manufacturing plants and machine shops. There is an ever-increasing percentage of the entire projected employment growth rate for CNC machinists. This rate is based on different factors such as the maximum use of the CNC equipment.

Duties and Responsibilities of the CNC Machinists

Specialized CNC machinists are needed to set up and run the best types of machines. Top companies in different sectors these days seek how to get and reap benefits from the enhanced manufacturing equipment which maximizes their reliance on the proficiency of the CNC machinists. It is a suitable time to focus on the main duties and responsibilities of a certified CNC machinist in the industry. 

CNC machinists have to complete different tasks to meet job expectations. Beginners in this profession analyze so many job listings for this occupation. They can focus on the following details and decide on what categories of duties CNC machinists have in our time.

Set up and Operate Precision Equipment 

Licensed CNC machinists operate the equipment required for manufacturing tools as well as machine parts. They set up components like tool registers, switches, offsets, and program computerized equipment for adjusting as per the specific job. 

Maintain Precision Equipment 

CNC machinists have to do maintenance of all precision computer equipment as per the schedule for reducing the possible downtime. For example, they have to run tests, replace broken or worn parts, and keep the inventory of parts as well as supplies required for operating this equipment. 

Inspect and Test Finished Products

CNC machinists have to inspect the part or tool which has been manufactured to double-check that it meets particular specifications. They focus on inspection reports required by the employer at first and customize their inspection approach to test the finished products.  

Create Programming Documentation 

CNC machinists are responsible for creating all the documents outlining step-by-step processes they used to program equipment as per particular jobs. They keep and maintain such documents. They also make adjusts and updates based on requirements.

What are the Skills of the CNC Machinists?

CNC machinists have problem-solving, analytical, and mechanical skills. Other skills of these professionals are strong math skills, eye-hand coordination, and the overall ability to stand at laths for a long period and use the drills and other equipment as efficiently as possible. 

CNC machinists are detail-oriented people who work with little or no supervision all through the project. They have strong written communication as well as computer skills. The following details reveal some of the additional skills possessed by CNC machinists along with the abovementioned basic skills.

  • Understand the overall functions of the lathes, drills and milling equipment
  • Set up and maintain all categories of computer manufacturing and production machines 
  • Programming precision computer equipment as per the specifications of the job
  • Reading blueprints, schematics and other documentation 
  • Writing and maintaining inspection as well as programming logs as well as manuals

CNC Machinists’ Expertise in Tools

Licensed and smart CNC machinists have knowledge of different tools required for completing every task associated with their occupation. For example, they have the proficiency to use hand tools and equipment like gauges, calipers, indicators, micrometers, scales, and other products required for completing the overall manufacturing of machine parts and tools. They have years of experience in the precision equipment computer software needed to set up particular manufacturing jobs or upgrade equipment. They are aware of the overall safety procedures and regulations regarding the CNC equipment. 

CNC Machinist Education and Training   

You may like to become a CNC machinist and think about the education requirement for CNC machinists. Many technical and community colleges worldwide nowadays provide 2-year degree programs or certificates for machinists which help prospective CNC machinists to learn essential skills required for this profession. An apprenticeship is usually included in this program to assist every student to get experiences on the job training. Professional associations and manufacturing companies offer the best apprenticeship programs for machinists.   

Salary Information for CNC Machinists

The Big Picture

The median salary of a CNC machinist is around 45,000 according to many sources. Some of them calculate it a bit higher and some of them a bit lower. So, it’s safe enough to say that this number is realistic enough. Qualified and committed CNC machinists to suggest prospective CNC machinists prepare for their professions via on-the-job training. They also recommend them to complete an apprenticeship to enhance the qualifications further. There are different types of associate’s degrees or certificate programs for those who like to become CNC machinists. Keep in mind that many employers these days do not expect all entry-level CNC machinists to have a degree.

CNC machinists usually earn from $33,000 to $68,000 per year. The overall salary of the CNC machinist depends on various factors like their roles and responsibilities and the industry they work with. There is an ever-increasing growth in employment for CNC machinists worldwide in recent years. This occurs because of enhancements in technology that force the industry to exploit the skills of the CNC machinists. 

Factors That Affect the Paycheck

Ample job opportunities and maximum salaries are the main reasons behind the eagerness of many youngsters worldwide to prefer the CNC machinist career option. Keep in mind that the total number of CNC machinists entering this competitive field is lower than the number of openings.  

Employers prefer and hire well-experienced CNC machinists with experiences in the efficient use of milling, manual, and lathe machines. They must expect that qualified candidates in the interview must read blueprints and use hand tools in the best possible ways along with the proficiency in computer programs such as MS software.       

