A CNC set-up machinist knows the ins and outs of particular machines and can program, load, and operate them to manufacture various products.

Are you good with computers? Interested in building stuff, too? The job of CNC set-up machinist combines computer software and real, hands-on manufacturing in a leadership position on the production floor. You’ll work with other machinists, technicians, and assemblers as part of a larger advanced production process.

As a CNC set-up machinist, your everyday responsibilities revolve around computer-numerical controlled (CNC) manufacturing equipment. There are many different kinds of CNC machines, and you may be assigned to one machine or to a variety, depending on the size of the company. These manufacturing machines are controlled by computer software programs, and you’ll need to be able to read, write, and understand computer programming code in order to perform your job duties. As a CNC set-up machinist, you’ll input the program into the machine, checking for errors and fixing them if necessary. Next, you’ll read technical drawings in order to learn how the machine and raw materials need to be positioned. The final step will be to run the machine, making sure that it operates properly and that the finished product has no defects.

You’ll report any issues to a production manager, but you’ll also work with machinists, programmers, and engineers in order to create the most efficient process possible. You’ll need strong communication, reading of technical drawings, and computer skills, as well as physical strength and endurance.

Potential employers will want you to have experience working on a production floor, specifically with CNC equipment. You may start off as a CNC machinist, or look for courses on reading of technical drawings and computer programming at your local community college. An apprenticeship is a great way to get the hands-on training you’ll need.

Also Known As:

Forging Machine Setters, Machine Tool Setters/Operators, Prepress Technician, Metal and Plastic Setter

“What I find interesting about my job as a machinist is there is never a day same as the last.” - Isaiah Sanchez, Geotech Environmental Equipment, Inc.

Critical Skills


  • Design Processes
  • Manufacturing Processes
  • Quality Assurance
  • Quality Control Analysis — Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance
  • Safety


  • Adaptability
  • Analytical Thinking
  • Communication - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking/Oral
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Equipment Selection
  • Judgement
  • Operations Analysis
  • Problem Solving
  • Quality Assurance
  • Quality Control Analysis — Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance
  • System Analysis

Key Responsibilities

  • Read and write G-Code
  • Check posted programs for errors and performance
  • Troubleshoot a solution and make the necessary edits to program files
  • Set up and operate machines
  • Find part zero
  • Make adjustments to offsets, tool lengths, programs, and controls
  • Fabricate fixtures and other work holding devices
  • Hold tolerances as specified on drawings
  • Remove workpieces from machines, and check to ensure that they conform to specifications
  • Observe machine operation and adjust controls to ensure function
  • Position and secure work pieces on machines
  • Study technical drawings, layouts, sketches, or work orders to determine machine set up
  • Compute dimensions, tolerances, and angles of workpieces or machines

Special Requirements

  • Critical Thinking
  • Heavy Lifting Ability


  • Advanced Math
  • Machine Operations
  • Problem Solving
  • Robotics

How to get this job

Start with CNC certifications or courses. Entry level position for this job is a CNC Machinist.

Next Steps for this job

Take advanced math (algebra, trigonometry) courses, robotics courses. Shadow mechanics or machine workers.

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