Is Being a CNC Machinist a Good Career Choice? Exploring the Pros and Cons

Are you someone who loves to create and build things on your own? Do you have an eye for detail and enjoy working with machines? If you answered yes to these questions, then you might want to consider becoming a CNC machinist. But is a CNC machinist a good career choice? You might be surprised to know that this occupation offers a wide range of benefits that make it an excellent career choice for anyone who enjoys working in precision and is looking for a stable and well-paying job.

In today’s fast-paced world, automation and technology are becoming increasingly essential, making it an exciting time to be a CNC machinist. CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines are widely used in manufacturing because they provide accurate results with minimal human intervention. Therefore, as a CNC machinist, you will be in high demand in various industries, from aerospace and healthcare to automotive and electronics. Plus, CNC machinists make on average, a starting salary of around $60,000 yearly. That’s not too shabby!

But that’s not all. Being a CNC machinist also offers a lot of personal fulfillment. As a CNC machinist, you will be working on various projects that require critical thinking and problem-solving skills, meaning every day will be different. You will also have the satisfaction of seeing your work creating high-quality parts and equipment used by engineers, scientists, and other professionals worldwide. If you ask me, being a CNC machinist sounds like an exhilarating and rewarding career path for anyone who loves working with their hands and getting lost in the details.

Job Outlook for CNC Machinists

With the increasing demand for automation and precision, the job outlook for CNC machinists is very promising. As industries continue to embrace automation and the use of computer numerical control machines in their production processes, the demand for skilled machinists who can operate and maintain these machines is increasing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the employment of machinists, including CNC machinists, is projected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This growth is attributed to the increasing demand for machined products in various industries, such as aerospace, automotive, medical, and defense.

Factors Affecting Job Outlook for CNC Machinists

  • Industry demand – The job outlook for CNC machinists is heavily influenced by the demand for machined products in different industries. As certain industries grow or decline, so does the demand for machinists.
  • Automation – The increasing use of automation and computer numerical control machines may lead to a decrease in the number of jobs available for manual machinists. However, the need for skilled CNC machinists who can operate and maintain these machines is expected to remain high.
  • Skills and education – CNC machinists with advanced skills and education, such as those with experience working with complex machines and programming languages, are more likely to have better job prospects. Employers are looking for individuals who can handle advanced machines and understand the manufacturing process.

CNC Machinist Salary Expectations

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for machinists, including CNC machinists, was $44,420 in 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $64,140. CNC machinists with more advanced skills and experience may earn higher salaries.

CNC Machinist Training and Education

To become a CNC machinist, one must have a high school diploma or equivalent and undergo on-the-job training or complete a program at a technical or vocational school. Some employers may prefer candidates with an associate degree in a related field, such as manufacturing technology or engineering.

Program Duration Description
Short-term training program A few weeks to a few months Offers basic training on CNC machines and programming languages
Technical or vocational school program 6 months to 2 years Gives more comprehensive training on CNC machines, programming languages, and manufacturing principles
Associate degree program 2 years Offers a broader education on manufacturing and engineering principles with emphasis on CNC machinist training

Overall, a career as a CNC machinist is a good choice for those who have an interest and aptitude for precision and machinery. With a promising job outlook and competitive salary, CNC machinists can look forward to a fulfilling and lucrative career.

Salary prospects for CNC machinists

When considering a career as a CNC machinist, one of the top questions on your mind is likely to be about salary prospects. Fortunately, the salaries of CNC machinists are typically quite good, especially when compared to other skilled labor positions, making it an attractive career option for those looking for good pay and long-term job security.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for CNC machinists is around $45,000, with starting salaries hovering around $30,000 for new graduates with no experience. Experienced CNC machinists can expect to make upwards of $70,000 per year, with the highest earners bringing in over $90,000.

Factors that affect CNC machinist salaries

  • Experience and skill level: As mentioned, experienced CNC machinists earn considerably more than those just starting out, with each additional year of experience adding to their earning potential. Highly skilled machinists with expertise in complex programming languages and specializations like aerospace, defense, and healthcare can command even higher wages.
  • Geographical location: Wage rates for CNC machinists can vary significantly from state to state and even within a single city or region. Factors such as cost of living, demand for skilled labor, and local industry clusters can all impact salary levels.
  • Industry and employer type: Salaries for CNC machinists can also vary depending on the specific industry and type of employer they work for. For instance, machinists working in aerospace and defense typically earn more than those working in the automotive industry, while those working for larger manufacturing firms tend to earn more than those working for small, independent shops.