CNC machinists successfully run the computer-operated equipment for creating the machine parts, tools, and other categories of mass-produced items. They may work in the manufacturing industry or machine shop. They have proficiency in the installation, programming and operation, maintenance, and other aspects of the CNC technology-based resources. Individuals with a high school diploma are eligible to enter this profession. This is because many employers expect this qualification for entry-level machinists. 

There are different approaches to acquire training. However, many machinists enter into an apprenticeship and enhance their qualifications as expected. Individuals who have completed their studies associated with the CNC machines must make certain that they have essential math and science skills, ability to deal with complex machines and tools. They can increase the overall possibilities to get recruited when they get the certifications associated with their career. 

The overall earnings of the CNC machinist depend on so many things like the years of experience and locale. For example, CNC machinist with more than a decade of experience can earn an above-average hourly salary. Experienced and dedicated CNC machinists with strong programming skills on the modern multi-axis machines can earn sometimes upward of $120, 000. 

They play a major role to make the best-in-class aerospace and medical parts. They are the highest-paid workers in their sector and willing to improve their expertise about the latest technologies associated with this sector. 

Salary in the USA

CNC machinists in the Midwest in particular Minneapolis earn $73, 100. Top earners in this profession earn more than $98,500. This salary includes a base salary, bonus, and equity. CNC machinists in the West like Los Angeles earn an average of $88,000. Top earners in the CNC machinist sector in Los Angeles earn more than $121, 700. 

CNC machinists in South like Texas and Fort Worth earn $75, 304 as an average. However, the top earners in this profession make more than $102, 833. Entry-level CNC machinists in South Florida earn between $14 and $19 per hour. They get a good improvement in their hourly wages between 6 months to 1 year as this profession is skills-based. They earn more when their experience and knowledge in this profession are proven.  

Salary in Europe

The average salary of the CNC machinists in the United Kingdom in our time is £ 31,500. Salaries of CNC machinists in Northern Europe usually fall within a range between £24,615 and £35,000. Jobs similar to the CNC machinists in Europe nowadays are CNC millers, CNC tuners, and CNC programmers.  

The average salary of CNC machinists in the UK is £13.26 per hour. However, the average salary of the CNC machinists in the USA is $21.50. You can take note of the pros and cons of CNC machinist jobs in the USA, Northern Europe, and Southern Europe in detail right now. You will make an informed decision to decide on your work location and use every chance to succeed as a CNC machinist. 

If you are a CNC machinist, then you have to consider whether you are in the place where you like to be and earn what you wish to make. You can pay attention to the state of salaries along with hourly pay in the manufacturing sector in particular for CNC machinists. You will get an overview of how to successfully enhance your career and earn further than now. 

How to Become a CNC Machinist

There is more demand for CNC machinists than a supply of qualified CNC machinists in our time. Some people may misunderstand that manufacturing related work environment is an unsafe, dirty, and unhealthy environment to work with. However, they have to understand and remember that today’s environment for machining is spacious, clean, and temperature controlled. 

Employers are very conscious about how to build the machining process from the starting to end and how they take ownership of modern and precise machine work. CNC machining is one of the most satisfying and lucrative career options at this time. 

A high school diploma is very important, but different ways are available to gain an education in the machining field. In the U.S. there are different options available for people who like to become certified CNC machinists. Though a degree is not required for CNC machinists in the U.S., certified skills and also training hours are needed. 

Some manufacturers require candidates with degrees to recruit CNC machinists. You can spend enough time and enhance your expertise in the widely recognized credentials for the CNC machinists. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills provides a 3-level of machining certification. This program is designed to assess the skills against the national standards range from entry-level CNC programming as well as equipment operation to the overall expertise in the CNC milling and turning. 

Leading community and technical colleges work closely with local high schools and provides the curriculum to teach the basic manufacturing issues and involve an appropriate internship with the local manufacturer. Renowned companies these days recruit from local vocational as well as technical schools because students from these schools have skills required for their work. They have a good and long-standing relationship with these schools.  

Many people join in the apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs to become qualified CNC machinists. They make use of the federal and state grants. They get more than expected benefits from the tax incentives while learning about the CNC machining. 

There is funding for students in high schools in many states in the U.S. when they learn the machining with an aim to get the machining certificate. You can join in one of these schools and begin a step to earn an associate degree. You will get different benefits when you join in and study in any local technical and vocational school. 

