How to Become a

CNC Machine Operator

The complete career guide to be a CNC Machine Operator: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $38,720
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 17.5%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Dependable Daily Workload
    Career Attribute

CNC machine operators use computer numerical control (CNC) devices to produce tools, parts, and other products. While machines aid CNC machine operators in ensuring produced products meet specifications, the role of the operator is critical for ensuring quality of produced products.

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What is a CNC Machine Operator?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in CNC machine operator roles:

  • Input product specifications into CNC machines
  • Adjust speed settings and controls to ensure quality of produced products
  • Monitor CNC machines during part and product fabrication
  • Test and inspect produced products to ensure products meet specifications
  • Adhere to strict safety regulations to ensure safe operation of heavy machinery

A Day in the Life

On the job, a CNC machine operator is responsible for using computer numerical control (CNC) devices to produce tools, parts, and other products. CNC machinery is highly versatile, and operators are able to create complex shapes out of materials such as plastic and metal. While the machines are extremely useful, only a skilled operator will be able to use their knowledge to make sure the shaping of the product is completed efficiently and effectively.

To optimize production, a CNC machine operator must make a number of adjustments based on what is being produced. Factors such as the type of material being used, speed settings, and other controls can affect the overall production quality, but an experienced CNC machine operator will identify the right settings to maintain peak performance. The CNC machine operators will make random checks to ensure that quality is not compromised.

Most CNC machine operators work at a production facility for a corporate or large-scale producer and are capable of using a selection of machines at every stage of the process, from schematic creation to fabrication to end product quality assurance. Automation may be reducing the overall number of CNC machine operation jobs available in the United States, but there is certainly still a market for talented operators and their unique abilities.

Typical Work Schedule

CNC machine operators generally work full-time schedules, but shift work is often required. While some CNC machine operators may perform their roles during normal business hours, those that work in heavy production facilities that produce products 24/7 may be required to work second, third, or weekend shifts.

Typical Employers

CNC machine operators typically work in manufacturing across a variety of industries, including tool manufacturers, auto parts manufacturers, and machine shops.

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How To Become a CNC Machine Operator

Those considering a career as a CNC machine operator may be surprised to learn that education and training for the job can last upwards of 5 years. Most future operators will start by earning a CNC machine operator certificate from a vocational school or technical college to learn the basics. From there, being hired as an apprentice into a production facility will provide the experience needed as the person completes their studies.

Areas of study for a CNC machine operator are focused primarily on math and computer science. Technical coding may not be needed as proprietary or industry-standard CAD/CAM software programs are frequently used, but proficiency with these programs can take years to achieve. In addition, future operators should also learn how to read and understand production schematics as well as complex instructions to avoid problems caused by miscommunication.

Because CNC machine operators handle all aspects of the machinery and production, on-the-job training is crucial to learn how to diagnose issues and their proper solutions. People who succeed as CNC machine operators typically display a number of qualities like a detail-oriented approach and the ability to endure repetitive movements without sacrificing accuracy or quality to keep production consistency at a high level.

CNC Machine Operator Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do CNC Machine Operator salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, CNC Machine Operator's can make an average annual salary of $38,720, or $19 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $29,510 or $14 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #552 Nationally for All Careers

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a CNC Machine Operator. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among CNC Machine Operators

  • 0.3%   Doctorate
  • 0.7%   Masters
  • 6.4%   Bachelors
  • 12.4%   Associates
  • 31.2%   College
  • 40.8%   High School
  • 8.2%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does CNC Machine Operator job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 26,000 jobs for a total of 174,800 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 17.5% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #82 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most CNC Machine Operators

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Machine shops 26,200 5,400 5%
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing 16,400 2,600 3%
Other fabricated metal product manufacturing 11,000 2,600 3%

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