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8 Signs You Might Enjoy Working as a CNC Machinist

Jul 3, 2018 ·

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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 detail and are proficient at problem solving?

Being a CNC machinist is a hands-on career using manufacturing technology that produces parts for a variety of industries. Keep reading to discover eight signs that a career as a CNC machinist may be right for you.

What Is a CNC Machinist?

First, it’s important to understand exactly what a CNC machinist does.

CNC machinists work with CNC machinery to create tools and parts from metal, plastic and other materials. Some choose to specialize in a specific type of machinery, such as milling machines, while others work with a variety of different machines.

Depending on the industry, CNC machinists may be responsible for different day-to-day tasks. They typically ensure their machines are set up correctly, are functioning properly and are producing parts that meet the required specifications.

Reasons to Become a CNC Machinist

If the following eight traits describe you, then you might make a great CNC machinist!

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.

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 factor into every step of the CNC machining process. Engineers come up with the concepts that are then modeled as computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) drawings. These 3D digital representations are then translated into G-code, which controls the speed, movement and other variables that each tool follows.

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.

Read: 6 of the Most Common CNC Machines

2. You Pay Attention to 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 no room for error. It’s a skilled trade that requires an unwavering attention so 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 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.

A CNC machinist plays an important role in the creation process. You start with a concept and take the necessary steps to turn it into a physical reality. It’s like being an alchemist, sculptor and computer programmer 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.

4. You’re Great at Time Management

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

If you’re organized and love discovering ways to increase productivity by making adjustments to the process, you may want to pursue a career of CNC machinist.

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 brain power.

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, 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.

7. You’re a Team Player

Machine shops are about collaboration. If you go in thinking you know it all, you’re likely not going to go far and may not make many friends. But if you love 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 and running the machines, as well as dealing with problems.

Many of the tasks are repetitive. It takes discipline and paying close attention to 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.

How to Become a CNC Machinist

CNC machining is a very specialized career. Having a high school diploma or GED is usually a requirement for becoming a machinist, as well as specific training, whether that’s learned on the job or through a formal training program.

The CNC Machining Technology program offered at NASCAR Technical Institute is designed to prepare students for careers in the field in just 36 weeks. Created in conjunction with industry leader Roush Yates, this program teaches students everything from reading blueprints to the programming, setup and operation of CNC mills and lathes.

Some of the courses taught in the program include:

  • Basic Machine Shop Skills
  • Mathematics, Materials and Maintenance
  • Interpreting Blueprints/Job Layout
  • Manual Machining on the Lathe
  • Manual Machining on the Mill
  • CNC Turning I & II
  • CNC Milling I & II
  • CAD and CAM

Upon completion of the program, students will have the knowledge and hands-on skills needed to start their careers in the CNC industry. Learn more in this video:

CNC Machinist Jobs

At this point, you might be wondering, “What jobs are available in the CNC industry?” Here are some examples of entry-level and advanced roles commonly pursued by those trained in computer numerical control:


  • CNC machinist
  • CNC operator
  • Machined parts inspector


Most of our grads start out working as entry-level technicians or in other entry-level roles. As with any industry, over time, you may be able to advance in your career with hard work.77 To learn more about each of these career paths, read this CNC Career Guide.

Related Questions

Have questions about CNC machining careers? Check out these frequently asked questions:

What Are CNC Machinist Requirements?

Requirements for becoming a CNC machinist can vary depending on the employer. In most cases, a high school diploma or GED is required to become a CNC machinist.

In addition to this, machinists will need to complete some form of training, whether it’s on the job or through a training program like NASCAR Tech’s CNC Machining Technology program. The benefit of completing a program like this is the ability to gain foundational skills in a short amount of time before entering the workforce — which can catch the eye of employers and give you an advantage when applying for jobs.

How Long Is CNC Machinist School?

The length of time it takes to complete CNC machinist school varies depending on the institution. At NASCAR Tech, you can train to become a CNC Machinist in just 36 weeks!

How Long Does It Take to Become a CNC Operator?

CNC operator positions are often taken on by beginners or those just starting out in the industry. Generally, they are responsible for loading stock material and running parts. The length of time to become an operator depends on the employer. Some complete on-the-job training after high school, while others start in operator positions after completing a CNC machining training program.

It’s important to know that operators, set-up operators (or machinists) and programmers play different roles in a CNC environment. Check out this blog on the differences between each position.

How Much Does a CNC Machinist Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for computer numerically controlled tool operators in the United States was $46,760 in May 2022.34 This means half of CNC machinists earned more and half earned less. Keep in mind that salary depends on several factors, including experience, employer, demand and cost of living in the area.

If you’re curious to know how income for CNC machinists varies based on location, check out this state-specific salary guide.

Is There CNC Machinist Certification?

Certification can be valuable to a technician’s career, especially for those working in the diesel and automotive industries. The CNC program at NASCAR Tech doesn’t offer certifications, but the coursework aligns with the guidelines set by the National Institute of Metalworking Skills to ensure students are learning what the industry requires. After completing their training at NASCAR Tech, students can choose to pursue certifications if they wish.

Is CNC Machining Dangerous?

Without proper knowledge and training, CNC machining can be dangerous. This career involves working with heavy equipment, cutting tools and electrical components — which all have the potential to pose dangers if not handled correctly.

For this reason, there is a strong emphasis on safety in the CNC program at NASCAR Tech. Before students start working with equipment, they take a machine shop introductory course, where they learn to safely operate equipment in a machining environment.

What Type of Machinists Are There?

CNC machinists can take their skills to a variety of different industries, which makes this an exciting career path. Some of the many industries machinists can work in include transportation, aerospace, electronics, defense, optical, medical, oil and gas, and marine, just to name a few.

Read: NASCAR Tech Grad Blazes a Trail in the Aerospace Industry

Does This Sound Like You?

Being a CNC machinist can be a great career for those with the right skill set. If you think you have what it takes, programs such as the CNC Machining Technology program at NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina, may be the next step in making your way to becoming a CNC machinist.1

To learn more, request information to get in touch with an Admissions Representative.

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1) NASCAR Technical Institute is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

2) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit

34) UTI’s CNC Machining Technology Program prepares graduates for entry-level positions using the provided training, primarily as CNC machinists. Estimated annual salary shown above is for Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Operators as published in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2022 Occupational Employment and Wages. Entry-level salaries are lower for UTI graduates. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary. UTI graduates’ achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on economic factors, personal credentials, work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer, and their compensation programs. Some UTI graduates get jobs within their field of study in positions other than as a CNC technician, such as CNC operator, apprentice machinist, and machined parts inspector. Salary information for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: The average annual entry-level salary for persons employed as Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic (51-4011) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is $35,140 (Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development, May 2020 data Salary information for North Carolina: The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the hourly median wage for skilled CNC machinists in North Carolina is $22.01 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2022 Occupational Employment and Wages, Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Operators). The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not publish entry-level salary data. However, the 25th and 10th percentile of hourly earnings in North Carolina are $17.28 and $14.82, respectively.

77) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary. UTI prepares graduates for entry-level careers using the provided training. UTI graduates’ achievements may vary. Some UTI graduates get jobs within their field of study in positions other than those listed.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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