CNC Programmer: Education and Job Training Requirements for Becoming a CNC Programmer

Published Sep 03, 2009

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CNC Programmers design the computer programs that run complex industrial machines. CNC Programmers feed information to the controlling computer, which in turn tells the machines what to do.

CNC Programming Career Summary

All construction industries, from automobiles to aviation, require CNC programmers to cut and form different types of materials, typically metals and plastics. CNC, which stands for Computer Numerically Controlled, refers to the computers that run industrial machinery. A CNC programmer designs the program that cuts the materials to predetermined specifications. They use three-dimensional computer design programs where they input complex formulas to direct the machine's processes. They determine what machine speed to use, what to cut and where, and what to do with the materials afterwards. CNC programmers feed this information into a computer-controlled machine, which then follows the programmer's instructions.

Education Required to Become a CNC Programmer

The level of education required to become a CNC Programmer varies depending on the level of the job. Entry-level CNC programmers require no formal training and are often taught all the necessary skills on-the-job. More advanced positions do require formal training, most commonly a degree in engineering. Additionally, CNC Programmers should have extensive familiarity with algebra and trigonometry, some physics and skills in computer programming, CAD software, blueprint reading and shop. According to the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) curriculum standards, a fully trained CNC Programmer will have competency in:

Metal -forming Press brakes
Die making Screw machining
Machining Mold making
Laser cutting Stamping
Machine building CNC and NC punch press
Slide forming Machining maintenance

Job Training and Certifications Required to Become a CNC Programmer

No specific certification is needed to become a CNC Programmer. Employers expect CNC Programmers to have familiarity with computers, computer programming, electronics, machine tools and metalworks. The National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) has begun circulating a standard curriculum for CNC Programmers. Students completing the curriculum can take a practical and written exam that, if passed, provides them with a professional certification.

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