How to Become a CNC Machinist: A Detailed Guide

CNC programmers and machinists with experience operating state-of-the-art machinery are in high demand nowadays. The same can be substantiated by the excellent earning potential of a typical CNC machinist role. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average salary commanded by CNC machinists amounts to $45,000, while a report from Indeed states that CNC machinists make approximately $25.40 per hour, which is much better when compared to the industry average for typical machinist stands.

A job as a CNC machinist could be ideal for you if you possess a keen interest in manufacturing technology and design and enjoy challenging work that requires precision and intricacy.

In this blog, we cover every aspect associated with the role of a CNC machinist. So if you are an aspirant, here is a comprehensive guide.

Who is a CNC Machinist?

A CNC machinist specializes in operating computer numerical control (CNC) heavy machinery from the pre-production design phase throughout production. CNC machines shape raw materials in various ways, including cutting, grinding, and drilling. They are responsible for regulating the machines’ cutting rates, feed rates, and cutting paths/trajectories.

CNC machinists play an essential role in industrial manufacturing teams. In a nutshell, they do it all: set-up, fabrication, mechanical maintenance, craftsmanship, and quality control. Over the last few decades, advancements in technology have resulted in machines that are smarter and more tech-driven than they’ve ever been. However, they still need direction from trained individuals through instructions, constant monitoring, and quality management.

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Roles and Responsibilities of a CNC Machinist

A CNC machinist’s daily tasks revolve around keeping the machinery in good operating order and generating finished products of high quality. They need to keep track of factors like production levels, supply levels, and upkeep. They may also be responsible for performing quality assurance checks on output and communicating any faults to CNC programmers, who develop the code that instructs the CNC milling machine.

Most CNC machinists work in a manufacturing facility. In the course of their work, a CNC machinists may operate a wide variety of devices, or they may be assigned sole responsibility for a particularly intricate piece of equipment. The machinist’s duties also vary with experience and education level. Supervisors and senior CNC machinists are often in charge of a full team and need to collaborate closely with CNC programmers and other personnel of the industrial production department.

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How to Become a CNC Machinist

You can become a CNC machinist through formal education or on-the-job training. To become an expert CNC machinist, consider the following points:

1. Learn and Explore the Roles of CNC Machinists

Knowing the specific path you want to follow in your career as a CNC machinist is crucial. CNC machinists typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Set-up machinists: They ensure that all manufacturing processes go well by closely monitoring the machinery, making necessary adjustments, and handling various other operations.
  • Operating machinists: They are responsible for keeping machinery in optimum working condition.
  • Programming machinists: They are experts at writing code for CNC machines and revising existing programs to manufacture components that conform to detailed specifications.

2. Enroll in Introductory Courses

After finishing high school, you could consider enrolling in a post-secondary CNC machinist training program. You can get ready for CNC machinist training by taking courses in technical drafting, blueprint reading, machine tooling, and metalworking, among other things.

3. Pursue a Formal Degree

While professional education is not required to work as a CNC machinist, most businesses would rather have candidates with degrees in related fields. It usually takes two years to finish a full CNC machinist degree program at a technical college. Such programs help students prepare for the workforce by providing them with academic instruction and sector-specific training.

4. Undertake a Formal Internship

Apprenticeship programs are another great way to obtain valuable experience in a structured environment. Apprenticeships often involve bringing classroom theory into the real world with direct hands-on experience of working machinery. Such a program can help you gain knowledge and experience in a variety of fields, including:

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5. Acquire Relevant Credentials and Certifications

Having the proper set of skills to operate CNC machines is demonstrated by earning the appropriate certification. Many schools offer CNC machinist certification courses culminating in a test of both theoretical knowledge and hands-on skill. There are three tiers of certification available from these organizations-

  • Certified CNC Set-up Programmer
  • Certified Journey Worker
  • Certified Machinist

6. Test Your Skills

After completing a CNC machinist training and certification, the next step is to pursue job opportunities that put your acquired skills and knowledge to work. CNC machinists may seek employment with companies operating in:

  • Automobile industry
  • Aviation industry
  • Defense Sector
  • Original equipment manufacturers
  • Oil and gas sector, etc.

Wrapping Up

Experienced and skilled CNC machinists will always be in demand in organizations even after they scale up their AI & automation game. Prospective professionals in this industry need to be analytical, methodical thinkers with a solid work ethic and the capability to collaborate effectively with others. So focus on upskilling yourself consistently to excel in this industry.

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