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What Does a CNC Machinist Do?

Jan 8, 2021 ·

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Some objects are impossible to create manually. When you're talking about getting within one-tenth of a thousandth in accuracy, a computer numerical control (CNC) machine is the way to go.

Those with CNC machinist jobs look at blueprints or computer files and translate product or object designs into code. A machine then precisely transforms material into the desired object. Materials can range from metal to plastic.

Those with CNC machinist jobs work on critical parts and components that help other machines operate and keep people safe. Some examples of items produced by CNC machines include:

  • Body part replacements, like artificial knees and hips
  • Computer parts
  • Automobile frames and parts
  • Robots
  • Medical device components
  • Aviation, marine and aerospace parts
  • Wooden furniture
  • Metal plaques and trophies
  • Military equipment

CNC machinists may fabricate, modify or repair precise mechanical instruments. They may also create the parts needed to maintain industrial machines and machine tools.

“My favorite part of CNC machining is the challenge of it,” says Andrew Collier, a CNC instructor at NASCAR Technical Institute. “Every part is different and presents different challenges. This makes it so you always have to be thinking and challenging yourself, which ultimately makes it so I am never bored.”

CNC job opportunities are available in just about any industry that produces physical products through manufacturing. If you’ve ever wondered what a CNC machinist does, read on for more information.

CNC Machinist Skills and Duties

CNC machinists must have a knowledge of mathematics, mechanics, production, processing and design. They need to be coordinated, think critically, and have an understanding of equipment operation and control.

Analytical, mechanical and technical skills are essential. Physical stamina is also important due to the work environment, which requires CNC machinists to often be standing and using their hands.

CNC machinists use knowledge and related skills to carry out tasks, including:

  • Calculating dimensions
  • Using machine tools like lathes, grinders, milling machines and shapers
  • Securing and monitoring cutting tools and other machine materials
  • Measuring and testing completed products to check for defects
  • Maintaining machine tools and operating equipment
  • Establishing work procedures

Students program a CNC machine in a UTI lab.

Some CNC machinists advance to leadership roles, where they manage other CNC machinists and processes. Others open their own businesses. CNC machinists who go on to roles like these must also have management and business skills to succeed.

Types of CNC Job Opportunities

CNC machinists take on many different titles in the workplace. CNC machinery is used across a wide variety of industries, which creates exciting opportunities for those skilled in the trade.

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. Potential entry-level and advanced jobs for CNC machinists may include:77


  • CNC machinist
  • CNC operator
  • Machined parts inspector


  • CNC mill operator
  • Quality control inspector
  • Design engineer
  • Mechanical assembler
  • CNC programmer

In addition to the various types of careers, CNC machinists can also take their skill set to a variety of locations. CNC machinery is used worldwide, so there are opportunities on the West Coast, East Coast or even other countries.

Common work environments for machinists include factories, machine shops and tool rooms. Many CNC machinists work full-time jobs during regular business hours. Some work environments are open 24/7, so some CNC machinists work weekends and evening hours.

CNC Machinist Salary

If you’ve considered a career in this industry, you’ve probably wondered how much CNC machinists make. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 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.

How to Become a CNC Machinist

Many CNC machinist employers require their job candidates to have gone through CNC machinist training. CNC Machining Technology training, like the program offered at NASCAR Tech, teaches students skills ranging from how to read blueprints to how to set up, program and operate CNC machine lathes and mills.

In 36 weeks, students gain the knowledge needed to succeed in the industry.1 Many CNC machinist grads from NASCAR Tech have gone to work for Roush Yates Engines while others have gone on to work in aerospace, tool and die making, medical, and material testing industries.2

Learn more about the CNC Machining Technology program at NASCAR Technical Institute.

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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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