CNC Programmer: Career Outlook for CNC Programming Professions

Published Nov 01, 2009

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Individuals interested in computerized numerical control (CNC) programming careers can find opportunities as CNC programmers, CNC setup operators and CNC machinists. Formal training is required for CNC programmers and setup operators, while CNC machine operators typically learn on the job.

CNC Programmer Overview and Career Outlook

Computerized numerical control (CNC) programmers, also known as numerical tool and process control operators, use computer-aided design software to create coordinates for parts-building machines used in automobile, aerospace, aviation and shipbuilding industries. CNC Programmers learn through apprenticeships and may hold engineering degrees. They generally have technical training, as well. In 2008 CNC programmers earned a average of $46,360, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ( Between 2006-2016, CNC programmers are expected to experience an eight percent decline in employment.

CNC Setup Operator Overview and Career Outlook

CNC operators input the programmer's specifications into the machines, though they may have programming knowledge, too. CNC setup operators also prepare the machine by positioning the mechanical parts needed for the building process, and start the operation. CNC operators typically have vocational and apprenticeship training. With experience, CNC setup operators may advance to programmers, and some CNC operators may even be promoted to management positions. In the 2006-2016 decade, overall CNC employment opportunities are expected to decline four percent, notes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); however, job opportunities should continue to be available because of the lack of skilled workers in the field.

CNC Machine Operator Overview and Career Outlook

Individuals interested in entry-level CNC opportunities can become CNC machine operators, whose skills are generally acquired on the job. Once the machine has been started, CNC machine operators make sure that the machines do not seize up or overheat. For career advancement opportunities, CNC machine operators can earn professional certification by taking the National Institute of Metalworking's skills exam ( The BLS notes that in 2008, the average salary for a computer-controlled machine tool operator was $34,520 with the highest concentration of workers in Ohio, South Carolina, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan.

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