How Do I Become a CNC Operator?

An aspiring CNC operator must gain knowledge on how a machine is operated.
A prospective CNC operator must learn to read blueprints.
An industrial laser cutting machine is typically controlled through a CNC interface.
Many CNC operators find work at factories or businesses in their local area.
A CNC operator typically needs to learn computer-aided design.
A plotter is a special type of CNC machine that can be used to cut vinyl, plot maps and print accurate reference designs.
A CNC machine.
Article Details
  • Written By: Grace A. Zuccarello
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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Computer numerically controlled (CNC) operators program computer-based machines to perform a variety of functions in numerous industries, namely in the scientific and automotive fields. The machinery is typically used to perform repetitive operations, such as drilling and cutting, and computers must be programmed to drive them. In order to become a CNC operator, you must posses a thorough knowledge of the sciences and computer programming.

If you're interested in this field, you'll need to take many science, mathematics, and physics courses. You should also study blueprint drafting, machine operations, and metal and/or plastic working. Often, an individual must have a knowledge of computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software.

Assembly lines were updated and rebuilt with numerically controlled machines beginning in the 1940s and 1950s. Their purpose was to take the recurring functions performed and to update them so they could be quickly analyzed and carried out by computers. The information did not need to be individually logged or handled, but instead become a part of a long tape that read the information quicker and more efficient than before. The programmers and overseers of the individual functions that needed to be added into the machines became known as CNC operators.


Today, the main purpose of a CNC operator is to take machine blueprints and to program the code and information into the computer performing the task. One machine can be responsible for many individual tasks, and it is the operator's job to make sure that the individual steps are programmed correctly. He or she also looks for the most time and cost efficient methods of programming.

After high school, you'll usually need to attend vocational school or college in order to become a CNC operator. Expertise in this field is learned through the rigorous and intense study of specific aspects of one topic. Students must gain a thorough knowledge of how the machine is operated and how that operation can be translated into computer coding. For example, a CNC operator who works with laser cutting machinery should study both the laser cutting machine and the various methods by which it can be done.

After the proper training is completed, you can begin your path to become a CNC operator by researching local factories and businesses in your area. In addition, there are numerous websites geared specifically for individuals seeking jobs in the field. Additional certifications, such as being able to set-up and program the machines, can also help an individual's credentials.


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Post 3

This definitely sounds like a job that you would have to go to a CNC operator course for. Just reading through the article, I doubt anyone could pick up all the skills necessary to do this job from on the job training. You probably need hours in a classroom before you're qualified to work as a CNC operator.

It sounds like it would be worthwhile though. From what I understand, most people that have computer programming type jobs get paid pretty well. They also seem to enjoy a lot of job security, because computers don't seem to be going away anytime soon!

Post 2

@JaneAir - CNC machine operator jobs definitely sound they mix science and engineering with practical applications. I think this would be a really good job for someone with a lot of problem solving skills.

Also, I would point to stuff like this when people say that advances in technology take away jobs from live people. Before there was computerized machinery, there was obviously no need for a CNC operator. So you might say machines created this job!

Post 1

I had no idea a job like these even existed. However, I shouldn't be surprised since pretty much everything is computerized these days. I think it makes a lot of sense that you have to know exactly how the machine you're programming works before you do any CNC machine programming.

When you program something to do a certain action, you pretty much have to instruct it on every little detail. Someone once told me a computer is only as "smart" as a programmer makes it, and I think that's true. So you definitely have to have firsthand knowledge about what a machine does (or is supposed to do) before you can program it.

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