How Do I Become a CNC Machine Operator?

Dan Cavallari

CNC machines are more formally known as computer numeric control machines because they are operated by computers that must be programmed before operation. You can become a CNC machine operator who is trained to operate such machinery, which is used to cut various types of metals, plastics, and even wood. You will probably need to complete a high school education or equivalent qualification if you intend to work as a CNC machine operator, though this is not always a requirement. You will, however, need to possess basic to moderate math skills, basic communications skills, and a familiarity with computers.

A CNC machine.
A CNC machine.

Most of the skills you will need in order to become a CNC machine operator can be learned on the job, so you can take part in an apprenticeship program in order to enter the field. An apprenticeship will generally last anywhere from one to five years, and during this time, you will work under the guidance and supervision of a more experienced CNC operator. You will be required to pass certification exams in some cases, and other requirements may exist depending on the company for which you work or the region of the world in which you live. After the apprenticeship is complete and you pass any relevant certification exams, you can become a CNC machine operator who works independently.

Extensive training is required to become an expert on CNC machine operation.
Extensive training is required to become an expert on CNC machine operation.

It is also possible to enroll in a post-secondary training program at a technical school, college, or university. These programs will help you learn the skills and techniques necessary to get a job as a CNC machine operator before you apply to any job positions. This is advantageous if you cannot find any employers willing to hire you with no experience, but keep in mind that such training programs can be expensive. You should expect to spend up to two years completing such programs, which means you will have to devote the appropriate amount of time and money to the cause.

Some CNC machine operators need hands-on experience with computer-aided drafting software.
Some CNC machine operators need hands-on experience with computer-aided drafting software.

Once you become a CNC machine operator, there will usually be opportunities for career advancement, especially if you take part in additional training. You can, for example, take computer aided drafting, or CAD, training courses that will give you a foundation for designing parts that can be made with CNC machines. Managerial opportunities may also arise within your company, allowing you to earn more money and take on more responsibility. Learning additional machining techniques can also help you branch out and grow as an employee.

CNC machine operators may need to know how to read and understand CAD drafted plans.
CNC machine operators may need to know how to read and understand CAD drafted plans.

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Discussion Comments

whiteplane

Anyone looking for stable, well paying, long term employment should consider getting training as a CNC operator. This is very in demand skill with a lot of applications in modern industrial processes. If you have the skills, you almost have your choice of jobs.

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