CNC Machine Operator

CNC Machine Operator

The CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machinist occupation is one that is growing steadily each year. New innovations in technology are contributing to this overall job growth. Finding a job as a CNC machinist first requires acquiring the necessary training. Once that training is completed, there is a wide choice of employment opportunities. CNC machinists entering this field are joining a profession that is on the rise. The need for CNC machinists has the potential to lead to higher pay rates and better job opportunities. When seeking out a CNC machinist job, one does not have to look too hard to find a host of prospective employers.


Job Outlook for CNC Machinists

Industry experts have reported a favorable future for machinists in general. Members of the Council of the International Association of Machinists have forecasted a widespread availability of jobs for machinists over the next few years. This particularly applies to CNC machinists because many of the new tools being introduced are of the CNC variety. At the current time, there is actually a shortage of qualified machinists. That can be attributed to all of the rapid changes in technology.

Now, machinists are required to have a particular skillset to operate CNC machines. Since the field is being flooded with new CNC machines, the job outlook is more favorable for CNC machinists than other types of machinists. To begin a career in this field, the modern machinist needs to attain the following skills:

  • Computer literacy
  • Basic comprehension of electronics
  • Basic understanding of physics

The Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) has predicted that job opportunities for machinists will continue to be very good. Many employers continue to report difficulties finding qualified machinists to fill job vacancies. And with a sizable portion of current machinists set to retire, there expects to be more job openings in the subsequent years.


Job Availability through CNC Machinist Education Programs

Being a CNC machinist is very difficult to learn through on-the-job training, which means more employers are looking to CNC machinist education programs for new workers. Across the United States, colleges and technical institutes are becoming a pipeline to the profession for CNC machinists. Program directors at these teaching institutes are often contacted by companies looking to hire new CNC machinists. There are starting to be many instances in which program directors have to turn companies away because they do not have enough graduates to meet their demand.

Companies are even beginning to post job openings at post-secondary schools that are home to CNC machinist educational programs. Even entry-level positions provide graduates with immediate employment and a chance to gain some valuable experience as a CNC machinist. The pathway to a long-lasting career as a CNC machinist now lies through a post-secondary education specializing in this discipline.


Machinist Jobs by State

There are more than 400,000 machinists currently employed in the United States. That number is steadily rising as there is expected to be a total of 10% job growth in the ten-year period ranging from 2014 through 2024. Here is a look at the states that have the highest number of machinists, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • California – 40,200
  • Texas – 36,750
  • Illinois – 33,650
  • Ohio – 32,300
  • Michigan – 31,670

Pennsylvania, Indiana and Wisconsin are the next most populated states for machinists. There are different job outlooks for each state as some have a greater need for machinists than others. Chicago features the highest concentration of machinists in terms of metropolitan areas. That is followed by the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Houston and Farmington Hills, Michigan. However, job growth is not signified by the areas that have the highest number of employed machinists.

Machinists continue to be in demand throughout the country, although there are several states where the projected job growth is higher than others. Some of that has to do with a higher presence of manufacturers and businesses in that specific state. Here is a look at how the top states rank in terms of projected job openings.

  1. California
  2. Michigan
  3. Texas
  4. Illinois
  5. Ohio
  6. Pennsylvanian
  7. New York
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Idaho
  10. Washington

Overtime Job Opportunities as a CNC Machinist

Many job listings for CNC machinists will list its pay between two set denominations. On many occasions, those denominations will be separated by as much as $20,000. That is because there is such a high potential for overtime pay and this is attributed to two factors.

First, many shops are unable to staff an adequate amount of CNC machinists. This requires them to rely on their current staff, which presents the opportunity for additional work. The second reason for an abundance of overtime being available is because of the high demand for the production of parts, especially in the automotive industry. Every year there are both a record number of auto accidents and sales. That means both new and replacement parts are needed. As that demand continues to grow, so does the number of CNC machinists working in the United States.

The potential for overtime pay adds on more to a machinist’s regular salary. And since mostly all CNC machinists are paid on an hourly basis, the earning potential remains very high. Being paid a salary is not always advantageous for CNC machinists, which is why it is usually better to take a job that pays by the hour and one that offers overtime incentives.

CNC Machinist Job Duties and Responsibilities

The job of a CNC machinist involves working on CNC machines that produce automotive parts through a process of cutting, grinding and milling. CNC machinists take blueprints and interpret them to produce work orders that meet exact specifications. CNC machinists are also required to be on their feet for the better part of their workday. There is even a perpetual need to follow all of the safety guidelines set forth in the workplace. Here is a look at some other job duties of a CNC machinist.

  • Reading and interpreting blueprints
  • Program CNC machines by using technical briefs
  • Select the most suitable tools to complete work orders
  • Set machines to appropriate cutting speeds
  • Perform maintenance on CNC machines as needed
  • Verifying work meets the prescribed technical standards
  • Adeptly operate presses, mills, lathes, and drills

CNC Machinist Job Requirements

To work as a CNC machinist, there needs to be a certain level of training. This can be obtained through apprenticeships. However, most companies rarely hire CNC machinists with no formal training. One of the reasons for this is a liability issue. A lot can go wrong if a CNC machinist is not properly trained. There are safety precautions to consider as well as the production element. CNC machinists who are not properly trained can create a dangerous work environment. And machinists that possess a certain amount of uncertainty, can put an entire shop behind schedule.

Work orders come with deadlines and a failure to meet those deadlines can place the business or company in a great deal of jeopardy. That is why companies invest in CNC machinists who have completed a certificate or associate’s degree program. This provides them with the assurance that work orders will be carried out in an efficient and timely manner.

Some companies will only hire CNC machinists with previous work experience. That does not mean there aren’t plenty of companies who will hire entry-level machinists. Both novice and experienced CNC machinists have ample choices when it comes to job opportunities. Here is a look at some of the other common job requirements that need to be fulfilled before beginning work as a CNC machinist:

  • Successful background check and drug screening
  • Capability of running the pre-program and production phases
  • Sufficient math and record keeping skills
  • Ability to interpret technical drawings
  • Advanced knowledge of CNC machine functionality
  • Physical strength to maintain daily workload
  • Fundamental computer skills
  • Well-versed in proper safety protocol

Alternate Job Titles

A CNC machinist may go by a host of other names. Some job listings may appear to be slightly different. While the duties and responsibilities may be the same, different companies are going to refer to their CNC machinists in different ways. That generally does not mean any other special skills or training is required. Here is a look at some of the variant job titles of a CNC machinist:

  • CNC Programmer
  • CNC Operator
  • CNC Lathe Operator
  • Machinist
  • CNC Machine Technician

A CNC Machine Inspector is a little different in the sense that the primary purpose is to inspect machines and ensure they are working efficiently. Some CNC machinists may look to advance their careers and become a shop supervisor. This is more of a managerial position, and it helps to have a working knowledge of the entire shop. However, this is great way for CNC machinists to move up through the ranks in a company and attain a higher-paying and ranking position.