WHAT DO COMPUTER NUMERIC CONTROLLED (CNC) MACHINISTS DO?
CNC machinists work with computer numeric controlled (CNC) heavy machinery from setup to operation to produce parts and tools from metal, plastic or other materials. Computer numeric controlled equipment is precision machinery that cuts, grinds, or drills into the material. CNC machinists make adjustments to the machine to control speed, material feed and path of the cut, as well as make sure the machines are set up properly, working well, and producing quality product. CNC machinists make sure their machines are working at full capacity, are stocked with needed materials, well-maintained and perform periodic checks on output. They look at the finished product to ensure it is defect-free and ready for the next step in production.
CNC machinists may work on many different machines, or specialize on one complex machine. They are builders, fabricators, mechanics, craftsmen and quality assurance all wrapped into one.
HOW MUCH DO CNC MACHINISTS MAKE?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the median hourly income for machinists in 2010 was $19.19, or $39,910 annually.
WHAT ARE THE EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS?
CNC machinists can gain skills through vocational schools, technical colleges or community college programs, or apprenticeships. Typically, it takes 4-5 years of combined education and on-the-job training to become fully trained. To excel, machinists need many years of experience and must show aptitude for math, problem-solving and computer skills. Certification is available.
JOB SKILLS AND REQUIREMENTS
- Math Skills: Good math skills will help CNC machinists understand complex instructions, how schematics work and make sure items are designed and built correctly.
- Problem Solving Skills: CNC machinists will need to know why machines are not at peak performance, how to increase output and how to fix errors.
- Attention to Detail: CNC machinists will work with precision equipment. Being off by millimeters could be a critical error. Keen attention to detail is required.
- Mechanical and Technical Skills: Machines controlled by computers will need operators who understand CAD/CAM technology.
- Stamina: CNC machinists often work long hours doing repetitive movements.
THE FUTURE OF CNC MACHINISTS
Job growth will be slow for all machinists and machine operators over the next few years, according to the BLS. Mostly due to continued automation in the shop and foreign competition. But there will still be a need of machine operators with a broad range of skills that can work anywhere in a shop, and your best bet for employment is to learn as many skills as possible and not specialize on any one machine.