Setup, operate, and monitor computer-controlled machines or robots to work on metal or plastic work pieces.

Are you a natural with computers? If so, this job might be for you. As a CNC machinist, you'll run computer-controlled machining tools that are accurate down to a few micrometers. It's all about refining materials for specific, essential purposes inside machines. You’ll be a leader on the production line, working with large machines to produce the highest-quality product possible.

CNC machinists work with computer-numerical controlled (CNC) machines, or machines that are directed by a computer program. You’ll focus on the operation and maintenance of the machine, from starting it to unloading the finished product. The screens and gauges on the machine will let you know if the machine is working properly, and it will be up to you to adjust and fix it if necessary, so it’s important that you know how to read and understand the data from the machine. In order to fix the equipment, you’ll need to know the basic mechanics of its operation, and how to perform the right maintenance work. This means you’ll need steady hands, a good knowledge of tools, and some experience with mechanical technology.

Reading technical drawings and understanding other forms of instruction from engineers and designers is important. It’ll help you set up the machine and recognize improper function. As an essential part of the assembly line, you’ll need strong communication, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. You’ll report to a front line or production manager, but as one of the most senior employees on the floor, you’ll need to be able to handle problems and issues on your own.

CNC machinists need some kind of training and previous hands-on experience in order to land a job. Some are promoted from technician or machine operator positions, while others are hired from certification or training programs. You’ll need courses in technical drawings reading and mechanical technology in order to succeed in your job.

Also Known As:

CNC Machine Tool Operator, CNC Machine Operator, CNC Operations Technician, CNC Operators

“I love my job as a machinist because it allows me to use my hands and problem solving skills.” - Isaiah Sanchez, Geotech Environmental Equipment, Inc.

Critical Skills


  • Communication Skills
  • Gathering Information Through Observation
  • Inspecting Equipment
  • Making Decisions and Problem Solving
  • Team Player


  • Analytical Thinking
  • Communication - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking/Oral
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Equipment Maintenance
  • Judgement
  • Monitoring
  • Operations Monitoring
  • Problem Solving
  • System Analysis
  • Teamwork

Key Responsibilities

  • Design, program, operate, and maintain mass production machines
  • Test prototypes of mass production machines
  • Inspect and adjust cutting tools and work pieces
  • Interpret technical drawings, manuals, and other instruction materials
  • Calculate machine speed and feed ratios   
  • Measure and mark dimensions and reference points on material and work pieces
  • Read gauges, dials, and other data indicators to ensure proper function of machines
  • Mount, install, align and secure tools, attachments, fixtures, and work pieces

Special Requirements

  • Heavy Lifting Ability


  • Advanced Math
  • Machine Operations
  • Robotics

How to get this job

Take courses in machine operations, critical thinking.

Next Steps for this job

Get certifications or take courses in advanced math (geometry, trigonometry and algebra), project development, drafting, welding, technical drawing reading.

Specific job titles and duties vary by employer so check for details.