Do not forget that associate degree programs in the CNC machining take 2 years. Residents in Texas and some other states in the U.S. get loads of favorable things as they can earn a 2-year associate degree while completing their last 2-year of high school.  

Students who study at Atlantic Technical College in South Florida can get a CNC machinist certificate in as little as 14 months. Many companies provide college reimbursement along with the usual health and vacation benefits to their employees. Employees in these companies can enhance their career in the CNC machining as expected. 

A Common Approach to Become a CNC Machinist

The vocational route to becoming a CNC machinist in our time attracts students in schools with a desire to enter this sector and succeed in it. If you prefer the vocational route, then you require one of the following certifications. 

  • Level 1 certificate in engineering  
  • Level 1 certificate in engineering and manufacturing 
  • Level 2 certificate in mechanical engineering  
  • Level 2 award in engineering especially manufacturing engineering 
  • Engineering apprenticeship   

Subjects related to the CNC machinists are design technology and maths. CNC machinists in our time get the maximum job opportunities in the motor vehicle, mechanical engineering, shipbuilding, and aerospace industries. They also get some job vacancies in engineering maintenance in some sectors like power generation and transport. If you like to successfully work with machines, then you have to be conscious about how to enhance your skills and choose the educational program to have a career as per your wishes. 

CNC machinists require the right skills to operate high-tech tools and modern machines. They play the main role by producing precision metal parts. They efficiently use machine tools like drill presses, lathes, and milling machines to carefully plan and prepare all operations. Some of these professionals are called production machinists as they are responsible for producing the maximum amount of a single part.    

Apprentice Programs for CNC Machinists

Anyone with a desire to become a CNC machinist can directly explore the list of the best and most suggested apprentice programs right now. You can take note of the latest updates of the pre-apprenticeship programs also known as earn and learn programs with certified apprenticeships which successfully pair students who are paid and local businesses. Students in these programs work on the way to gain the status of apprenticeship after they have proved their skills in the CNC machining. 

Usual requirements for a 2 to 4 years machinist apprenticeship program which is registered with the U.S. Department of Labour is 2000 hours of on the job learning per year in the CNC machining job processes as specified in the apprenticeship standards given by the employer and 144 hours of education or related training instruction per year.  

On-the-job performance standards and occupational specific curriculum guidelines provided by the frameworks for apprenticeships assist everyone who likes to become a qualified CNC machinist within a short period. If you understand the job competency in the CNC machining sector, then you can make a good decision and use every chance to be successful in this profession as expected. 

The first-class CNC machining apprenticeships programs help retain workers who like to enhance their career and earn more take-home pay in the upcoming days. Individuals who participate in any of these programs can learn and meet key milestones. They also get an improvement in their income as their skills associated with the machining are improved. Once they have completed a registered apprenticeship program, they get a nationally recognized credential. 

Every beginner to the CNC machinist career can focus on the career path in the CNC machinist’s wheelhouse and take note of important things such as salary figures to decide on how to achieve their career goal without complexity in any aspect. 

What Skills Are Needed to Become a CNC machinist?

Essential skills for the CNC machinists are learning to program on the latest CNC machines and put such program into the machine and set such machine up. People who work in manufacturing as the CNC machinists over a decade these days reveal the best suggestions to enhance the skills needed to become professional in the machining sector. Though these skills only cover 5 to 10% of the work, these skills are very important to set up and programming along with other preparation work. 

CNC machinists must have the ability to understand all the technical plans, attention to detail, IT, numeracy, and physical fitness. The academic route to becoming a CNC machinist is to choose the GCSEs (A-C) in subjects like English, maths, engineering and design, science, and technology. 

CNC machinists make use of the computer numerically controlled machine tools for creating the best parts required in their industry. They sometimes have to work with metals and deal with composite materials, plastics, and wood. This is because many of the parts created from these materials are used in the manufacturing, aerospace, power, and automotive industries.  

CNC machinists require analytical and systematic thinking. They must have a strong work ethic and the overall ability to work well with other people as a team to achieve the goals. The following details guide you to be aware of the skills required by CNC machinist in our time.

Mechanical and Technical Aptitude

Operators of the computer-controlled CNC machines must be aware of how Computer-Aided Design (CAD)/Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) technology works. CAD/CAM software translates all the commands into the automated cutting inside the machine or other tooling actions. CNC machinists have to read schematics otherwise known as the technical blueprints. They have to follow the complex instructions from engineers for building parts to accurate specifications. 

Math and Critical Numbers-Crunching 

CNC machinists work with numbers and also measurements most of the time. For example, they sometimes use metrology equipment like micrometers and calipers. They enhance their way to coordinate measurement machines and use every chance to be successful in their work. 


