8 Signs You Might Enjoy Working as a CNC Machinist

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Are you considering a career as a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machinist? Do you love computer technology, have an eye for details and are proficient at problem solving?

Being a CNC machinist is a hands-on career with a manufacturing technology that produces the parts for a variety of industries. Here are eight signs that a career as a CNC machinist may be the career for you.

1. You Love Working with Computers

You enjoy the challenge of troubleshooting computers when things go wrong. You're fascinated by computer code and want to learn more. If you're captivated by computer technology, you might enjoy a career as a CNC machinist.

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines are a fusion of the physical and the digital. Tools such as lathes and mills shape raw materials like metals and plastics into parts to exact specifications.

Computers provide the instructions and precise control of these instruments. In fact, computers are at every step of the CNC machining process. Engineers come up with the concepts that are then modeled as CAD/CAM drawings.

These 3-D digital representations are then translated into G-code, which controls the speed, movement and other variables that each tool must follow.

A CNC machinist must understand what's going on at each step and troubleshoot any problems that may come up. Having computer skills and the drive to understand them further are essential for any CNC machinist.

2. You Pay Attention to the Details

In CNC machining, even fractions of a millimeter count. Being "close enough" isn't in a CNC machinist's vocabulary.

Whether it's knowing the correct rates that raw materials need to be fed into the machines, reviewing CAD/CAM drawings for errors, or making adjustments to the tools, there's little room for error.

It's a skilled trade that requires an unwavering attention so that raw materials aren't wasted, tools aren't broken, and every step is followed correctly.

If you're detail-oriented and take pride in perfection, being a CNC machinist is a career where these traits are central to one's success.

3. You Love Creating Things

There's a certain satisfaction that comes from seeing a block of metal turned into a part made to exact specifications. Where there was once nothing but a hunk of metal is now something tangible and practical. Within those blocks of raw materials are the ideas that engineers and CNC machinists bring into the world.

Being a CNC machinist is an important role of the creation process. You start with a concept and take the necessary steps necessary to turn it into a physical reality. It's like being an alchemist, sculptor and computer hacker all at once.

If you’re excited by the process of creating new things, pursuing a career as a CNC machinist may be a good career choice for you.

4. You’re Great at Time Management

There are multiple steps in the CNC machining process. And there's often opportunities to make it more efficient. Having an idea about how long each step may take, load times of raw materials and the time needed to set up the different tools are important in figuring out how long a job is going to take.

If you're organized and love figuring out ways to increase productivity by making adjustments to the process, you may find the career of CNC machinist a rewarding one.

Instructors showing students how to use the machine.

5. You Have Excellent Problem Solving Skills

CNC machining is an automated process, but computers have their limitations. There are always going to be things that need to be adjusted or unforeseen issues. It might be a new tool that needs to be set up, or figuring out why a job that has run perfectly multiple times is now having problems.

Having an analytical mind and being able to approach a problem from different angles is important. Being a CNC machinist requires many hands-on skills, but also requires brainpower.

6. You Have the Ability to Adapt

As a CNC machinist, you're going to face challenges. It's possible that a machine hasn’t been set up correctly by the person before you, the machine is getting jammed up, or the tools are feeling the wear of repeated production runs.

Things aren't always going to go according to plan. And it's important to be able to adapt to the situation, no matter what comes up.

“A CNC machinist needs to be laid back, but also a problem-solver. In CNC machining, there are going to be things that don’t go right and you can get rattled. Someone needs to be able to adapt and look for different solutions. Someone who is excited by these challenges is someone who’s going to succeed,” says Ronnie Brittain, CNC Lead Instructor at NASCAR Technical Institute.

7. You’re a Team Player

Machine shops are about collaboration. If you go in thinking that you know it all, you're not going to go far and may not make many friends. But, if you're one who loves sharing ideas and learning from those with more experience, being a CNC machinist lets you connect and grow with others in the same skilled trade.

Though many times it may just be you and a machine, you're all a part of the same team in making your work a success.

8. You Have a Good Work Ethic

Working in a machine shop isn't always easy. It requires both mental and physical stamina in setting up, running the machines, and dealing with any problems.

Many of the tasks are repetitive. It takes discipline and paying close attention to the details. And it takes focus and the ability to face any challenge. For those who thrive in such work environments, a career as a CNC machinist may be the perfect fit.

Machines in a shop.

Does This Sound Like You?

Being a CNC machinist can be a rewarding career for those with the right skillset. If you think you have what it takes, programs such as the CNC Machining Technology program at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooreseville, NC, may be the next step in making your way to becoming a CNC machinist.

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