A Computer Numerical Control Operator (CNC operator) is an employee who runs a CNC machine, which is a device that can be programmed to complete large production jobs with very little waste. Thus, they are common in manufacturing and the aerospace industries, as these fields require machines can complete large-scale part orders relatively quickly. However, they do require a specialized CNC operator who is capable of programming and operating one of these complex devices.
Education and Job Description
Luckily for those who are considering a position like this, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there is a growing need for skilled operators who are able to competently run CNC machines. A trained technician should expect their job prospects in this field to remain relatively steady in the future, making it a worthy investment. Trained CNC operators in the United States have a median salary of approximately $40,000. Typically, operating CNC machines requires vocational schooling and an on-the-job apprenticeship. The technician will need to be able to both interpret the blueprints of work orders and be able to efficiently program a CNC machine to complete a certain task.
An operator may be in charge of a number of machines as part of their day-to-day position. The job will likely consist of reading the blueprints for orders, programming the machine to complete a certain task, performing a test run to ensure that the job will come out properly, and verifying that the completed task matches the original order. Operators will be expected to become experts at their machines, as they will be the first line of troubleshooting should any issues arise. The job requires both a proficiency with the technology of a CNC machine and some experience with manufacturing, as an operator may also need to perform basic mechanical repairs to machines over time. The tooling of a particular machine may need to be swapped in between jobs by the operator. As these machines will be used in a manufacturing environment, operators must be particularly mindful of the day-to-day safety precautions that are recommended for these machines.
While high school/vocational school are important requirements for a prospective CNC operator, there is little replacement for on-the-job experience. This kind of position is particularly well suited for those who have, for instance, worked previously as a machinist, or in a different manufacturing environment. Likewise, there is some training necessary to become proficient with the programming that goes into using a CNC machine. However, given the positive job prospects for these positions, it is likely a worthy investment.