Almost any machine may encounter any type of error in production. CNC machinists must understand how these machines work, monitor their performance, and resolve problems almost immediately to take advantage of the peak performance and output on time. They have to be aware of how to find the root issue and get the machine back in the best products within a short period. 

Attention to Detail 

Any small error in the measurement associated with the CNC machining adversely affects the production output. You have to understand this fact and have a keen eye for detail. This is worthwhile to be systematic in your thinking as you require building an expensive part as a CNC machinist. CNC machining is not a job for impulsive individuals.  


CNC machinists require asking questions, listening, and following all the directions and explaining the situations with enough clarity to various people like supervisors, subordinates, and peers. 


CNC machinists require working effectively in groups as a part of the whole industrial team.


CNC machines are heavy, big, and dangerous when mishandled. CNC machine operators need to be aware of the safety standards and procedures at first. This is because they have to keep the workplace free of accidents and injuries.  

Who are CNC Machinists working with? 

CNC machinists nowadays are working with a wide range of disciplines. They are not limited to plant supervisors, part and process engineers, quality control engineers, and vendors. They also work with peers with a specialization in lean manufacturing and operations. 

CNC machinists with more than two decades of experience in this sector reveal that professional CNC machinists must have the ability to work with individuals from different professions and enhance the skills required in the teamwork. They must be able to get on with individuals and work with others in different situations with their effective communication and work ethic. 

What is the Job of the CNC Machinist on the Shop Floor? 

Shop floors in our time are designed for the highest possible efficiency of movements, air-conditioned, and clean as expected by every worker. CNC machinists understand that time is money. They increase and enhance their efforts and strategic thinking which goes into their work. In addition, they make positive changes and take advantage of the physical layout on the shop floor. They are very conscious about how to keep the floor clutter-free and safe on a regular basis. 

Steel-toed shoes and prescription safety glasses are very important to work in the metalworking and machining sector. Shop floors these days are designed for reducing the movements of the CNC machinists for increasing their level of focus on the machine cell productivity. The shop floor will include the protective matting which supports different aspects like avoiding trips, slips, and falls. This facility will add a level of comfort required by every worker. 

Be Aware of the Job Duties of CNC Machinists

CNC machinists study the work orders, engineering plans, blueprints, materials, orthographic drawings, locations of surfaces, reference plans, and machining parameters along with an interpretation of geometric dimensions and tolerances to make a plan for machining. They plan stock inventory by properly checking the stock to find the amount available. Also, they place and expedite orders for stock and take note of several things to verify the receipt of the stock. In addition. they program mills and lathes with instructions include, but not limited to the zero and reference points. Furthermore, they set tool registers, compensation, offsets, and conditional switches. It is not uncommon for them to fulfill calculating requirements like basic math, trigonometry, geometry, and prove part programs in a successful way. 

Smart and successful CNC machinists set up mills and laths by properly installing as well as adjusting 3 and 4 jaw chucks, attachments, tools, collets, cams, bushings, stock pushers, stops, and gears. They load feed mechanism by lifting stock into position, verify settings by correctly measuring the positions. It’s not rare for them to ensure that their work is adhering to international standards. They maintain specifications by properly observing cutting, drilling, grooving, and other activities like facing, turning, knurling, and thread chasing operations. Also, they use different tools and techniques to be successful in their way to take measurements, detect malfunctions. They enhance their way to troubleshoot processes, adjust and reprogram controls, adhere to quality assurance related processes and procedures, and sharpening and replacing worn tools on time. 

Enhance skills and excel in the CNC machining career 

CNC machinists maintain all the equipment by the entire preventive maintenance needs as per the instructions from the manufacturer. They call for repairs and troubleshoot malfunctions without any delay. Further, they keep the continuity among work shifts by successfully documenting as well as communicating actions, continuing needs, and irregularities. They update job knowledge by participating in every educational chance and red technical publications on a regular basis. Also, they accomplish the goals of the organization by completing the possession of new and different requests. They explore and use chances to add value to all the job accomplishments. 

You may wish to be aware of the skills you have to acquire to become a CNC machinist in the upcoming days. In addition, you must gain conceptual skills, verbal communication, process improvement, functional and technical skills, supply management, controls and instrumentation, coordination, attention to detail, judgment, and inventory control. You have to keep in mind that the overall success rate of many companies depends on the qualifications and quality of work done by CNC machinists. Every teenager must be aware of the best techniques to get recruited in today’s tight labor market. If they gain hard-to-find talent associated with the CNC machinist career, then they can get qualified in the recruitment process as expected. 