Additional benefits for CNC machinists

In addition to competitive salaries, CNC machinists can enjoy a number of additional benefits that make the career even more rewarding. These include:

  • Job security: CNC machining is considered a highly skilled trade, which means that demand for qualified machinists is generally stable regardless of economic fluctuations. This translates into long-term job security and stability for those who pursue the career.
  • Career advancement opportunities: CNC machining offers plenty of opportunities for growth and advancement, including the chance to take on supervisory roles, become a lead machinist, or pursue further education to become a CNC programmer or engineer.
  • Flexible work arrangements: Many CNC machining jobs offer flexible work arrangements, including part-time and remote work options, making it an attractive career choice for those looking for work-life balance.

Closing thoughts

All in all, CNC machining is a career that offers good salaries, job stability, and plenty of opportunities for growth and advancement. With the right training and experience, CNC machinists can enjoy a rewarding and fulfilling career in an exciting and constantly evolving industry.

Experience level Median annual wage
Entry-level $30,000-$40,000
Mid-level $45,000-$70,000
Experienced $70,000-$90,000+

Note: Actual salaries may vary depending on factors such as location, industry, and employer type.

Qualifications and training required to become a CNC machinist

A career as a CNC machinist can be a great fit for those who enjoy working with their hands and have a strong attention to detail. This job involves the operation of computer numerical control (CNC) machines, which perform manufacturing tasks such as cutting, drilling, and shaping various materials like metal and plastic.

However, before becoming a CNC machinist, there are certain qualifications and training requirements that must be met.


  • A high school diploma or equivalent is often required
  • Some employers may prefer candidates with post-secondary education in CNC machining or manufacturing technology
  • Strong math and technical aptitude is essential for this job


CNC machinists typically receive on-the-job training from experienced machinists or through apprenticeship programs. These programs may take up to four years to complete and include both classroom instruction and hands-on experience with CNC machines.

In addition to these formal training programs, CNC machinists must also possess a strong understanding of programming languages like G-code and be familiar with computer-aided design (CAD) software.

It is also common for CNC machinists to participate in continuing education or professional development courses to stay up to date with the latest industry trends and technologies.


While certification is not always required to become a CNC machinist, it can help individuals stand out in the job market and demonstrate their knowledge and skills to potential employers. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) offers a variety of certifications in CNC machining, including operator and programmer levels.

Certification Description
CNC Operator Covers the fundamentals of CNC machining, including safety, math, and basic machine operation
CNC Milling: Programming Setup and Operations Focuses on programming and setup of CNC milling machines
CNC Turning: Programming Setup and Operations Focuses on programming and setup of CNC turning machines

Overall, a career as a CNC machinist requires a strong combination of qualifications, training, and hands-on experience. By following a path of formal education, apprenticeship, and continuing education, individuals can prepare themselves for success in this exciting and growing industry.

Day-to-day responsibilities of CNC machinists

CNC machinists are responsible for operating and maintaining computer numerically controlled machines used to produce a variety of metal and plastic parts. The day-to-day responsibilities of a CNC machinist may include:

  • Setting up machines according to specifications, with the correct tooling and materials.
  • Reading and interpreting blueprints and schematics to determine the correct cutting or milling path for the machine.
  • Running and monitoring the machine, making adjustments as needed to ensure accuracy and quality of the finished part.

But the responsibilities of a CNC machinist go beyond just operating and monitoring the machine. They must also:

  • Perform routine maintenance on the machine, such as cleaning and lubricating parts.
  • Inspect finished parts for defects and make any necessary adjustments to the machine.
  • Collaborate with engineers and other machinists to improve processes and optimize efficiency.

Below is a table that outlines some of the key skills that a CNC machinist should possess:

Skill Description
Technical knowledge Understands the mechanical and technical aspects of CNC machines and can apply that knowledge to produce quality parts.
Attention to detail Must be able to carefully monitor the machine and finished parts, making adjustments as needed to ensure precision and accuracy.
Critical thinking Must be able to troubleshoot problems that arise during the machining process, and determine the best course of action to resolve them.
Communication Must be able to effectively communicate with engineers, other machinists, and production supervisors to keep them informed of progress and identify areas for improvement.

Becoming a CNC machinist offers a rewarding career path for those who enjoy working with their hands, using technical skills, and problem solving on a daily basis.

Advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a career as a CNC machinist

When it comes to a career as a CNC machinist, there are many advantages and disadvantages to consider. Let’s delve into some of the key points below.


