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How to Become a CNC Machinist

Jan 18, 2021 ·
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Do any of these characteristics sound like you? If so, you might be interested in becoming a CNC machinist.

  • You love working with computers.
  • You are detail-oriented.
  • You enjoy creating and building things.
  • You’re organized and are great at time management.
  • You’re an excellent problem solver and adapt to challenges.
  • You’re a team player.
  • You have a good work ethic.

CNC machinists work with computer numerical control (CNC) machines. They read sketches, blueprints, and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) and computer-aided design (CAD) files, and use code to input product design into a computer-guided machine. The CNC machine uses that code to turn, shape, grind, drill and mill materials, like metal and plastic, into parts as large as car frames to as small as tiny computer parts.

Throughout the process, a CNC machinist must monitor the work, examine pieces for defects and ensure the CNC machine is running optimally. CNC machines are used in a variety of industries, including:

  • Aerospace
  • Aviation
  • Automobile manufacturing and racing
  • Medical and dental
  • Furniture design

If you’re wondering how to become a CNC machinist, how long CNC machinist training is and how to become a certified CNC operator, read on for answers.

How Long Is CNC Machinist Training?

CNC machinist training times can vary. Some machinists may be able to get apprenticeships, where they can learn on the job.

Other CNC machinists opt for formal training. Universal Technical Institute’s CNC Machining Technology program taught at NASCAR Technical Institute is 36 weeks and provides graduates with a diploma. They receive hands-on training in a safe and supportive environment to learn CNC machinist skills, like setting up and operating CNC machines, monitoring the speed and feed of machines, and smoothing surfaces of parts and products.

If you’re wondering how to get CNC certified, that can vary. There are voluntary CNC machinist certifications, such as the National Institute for Metalworking Skills’ Certified CNC Lathe Programming Setup & Operations certification. Certifications, as well as formal training at a reputable school, may help candidates be more desirable to CNC machinist employers.

What Is CNC Machinist Training Like?

Using UTI’s CNC Machining Technology program as an example, students who enter CNC machinist training can expect a blend of lectures, bookwork and hands-on training.

The hands-on training aspect makes up the majority of UTI’s program. Students work with CNC machinist leading brands like Mastercam, Mitsubishi Materials and Mitee-Bite, so they get direct experience with tools used in the field.

A CNC machine is used to make a precision cut.

CNC machinist school provides some benefits over a four-year college for students who know they want to be CNC machinists. For example, Craig Hibdon, a CNC instructor at NASCAR Tech, says, “NASCAR Technical Institute is a fast-paced school that concentrates on the subject to get the students out in the field of their choice. We don’t have other classes for credits like English or astronomy.”

That means students are ready to start working in the field as soon as they graduate. NASCAR Tech also has employment assistance services to match students with relevant job opportunities.

The bottom line: If you have interest in becoming a CNC machinist, there are job opportunities throughout the United States, and the number is expected to grow in coming years. Hibdon says the future is looking bright.

“I think CNC is interesting because you can make things that are impossible to do manually,” Hibdon says. “The industry is expanding.”

How Much Does a CNC Machinist Make?

When researching any career, it’s important to consider salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for computer numerically controlled tool operators in the United States was $42,260 in May 2020.34 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.

Prepare for a Career as a CNC Machinist

Does a career as a CNC machinist seem like a good fit for you? The CNC Machining Technology program offered at our NASCAR Tech campus is designed to provide students with the knowledge and hands-on experience needed in today’s industry.1 To learn more, visit our CNC Machining Technology program page and request information today.

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