what is a CNC operator?

A CNC operator works in the metalworking industry, producing machine parts using a computer numerical control machine. As a CNC operator, you operate CNC machines and routers and employ computer programming skills to sculpt and finish component prototypes. This job makes you a critical member of any industrial engineering team. Due to the nature of the work, CNC operators undertake rigorous training to accurately operate their machines and maintain the required high-quality standards.

CNC operator tasks

CNC operators work on machinery to cut, sculpt, and finish machine component prototypes. You can make anything from car parts to metal tools and hardware supplies. Additionally, you assign quality control checks from time to time and report any issues to CNC programmers to make necessary machine adjustments. Typically, CNC operators work in a factory setting, and job responsibilities differ depending on where you are in your career.

CNC operator industries

While CNC operators generally work in the metalworking industry, your specialty is used in different industries. For example, a CNC operator makes parts for the automotive, hardware supply, and housing industries.

Would working as a CNC operator suit your interest in machinery and engineering? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a CNC operator role.

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average CNC operator salary

Being a CNC operator lets you enjoy a higher salary than some other industrial jobs. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), CNC operators have an average hourly wage of $22.23. If you work a typical schedule, this means you end up with an annual wage of around $46,240. Your salary will vary depending on what industry you work in. With an average salary of $39,030, the transportation manufacturing industry has the lowest salaries. The highest average CNC salaries are in the petroleum industry which has an average wage of $60,080.

factors that affect CNC operator pay

Your salary relies on various factors. For instance, relevant work experience determines the compensation package. With minimal experience, you earn an entry-level wage while senior CNC operators with extensive experience in the industry demand higher pay. Your educational achievements and additional qualifications boost your compensation package. Training to gain specialized skills or work with specific CNC machines also improves your salary prospects. While CNC operators work traditional shifts, there are opportunities for you to work extra hours. You will have higher take-home pay if you have the willingness to work overtime or during unpopular times like evenings and weekends.

Would you like to know what a CNC operator earns? Where the highest salaries are paid for a CNC operator? Then check out this salary page and find out all about the salary of a CNC operator in the USA.

female machine operator
female machine operator

types of CNC operator

CNC operators can specialize in different aspects of operating computer numerical control machines. Some types include:

  • CNC programmer: as a CNC programmer, you study numerical control programming languages and use your expertise to prepare instructions that the CNC machines can read and perform. Your job involves reading blueprints, selecting tools, and writing computer programs.
  • CNC set-up operator: as a CNC set-up operator, you load the program and prepare the machines for operation. You select and set up the tools, test the program and ensure everything works as expected.
  • junior CNC operator: as a junior CNC operator, you are the button pusher. That means you load stock materials to the machines and run parts.

working as a CNC operator

Working as a CNC operator is an excellent starting point for a career in various fields, especially mechanical engineering and industrial manufacturing. Read on to find out what your responsibilities and workspace will look like.


CNC operator skills and education

One of the great things about this job is that it's a very easy field to enter. You don't need to spend years doing schoolwork or apprenticeships to become a CNC operator.

machine operator
machine operator

FAQs about working as a CNC operator

Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about CNC operators.

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