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To create precise objects and parts made out of metal, wood and plastic, a computer numerical control (CNC) machine is one of the best tools for the job. That’s because CNC machines can use computer files and blueprints to shape raw materials into
whatever the maker wants while coming within one-tenth of a thousandth in accuracy.
CNC machines produce all types of products, from tiny smartphone and computer components to implants that go into people’s bodies, like knee replacements. To control CNC machines and ensure the product creation process goes smoothly, CNC machinists
are in charge of the operations and output.
If you enjoy working with your hands, have a passion for building things and are interested in computers and topics like math, a career as a CNC machinist might be ideal for you. In this guide, learn what a CNC machinist is, what a CNC machinist's typical job duties are, how
to become a CNC machinist, and what CNC machinist salary and job outlook figures are.
A CNC machinist operates a CNC machine that creates, modifies and repairs products through material shaping. The CNC machinist must determine the path the machine takes, the cut speed and the feed rate by inputting programming instructions. The CNC machinist
gives the machine sketches, blueprints or computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) files to get the job done.
Using the code from the input, the machine then controls the cutting speed to shape materials like wood, plastic or metal to create the desired product. The CNC machine can be a mill, router, grinder, lathe or other form of machinery.
CNC machinists work in environments like factories, machine shops and tool rooms for industries, including racing, aerospace, transportation, defense, commercial, electronics, optical, marine, oil and gas, firearms, medical, technology, and die making.
Some CNC machinists go on to pursue careers in metrology, workholding, quality control inspection, programming, mechanical assembly, maintenance and machine tool building, as well as work as service technicians in the field. Experienced CNC machinists
may also pursue careers as managers or business owners.
CNC machinists may produce large quantities of a single part or smaller quantities of unique items. Sometimes CNC machinists create an entire object or a tiny component of a larger object.
CNC machinists create items like:
CNC machinists can also use their machines to create parts for existing machinery or repair parts or objects. Using the same blueprints or computer files, the same part or object can be replicated in the future.
CNC machinists are detail-oriented, tech-savvy creators who enjoy solving problems and have excellent time-management skills. They have knowledge in design, mathematics, mechanics, processing and production, and are critical thinkers. They also have hand-eye coordination and are able to work in a physically demanding environment where standing is the norm.
The work of a CNC machinist can differ each day, depending on the parts or objects the CNC machinist is building. Typically, CNC machinists must:
CNC machinists may specialize in a certain type of machine, or they may work with a variety of machines. In addition to ensuring the parts or products are correct, CNC machinists are responsible for ensuring the machine is set up properly. That requires stocking machines with the appropriate materials and doing regular machine and product checks.
The training available in the CNC Machining Technology program at NASCAR Technical Institute (NASCAR Tech) can equip aspiring CNC machinists with the skills they need for today’s evolving industries.1 The 36-week program, which was designed in cooperation with CNC machining industry leader Roush Yates Engines, gives students hands-on experience. Students learn about setting up, programming and operating CNC mills and lathes.
In the CNC program at NASCAR Tech, students get to work on machines from CNC industry leaders, including brands like Mastercam, Mitsubishi Materials and Mitee-Bite Products LLC. Instructors have real-world experience in CNC machining that they pass down to students.
There are also credentialing opportunities available in CNC machining. For example, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills is one organization offering credentials employers might expect from machinists. Connect with Universal Technical Institute’s Employment Services to learn about the credentials that may benefit you for your desired career path.
A CNC machinist’s salary depends on experience and the industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for computer numerically controlled tool operators in May 2019 was $41,200.34
There were 152,400 computer numerically controlled tool operators in the U.S. in 2019. The BLS forecasts an annual average of 11,800 job openings for computer numerically controlled tool operators.43
If being responsible for the creation of in-demand parts and products, including ones that are potentially lifesaving, sounds interesting to you, learn more about the CNC Technology program at NASCAR Tech in Mooresville, North Carolina. Programs start every six weeks, so you can quickly begin learning the skills you need to succeed as a CNC machinist.
Call 1-800-834-7308 for course information or request info online.
Ready to start? Click the button and in 60 seconds you could be on your way to an exciting new career.
1) NASCAR Tech is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary. For important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended this program, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.
34) Estimated annual median salary for Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Operators in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019. UTI programs prepare graduates for careers in industries using the provided training, primarily as CNC machining technicians. Some UTI graduates get jobs within their field of study in positions other than as a 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 $36,740 (Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development, May 2018 data, viewed September 10, 2020). North Carolina salary information: The U.S. Department of Labor estimate of hourly earnings of the middle 50% for skilled CNC machinists in North Carolina, published May 2019, is $18.52. 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 $15.39 and $13.30, respectively. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019. Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Operators, viewed September 14, 2020.) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
43) Based on data compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections (2019-2029), www.bls.gov, viewed September 8, 2020. The projected number of annual job openings, by job classification is: Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Operators, 11,800. Job openings include openings due to growth and net replacements.
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