How to Become a CNC Machinist in the US

 CNC Machinist in the US istock

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machinery, otherwise popularly known as a CNC machine, is a commanding piece of equipment that makes the life of an engineer or contractor a lot easier and allows the job to be completed more efficiently. It takes a lot of education and training to become a CNC machinist, but it does offer a tremendous career in the trades.

The Work

A CNC machinist needs to utilize the machine in order to produce precision parts or parts that come with complex details. Also, the machinist must use the machine to create an array of products, whether it’s for a medical device or a part for an automobile. A CNC machinist will understand first-hand how to set up a CNC machine to achieve the desired result.

Their responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Interpret the parts design from the cuts and shapes needed to perform the cuts.
  • Program the machine with the data incorporated from technical briefs.
  • Select the correct tools to complete the needed product ordered by the client.
  • Plan the best route to take for each machine operation to efficiently finish the job.
  • Choose the best cutting speeds and tolerance levels.
  • Carry, monitor and manage the operations of the CNC machine.
  • Performing routine maintenance of any and all CNC machines to ensure they work.
  • Ensure that the work meets the quality and technical standards of the project’s client(s).
  • Work with grinding, cutting and milling machines; lathes; and drills and presses.
  • Troubleshoot CNC machine problems and remedy machine adjustments when needed.

Salary & Hours


Median Hourly Wage

Median Annual Salary

United States




A CNC machinist will work a standard 40-hour week, but professionals may be required to work in the evenings or on weekends in order to fulfill assignments and meet deadlines put forward by clients. Some additional hours may be needed to maintain the CNC machines.


The position of a CNC machinist will require these professionals to have the following skills:

  • Strong mathematical, computer and practical skills.
  • Impeccable ability to read engineering blueprints, drawings and instructions.
  • Intense concentration, focus and dedication to work with elevated level of accuracy.
  • The will to work independently as opposed to be regularly supervised.
  • An adequate physique and a desire to perform the operations flexibly.


Prior to being hired by a public or private firm, it is imperative to have post-secondary education in any field relating to engineering. In addition, it is crucial to maintain a high-level understanding of mathematics, computer science and technology. It should be noted, though, that some companies will take an adult with just a high school education, but who has a desire to learn and is quick to learn anything – at the same time, they will ask these individuals to go to night school for geometry, trigonometry and algebra lessons.

The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) is a highly credited organization in the U.S. that offers the primary levels of certification. In addition, according to CNC Concepts, there are community colleges across the U.S. that offer integral training, certification and diploma programs relating to CNC machinery.

On-the-job training will be offered to all prospective employees, but companies will likely seek out professionals with proper certification to avoid training costs, such as entry-level programming and operating of CNC equipment or mastery of CNC milling and turning.

Career Prospects

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), machinists can expect to see employment opportunities to grow by approximately seven percent between the years 2012 and 2022. Although this is lower than average for national occupations, there is still a strong demand for skilled-trades and domestic manufacturing. The employment potential could be endless in the coming years.

A CNC machinist will work in a manufacturing setting for 40 hours per week. It can be a difficult, dirty and strenuous (mentally and physically) job, but it’s a field that will not vanish anytime soon. Any employment position that involves rigorous engineering training and requires mathematical skills will always be in demand in the United States.

So if you feel that you have the correct skills and attributes necessary for the role then perhaps this is the career for you.