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Skilled Trades and Industrial

How to Become a CNC Operator

With new advancements in machine technology and various job opportunities across industries like aeronautics and construction, CNC operators are able to find jobs in diverse fields. Learn more about the job, how to become one, and what CNC machinists earn.
Desiree Sinkevich

Des Sinkevich

Are you looking for a career in the skilled trades that will provide challenge, stability, and good pay? If so, becoming a CNC operator could be right up your alley. With new advancements in machine technology and various job opportunities across industries like aeronautics and construction, CNC operators are able to find jobs in diverse fields. In this blog post we’ll explore what it takes to become a successful CNC operator—including necessary skills, qualifications and educational requirements—so you can jumpstart your journey into this lucrative trade.

What is a CNC machinist?

A CNC machinist, or CNC operator, is a skilled individual who operates and maintains computer numerical control (CNC) machines. These machines use pre-programmed software to shape and cut materials such as metal, plastic, and wood. The role of a CNC operator is crucial in the manufacturing industry, as they need to understand the technical specifications of the machine and programming codes. They also need to be able to identify and troubleshoot problems that may arise during the production process. CNC machinists must have an eye for detail and a strong understanding of mathematics, as they need to interpret technical drawings and perform precise calculations.


Read more: 10 Reasons to Become an HVAC Tech


What does a CNC operator do?

CNC operators hold vital roles in modern-day manufacturing and engineering industries. They operate Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines that produce precise and accurate components and products, such as aircraft parts, car parts, medical implants, and even musical instruments.


As a CNC operator, their responsibilities include

  • Interpreting blueprints and specifications
  • Inputting program instructions into the computer
  • Testing and adjusting the machine’s settings
  • Monitoring machine performance
  • Ensuring that the product meets the required standards


This job requires attention to detail, technical skills, and the ability to work with a variety of materials.


Read more: 10 Skilled Trade Jobs in Demand for 2024


CNC machinist certification

Being a certified CNC machinist is a valuable asset in the manufacturing industry. CNC machinist certification requires a combination of classroom study and hands-on training, which prepares individuals with the necessary skills to operate these complex machines. Certified machinists possess a broad range of skills, including programming, operating, and troubleshooting CNC machines.


While not necessarily required to get a job in the field, gaining CNC-specific certifications can help you stand out when applying for jobs or promotions. Common CNC operator certifications include

  • CNC set-up programmer
  • Certified journeyworker
  • NIMS certified machinist


How long does it take to become a CNC operator?

The time it takes to become a CNC operator can vary depending on the path you take to get there. Depending on the training program you choose, it can take anywhere from a few months to a year to complete your studies. From there, you’ll likely want to find an entry-level job that will allow you to gain hands-on experience.


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Is CNC operator a good career?

CNC operators play a vital role in many industries, from manufacturing to engineering. Because it requires a certain level of skill, it can pay decently well. The average yearly salary for a CNC operator was $47,940 in 2022.


Read more: 10 Jobs You Can Get With an Online Degree


Become a CNC operator online with Penn Foster

If you’re interested in taking the next steps toward becoming a CNC operator, Penn Foster can help! Through our flexible, self-paced program, you’ll learn the skills and knowledge to confidently prepare for this new career – all from home! To learn more about how the program works or to get started, contact our expert Admissions Specialists today at 1-888-427-6500!


Read more: Construction Trades Careers and How to Find the Right One for You


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