how to become a CNC operator

How to Become a CNC Machinist

CNC machinists, also called CNC operators, are essential members of the manufacturing team. These professionals help to produce the goods we use every day—cutting and shaping raw materials into finished products using computer-operated machinery. If you wish to work in a creative, cutting-edge field driven by technology, becoming a CNC machinist is a smart move.

Becoming a CNC machinist offers great reward, especially in Connecticut. Connecticut is filled with leading manufacturers like Pratt & Whitney, Medtronic, Collins Aerospace Systems, and Electric Boat Corporation. Within these manufacturing companies and beyond, there is a need for computer-numerical control machines and operators to produce high-quality parts. It is no wonder that CNC machinists in Connecticut are some of the highest paid in the United States. While, on average, the machinist salary averages about $49,000 in the United States – Machinists in Connecticut earn close to $56,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So, how do you land this rewarding and high-paying job? Keep reading to learn how to become a CNC machinist, with training, education, and licensing requirements detailed below.

How to Become a CNC Machinist

1. Complete a CNC training program.

Today, it is expected that CNC machinists complete some postsecondary training before entering their career. While some manufacturers may offer on-the-job training, most employers prefer to hire machinists who have an understanding of CNC machining and programming, geometric dimensioning, blueprint reading, and other basic technical skills.

As a result, aspiring CNC machinists should find a postsecondary program to complete their training. A college-level education will position you for the greatest job opportunities, higher earning potential, and will help you stand out to employers. While there are no formal education requirements, you have the option to pursue:

The educational program you choose will depend on your ability to commit to school, as well as your career aspirations. A certificate in CNC machining is a great option for those looking to become a CNC machinist in just a matter of months. However, an associate degree can position you with a higher-level of knowledge and experience, and further leadership opportunities in the field.

CNC machining training is interactive and very hands-on. Forget falling asleep at your desk – students are trained while learning in the classroom, so there is never a dull moment! At Goodwin University, for example, students are given the opportunity to practice on state-of-the-art CNC 3-axis milling and turning machines. No matter the program, you’ll have a flexible class schedule to work around any professional or personal commitments.

2. Hone your skills in CNC.

Are you cut out to be a CNC machinist? CNC machinists boast a wide range of technical, creative, and analytical skillsets. In order to thrive as a CNC machinist, you should have the following CNC skills under your belt:

  • Ability to read and interpret technical blueprints and models
  • A vast knowledge of metalworking processes
  • Experience with CAD/CAM technologies as well as computerized machinery
  • Manual dexterity, in order to ensure precise and accurate production
  • Ability to operate mechanical machinery, including lathes, mills, grinders, laser machines, wire electrical discharge machines, and more
  • Ability to set up, program, and operate CNC machinery
  • Physical strength and stamina, as machinists may need to stand for extended periods and perform repetitive movements
  • Mathematical skills to interpret specifications and measurements

Of course, most of these skills can be learned in a CNC training program, where you can also gain hands-on experience with industry equipment like CNC lathes and mills. In addition to the above, CNC machinists should have skills in critical-thinking, teamwork, and communication, as they often work together with other machinists and manufacturing team members to solve problems.

No matter the program you select, you’ll gain a comprehensive, working knowledge of manufacturing processes, materials, and manufacturing mathematics. You’ll also become a master of technical drawings, specifications, and computer-aided machining.

3. Earn professional certification.

Aspiring and active CNC machinists have the option to pursue certification in the field. While professional certification is not required, it can qualify CNC machinists for more job prospects, higher pay, and advancement opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Completing a certification program, though optional, allows machinists and tool and die makers to demonstrate competency and may be helpful for advancement.”

One of the best-known credentialing organizations for CNC machinists is the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), which offers certifications in CNC machine operation, CAD/CAM technology, and other relevant competencies.

Graduates of a certificate or associate degree program at Goodwin University are eligible to pursue NIMS certifications, as well as nationally recognized, portable credentials from the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC).

Becoming a CNC Machinist and Landing a Career

After completing postsecondary education, pursuing certification, and developing your skillsets, you will be able to take your pick from the many exciting career options that come from a CNC operator school. These CNC careers include positions in:

  • CNC Machine Programming
  • CNC Machine Set-up
  • CNC Machinist (Lathe and Mill)
  • CNC Operator (Lathe and Mill)
  • Manual Machine Operator

Start Your CNC Machining Career Path Today

On top of leading CNC machine programs, Goodwin University has an incredible Career Services team to help graduates find careers they love. Additionally, Goodwin partners with an extensive network of manufacturing employers in the state of Connecticut, to help connect students with their future careers.

Learn more about the CNC machinist programs at Goodwin University and see how we can help you get a career in this exciting and growing manufacturing field. Contact us at 1-800-889-3282 or visit us online today.