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CNC Machining Frequently Asked Questions

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Computer numerical control (CNC) machines are responsible for making many of the parts and components in the technology and devices we use every day. From computer parts to medical implants, CNC machines turn raw materials like metal and plastic into components powering some of today's most important industries.

This collection of CNC machining frequently asked questions answers how to become a CNC machinist, how long is CNC machinist training, CNC careers opportunities, where to learn CNC machine programming and how much does a CNC machinist make.

How Do You Become a CNC Machinist?

If you're wondering how to prepare to become a CNC machinist, know there are programs specifically designed to provide training. For example, Universal Technical Institute’s CNC Machining Technology program at NASCAR Technical Institute (NASCAR Tech) is a 36-week program teaching students how to craft sophisticated performance components and parts from raw materials.1

In the program, students learn:

  • How to read blueprints
  • How to interpret geometric dimensioning
  • How to properly program, set up, and operate CNC lathes and mills
  • How to safely set up and operate manual mills and lathes
  • How to use CAM software
  • How to properly use precision measuring tools

Students learn how to become CNC machinists from experienced instructors with professional experience. Being taught in a supportive environment gives students the opportunity to explore their capabilities and learn from their mistakes.

How Long Is CNC Machinist Training?

The length of CNC machinist training depends on the program. As mentioned, the program to prepare for a new career is less than a year at NASCAR Tech. “The thing that would have driven me to go to NASCAR Technical Institute for machining is the speed of the program,” says Andrew Collier, a CNC instructor at NASCAR Tech. “You can get a great base knowledge of CNC machining in 36 weeks.”

Andrew offers insight based on his own experience. “I personally went to a community college for training, and it ended up taking more than 5 years to get a 2-year degree because the school’s and my schedule didn't line up,” Andrew says. “So you take 36 weeks, apply yourself, and you will have a major leg up over someone off the street.”

Craig Hibdon, another NASCAR Tech instructor, adds, “NASCAR Tech is a fast-paced school that concentrates on the subject to get students out in the field of their choice. We don't have other classes like English or astronomy that have no relevance to your subject.”

What Are CNC Careers Opportunities?

CNC machinists are needed across a wide variety of industries. There are opportunities in just about any field that requires production of physical parts.

“We see a lot of graduates go to so many different industries,” Andrew says. “There's firearms, aerospace, racing, tool and die making, and so many others. The two that sound like a lot of fun to me are medical, where they're making joint replacements and other implants, or material testing, a job where you destroy things to see what it can withstand.”

Todd English, vice president of strategic partnerships and marketing at Roush Yates Manufacturing Solutions, which has hired NASCAR Tech graduates, says, “Our CNC machinists provide precision machining and related sub-assembly for various industries, including aerospace, defense, automotive and high-tech industries. In addition, a CNC machinist career path might include quality control, CNC programming and simulation, or laser engraving opportunities at our facility.”

Todd adds that CNC machinists may also pursue careers in:

  • CAD/CAM software
  • Cutting tools
  • Metrology
  • CNC simulation
  • Workholding
  • Machine tool building
  • Cutting tool coolants
  • Working as field/service technicians

Todd adds, “Within these positions, a CNC machinist may work in various departments within an organization, including sales, marketing, service, R&D, installing and programming.”

Where Can You Study to Be a CNC Machinist?

The answer to where to learn CNC machine programming is that it depends. BLS reports some CNC machinists learn through technical schools like NASCAR Tech, some learn at community colleges or vocational schools, and others learn through apprenticeships or training programs.

NASCAR Tech is located in Mooresville, North Carolina. It provides housing search assistance to students who are considering relocating for the CNC Machining Technology program.

How Much Does a CNC Machinist Make?

Again, the answer to how much does a CNC machinist make is that it depends. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage for computer numerically controlled machine tool programmers in May 2018 was $53,190.34 However, just like any career path, income for CNC machinists can vary based on industry, location, experience and employer, among other factors.

Learn More About Becoming a CNC Machinist

If you want to learn more about how to become a CNC machinist and join a field that melds technology with a skilled trade, contact NASCAR Tech.

Want to Learn More About the CNC Machining Technology Program?

If you're interested in learning how you can register for the CNC Machining Technology program Just click the link below or call (800) 834-7308 to speak with one of our friendly Admissions Representatives.