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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
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 our Career Services team 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 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.
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.
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1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.
10) Financial aid, scholarships and grants are available to those who qualify. Awards vary due to specific conditions, criteria and state.
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 https://lmi.dua.eol.mass.gov/lmi/OccupationalEmploymentAndWageSpecificOccupations#). 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.
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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