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CNC Operator Salary and Job Description

September 12, 2022 | Career Blog

If you have experience working in a warehouse, factory, or manufacturing setting, one of the more common job titles you might have heard about is CNC operator. However, because employees in this role work with different machines and can have various requirements on a company-by-company basis, it can be difficult to grasp what a CNC machine operator does. Even more challenging is unlocking the typical CNC operator salary.

Getting a better feel for the job can help you decide if a CNC operator or CNC machinist position might be right for you as you advance in your career.

What Exactly is a CNC Operator?

CNC is the standard abbreviation for computer numerical control. Essentially, CNC machines utilize pre-programmed software to send signals to tools and other machines, which then work to form products.

These tools can include drills, lathes, grinders, or routers, amongst other tools. The computer numeric controlled tools and machines and the signals sent by the CNC machines will vary depending on the product being created.

Several people oversee each control machine. This group includes CNC operators and set-up operators who ensure that the CNC machine and its connected tools have everything needed to run correctly.

CNC operator is usually an entry-level position, making it a good option for anyone interested in the work but does not have a lot of experience in the field. Operators can learn how each machine works from the ground up, providing valuable experience and knowledge to help you move up the career ladder.

What Does a CNC Operator Do?

There are two main CNC operator jobs.

1. The first job is called a CNC operator. This entry-level position is a fantastic way to get a feel for the machines. It doesn’t require special knowledge or skills, and most CNC operator positions only call for a high school diploma.

CNC operators are responsible for loading stock materials – such as metal, wood, or plastic – into the tools and machines attached to and controlled by the main CNC machine. A CNC operator might also be called to run or guide certain tools or parts, or they might be asked to oversee the production of the products and ensure that the quality is up to standard.

CNC operators are often detail-oriented and have a mechanical aptitude. They’ll need to check that everything is running smoothly, and they’ll have to pay attention to any areas that aren’t working quite the way they should.

CNC operators will sometimes be asked to calibrate the machinery, which makes strong math skills a plus. They may also need to keep a record of the tools used, procedures followed, and scheduled maintenance. Many CNC operators are also tasked with cleaning machines and making small repairs.

2. The second CNC operator position is known as a set-up operator. A set-up operator’s job is to load the programs that run the tools. Set-up operators often have a few more years of experience than standard CNC operators.

Set-up operators will also choose different settings depending on the requirements for the project. They might test the machine’s efficiency or try out a new program, and they can sometimes adjust the machine to increase efficiency.

If something breaks or isn’t working correctly on the CNC machine, it’s the set-up operator’s responsibility to figure out what is going wrong and how to fix it. They can then make repairs themselves or delegate the work to the CNC operators or other specialists.

– For many job openings, you might see a CNC machinist. This is usually a different term for a CNC set-up operator. However, many manufacturers also employ CNC machinist programmers. 

The role of a machinist programmer is to figure out how to make the specific product and decide what programming or software should be implemented to get the job done. CNC machinist programmers write the program, and they’ll usually choose the necessary tools and figure out what the fees for the project will be.

How Much Can I Earn as a CNC Operator?

The U.S. national average for a CNC operator salary is about $20 per hour, although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) salary estimates indicate that the average is closer to $22 to $25 per hour.

The average salary can vary from state to state or even from city to city. However, a good range for a CNC operator salary is between $37,510 and $50,630 per year.

CNC machinist salaries are generally higher than CNC operator salaries, as this position requires more experience. According to BLS, most CNC machinists or set-up operators make between $23 and $29 per hour. This means that set-up operators make an average salary of between $47,730 and $60,040 per year.

CNC machinist programmers have an even higher salary than an average CNC operator or machinist. According to BLS, the national average for a CNC machinist programmer is about $60,780 to $76,540 a year.

Is CNC a Good Career Path?

People who start as CNC operators can often quickly move up to a CNC set-up operator position. From there, the path to a CNC machinist programmer position is relatively straightforward.

Many CNC operators and machinists also go on to become managers. Learning how the CNC machines work and getting a feel for the entire business from the ground up creates a strong knowledge base. This experience can be incredibly useful for managers and often leads people to higher-paying managerial positions.

If you’re looking for a new machine job, such as a CNC operator, consider finding a new job opportunity through our staffing agency, Allegiance Staffing. Temporary positions are an excellent way to gain new skills and explore different career options, and they can also lead to permanent positions.

Take a moment to check out our Jobs Board to view available positions in your area. Also, you can contact Allegiance Staffing to learn more about different temporary options available in your industry. Our expert team is ready to answer any questions you might have about CNC operator jobs!