Physical Demands and Abilities 

There are some physical demands as well as abilities required by CNC machinists. Every CNC machinist has to lift 30 to 50 pounds and perform repetitive tasks on a regular basis. They possess manual dexterity to put some parts or pieces together in accurate and quick ways. Particular vision abilities needed by CNC machinists in our time distance vision, close vision, color vision, depth vision, peripheral vision, and the overall ability to adjust the focus. 

Enhance your Qualifications and Become a Successful CNC Machinist

You may be one among individuals with an interest to become a CNC machinist in recent times. You have to get all the essential qualifications for this career at first. For example, you must get a high school diploma and 1 to 2 years of mechanical assembly experience. You have to possess basic reading skills and be able to follow directions. Nowadays basic computer navigation and utilization skills is a must for CNC machinists. You have to perform work thoroughly and accurately. Furthermore, you must use thinking and reasoning abilities to solve any problem in the work environment. You have to think in such a way to successfully producing a new idea or concept. If you possess high attention to detail as well as self-motivation skills, then you can succeed as a CNC machinist. You must include particular technical or vocational training or certification as per requirements. 

Is the Profession of a CNC Machinist Your Ideal Career

You may love computer technology, be proficient at problem-solving, consider a career as a CNC machinist, and have an eye for details. You can take note of some signs which encourage you to become a CNC machinist in a successful way. Many people these days enjoy working with computers and get captivated by computer technology. If you like working with computers and pay attention to detail, then you can choose the career as a CNC machinist right now. 

Computers are vital to providing instructions as well as accurate control of instruments associated with the CNC machining processes. Well experienced engineers come up with the best concepts modeled as CAD/CAM drawings. The first-class nature of the three-dimensional representations are translated into the G-code to control the overall speed, movement and other variables tools have to follow on a regular basis. 

CNC machinists understand and make certain what is going in at all steps in the CNC machining. They have to troubleshoot problems that may come up in any situation. They require computer skills along with the drive to understand modern technologies further to succeed in this career. 

Being close enough is not in the vocabulary of any CNC machinist as any fraction of the millimeter counts in the CNC machining. CNC machinists have to feed raw materials into the machines. They have to make adjustments to the tools and review the CAD/CAM drawings for errors. They do everything to take pride in perfection and do not compromise anything related to be detail-oriented. 

Being a CNC machinist is a vital role in terms of the creation process. You have to begin with a concept and take essential steps required to turn it into physical activity. The job role of the CNC machinist is like being a sculptor, alchemist, and computer hacker at the same time. Pursuing a career as a CNC machinist is a good option for you when you are excited and interested in creating new things.  

People who are great at time management these days are eligible to choose the CNC machining career. There are loads of processes associated with the CNC machining. Load times of raw materials, how long each process takes place and the overall time needed to set up various tools are some of the most important things required for figuring out how long any job is going to take. 

Individuals with excellent problem-solving skills can prefer their careers in the CNC machining. This is because CNC machining is an automated process with certain limitations due to computers. There are loads of situations where things required to be altered and CNC machinists have to deal with unforeseen issues. You can enhance your analytical mindset and skills to approach every problem from different angles. This is because being a CNC machinist needs so many hands-on skills and brainpower. 

CNC machinists have the ability to adapt to new things and face challenges in any situation. They understand that any machine cannot be perfectly set up by others before them. Also, they have to reduce the possibilities that the machine is getting jammed up. They remember that things are not always going as per the plan. In addition, they adapt to the situation regardless of what comes up. They have to be laid back and also a problem solver. This is because they can get rattled and situations where things may do not go right. 

CNC machinists can succeed in their profession when they get excited with ever-increasing challenges. 

The machine shop is about collaboration beyond doubt. If you are one who is willing to share ideas and learn from others with years of experience, then you can choose a career in the CNC machining sector. This is because being a CNC machinist lets everyone connect and grow with others on a regular basis. Though you have to be spending most of your time with machines, you will be a part of the same team to do everything to achieve the goal within the schedule and budget.  


CNC machinists have a good work ethic. They have enough physical and mental stamina to set up and run the machines. They have to improve their routine efforts and deal with problems. Everyone who has chosen a career as a CNC machinist must be ready for enhancing their skills day after day and ensuring a good improvement in their routine efforts as per the requirements in the work environment. Don’t forget to take our other articles about CNC.

1 thought on “What is a CNC Machinist (Description, Requirements, Salary) – Ultimate Guide”

  1. I would like to become a CNC machinist. What are the best training centers and can one do the training online??


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