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CNC Operator

CNC operators manage computer numeric controlled (CNC) equipment from setup to operation, producing parts and tools from different resources including metal and plastic. They’re tasked with monitoring machinery, inspecting finished products, and leading test runs.

The CNC operator handles the computer numerical control machine. Maintaining, setting, and adjusting the machine are all part of the operator’s daily tasks. This includes knowledge of the software and hardware of the machine. The CNC operator processes materials and performs functions like drilling, cutting, and shaping steel.

Similar title: CNC Machinist

CNC Operator

What does a CNC Operator do?

CNC Operator

A CNC operator programs and sets up a computer numerical control (CNC) machine to produce specific parts and components, usually in an industrial setting. CNC operators must inspect and maintain equipment, ensure safety standards are met and produce accurate components based on the designs they receive. CNC operators are also in charge of calibrating machines and performing quality assurance inspections on the final product.

A CNC operator sets up and maintains equipment in a process. They ensure systems run smoothly with little input from anyone else on site. CNC Operators must have an eye for detail and strong working knowledge of their machines’ capabilities. In addition, they’re responsible if something goes wrong while running a processing plant.

  • Manage Machinery

    CNC operators prepare and operate machines to perform tasks such as grinding. They must understand specifications of the task at hand and the desired result by reading blueprints, mechanical drawings, etc.

  • Safety Knowledge

    These operators must follow strict safety and quality guidelines when operating CNC machines. They also participating in safety training classes and keeping up-to-date on new safety guidelines.

  • Quality Assurance

    They must ensure the CNC machine operates in accordance with the guidelines of the company. They also ensure that results of machining process align with client expectations.

  • Problem Solving Skills

    CNC operators must identify problem areas and communicate logistics issues that arise in the process of creating a part. They supervise the machines while they execute the tasks and make any necessary adjustments to produce a better result.

CNC Machinist

Computer numerically controlled (CNC) machinists develop and operate computer and mechanically controlled tools to produce other instruments and apparatus. They control the machinery that produces the speed and cuts to create a specific part. CNC machinists program CNC machinery to determine the rate and cuts of production. 


The role of a CNC machinist is more advanced than that of an operator. Machinists can accurately machine parts to print using a variety of machines and methods. They rely on their skills and expertise, which are often obtained through an accredited trade school or many years of on-the-job experience.

CAD Drafter

CAD drafter will utilize computer-aided design systems to create technical drawings for architectural glass products.


CAD drafters must have Auto-CAD (2005 or later) training certificate or two years of verified work experience from previous employer(s). They must possess the ability to read and interpret contract drawings and customer sketches as well as ability to create and modify drawings in CAD/CAM software.

CNC Programmer

Create and edit CNC programs that support the machining of large-scale, complex, precision metal components fabricated on multiple-axis CNC milling & turning machining centers (CAM file generation, post-processor machine code generation).


Perform technical data package review of components that require fabrication (CAD model & engineering drawing validation). Perform machining process development & optimization (part setup/fixturing, machining strategy/order of operations, tool selection, speed/feed process parameter selection).

CAD/3DP Operator Specialist

CAD/3DP operator specialists perform complex and advanced design and drafting functions in support of development projects utilizing appropriate technology or tools such CAD/CAM/CATAI, etc.


They must interface with multiple internal engineering teams, documentation function and other departments as well as external vendors. Participates in and executes operations of a 3D Printing lab, including maintenance of machines delivery of parts.



The estimated total pay for a CNC operator is $67,541 per year.

0 - 1 Years

CNC operators with 0 - 1 years experience earn on average:

$69,942 per year
7- 9 Years

CNC operators with 7 - 9 years experience earn on average:

$74,600 per year
4 - 6 Years

CNC operators with 4 - 6 years experience earn on average:

$72,910 per year
10+ Years

CNC operators with 10+ years experience earn on average:

$77,534 - $80,485 per year
1 - 3 Years

CNC operators with 1 - 3 years experience earn on average:

$71,612 per year

These are 2021 national salary averages and may fluctuate based on location.

What does the workplace for a CNC Operator look like?

Factories where CNC operators work are often in operation day and night, which requires varying shifts and working groups.

Since CNC operators usually work in industrial environments, they must be prepared to use safety equipment and protective wear correctly and stand for long periods of time while operating machinery. Some manufacturing environments may be noisy and potentially distracting, and CNC operators need to be able to perform routine tasks repetitively throughout the workday.

Even though CNC operators work with large, complex machinery, if a CNC operator follows safety guidelines and works according to protocol, there is no real reason to fear workplace injury. However, this is why it is important for CNC operators to be careful, pay attention to detail and follow workplace regulations.

How to Become a CNC Operator?

CNC Operator

Most operators have at least a high school diploma, however, a completed apprenticeship or vocational training is preferred. Successful operators possess excellent mathematical and analytical skills and have great manual dexterity.

Basic training usually doesn’t take more than a week or two. Some employers, especially in large or specialized industries, may require a diploma in electronics engineering or a relevant mechanical field.

CNC operators can obtain several different kinds of certification, depending on the industry they work in and their specific area of expertise. Possible certifications include Certified CNC Setup Programmer, Fundamentals of Metal Fabrication certification and Precision Sheet Metal Operator, just to name a few. Certifications show employers that you have experience and proven skills in CNC operation.

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