Widely used across industries, computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines shape and finish raw materials to make finished products or parts.
CNC machines are rather complicated. They require calibration, maintenance, programming, and a skilled operator to function smoothly. CNC machinists are responsible for the setup and operation of CNC machines. These workers monitor CNC machines during operation and making necessary adjustments related to speed, material feed, and material shaping functions.
Modern CNC machines do have some degree of automated functioning, but the technology is still far from becoming completely autonomous. Human operators are still needed to program, monitor and oversee output.
Typical Job Duties
In the course of a typical day, a CNC machinist has to make sure their equipment is set up correctly, functioning properly and generating high-quality products. These professionals are responsible for watching capacity, stock levels, and potential maintenance issues. They might also be responsible for 4 quality control and reporting problems to CNC programmers, who write coded instructions that the machines follow. Some CNC machinists are responsible for several different machines, while others oversee a single CNC machine.
Typically, a CNC machinist works on a production floor. These professionals usually work full-time jobs during standard business hours. Often times, CNC machinists are asked to work overtime and some are required to work on evenings and weekends.
The job duties of a CNC machinist can vary considerably based on skill set, experience level, type of industry and type of machine. Those early in their career often work under close supervision, while late-career CNC machinists often have some degree of managerial responsibility.
As a foundation, a CNC machinist should have strong math, technical, problem solving, teamwork, time management, and communication abilities. Most employers require their CNC machinists to have at least a high school diploma or GED level of education. Some CNC machinists earn an associate degree, but this level of education isn’t always necessary.
More important than educational level is having specific CNC skills, which are learned a technical school or community colleges. CNC educational programs include classes in math, engineering, design technology, and computer technology.
To find work, a CNC machinist should be certified in the skills needed to correctly operate a CNC machine. There are three levels of certification recognized by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS). Based on national standards, certifications are an indication of a machinist’s skills on everything from entry-level programming and operations, to master-level CNC milling and turning. Not all employers require certification, but certificates are helpful for career advancement.
Many degrees or certification programs include an apprenticeship and internships component, which offers the opportunity to gain real-world experience.
Salary and Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a CNC machinist is approximately $45,000. The BLS has projected that job prospects for CNC machinists should remain steady through 2026.
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