  • CNC machinists are in high demand: With the rise of automation and the increasing need for precision manufacturing, there is a growing demand for skilled CNC machinists in industries ranging from aerospace and automotive to medical devices and 3D printing.
  • Good earning potential: CNC machinists can earn a good living, with the median hourly wage in the United States reported to be around $21/hour. This can increase significantly with experience, skill level, and industry.
  • Opportunities for growth and specialization: CNC machinists can continue to develop their skills and knowledge, advancing to supervisory or management roles or specializing in a particular area such as programming or quality control.
  • Job satisfaction: For those who enjoy working with their hands, problem-solving, and seeing the tangible results of their work, a career as a CNC machinist can be very fulfilling.


While there are certainly many benefits to pursuing a career as a CNC machinist, there are also some potential downsides to consider.

  • Physical demands: The job can be physically demanding, requiring standing for long periods, lifting heavy materials, and working with precision hand tools.
  • Repetitive tasks: Depending on the specific job, CNC machinists may need to perform repetitive tasks for long periods, which can lead to boredom and burnout.
  • High-pressure environment: For machinists working in industries where precision and accuracy are critical, such as aerospace or medical devices, there can be a high level of pressure and stress to perform at a consistently high level.


While there are certainly challenges to pursuing a career as a CNC machinist, the benefits can outweigh the disadvantages for those who have a passion for precision manufacturing and problem-solving. With a growing demand for skilled workers in this field, it can be a fulfilling and lucrative career choice for those with the necessary skills and training.

Advantages Disadvantages
In-demand career Physically demanding
Good earning potential Repetitive tasks
Growth and specialization opportunities High-pressure environment
Job satisfaction

As with any career path, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before pursuing a career as a CNC machinist. By considering factors such as job satisfaction, earning potential, and industry demand, individuals can make an informed decision about whether this career is a good fit for them.

Growth Opportunities for CNC Machinists

When considering a career as a CNC machinist, one of the most important factors to take into account is the potential for growth and advancement within the field. CNC machinists are in high demand in various industries, making it a promising career path for those looking for job security and opportunities for career growth.

Here are some of the growth opportunities available for CNC machinists:

  • CNC Programming: With experience and additional training, CNC machinists can advance to become CNC programmers, who are responsible for writing the code that the machine uses to create the desired parts. This role generally comes with a higher salary and increased responsibility.
  • Supervisory Roles: Some CNC machinists may progress to supervisory positions, such as team leaders or production managers. In these roles, they are responsible for overseeing the work of other machinists and ensuring that production runs smoothly.
  • Specialization: CNC machinists can also specialize in a particular area, such as aerospace, automotive, or medical device manufacturing. By gaining in-depth knowledge and experience in a specific industry, they can become valuable experts in that field.

In addition to these career advancement opportunities, the demand for CNC machinists is expected to continue growing in the coming years, offering a stable career path with ample job prospects.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of machinists is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is on par with the average growth rate for all occupations. This growth is expected to be driven by the need for machinists in industries such as aerospace, medical equipment and supplies manufacturing, and transportation equipment manufacturing.

Industry Projected Growth (2019-2029)
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 2%
Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing 4%
Transportation equipment manufacturing 0%

Overall, the outlook for CNC machinists is positive, with a steady demand for their skills and plenty of opportunities for career growth and advancement.

Future of CNC machining technology and its impact on the job market.

CNC machining has been a part of the manufacturing industry for decades, and its impact on the job market has been significant. With the advancements in technology, the future of CNC machining looks bright, and it is expected to have a significant impact on the job market in the following years.

  • Automation: With the increasing demand for precision and accuracy, CNC machining has become a go-to for many industries. The future of CNC machining technology lies in automation, and it is expected to change the job market significantly. Automation will eliminate manual labor, which will open up new job opportunities for skilled workers who can operate, program, and maintain these machines.
  • Artificial Intelligence: The integration of artificial intelligence in CNC machines will change the game for many industries. AI can optimize the manufacturing process, reduce waste, and improve the accuracy of products. It will also lead to enhanced job opportunities in programming and data analysis.
  • 3D Printing: The development of 3D printing technology has revolutionized the manufacturing industry. With the integration of 3D printing technology in CNC machines, prototyping and creating intricate designs will become faster and more efficient. This integration will also lead to job opportunities in design and programming.

As technology advances, the skills required to work in CNC machining will also change. The job market for CNC machinists is expected to grow, and those who are skilled in programming, data analysis, and automation will be in high demand.

The following table showcases the projected job growth for CNC machinists in the following years:

Occupation Employment, 2019 Employment, 2029 (projected) Numeric change Percent change Median annual wage, May 2019
CNC operators 146,800 150,500 3,700 3% $44,420
CNC programmers 29,800 30,500 700 2% $56,930
CNC machinists 411,900 430,600 18,700 5% $45,750

In conclusion, the future of CNC machining technology looks promising, and it will have a significant impact on the job market. The integration of automation, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing technology will lead to enhanced job opportunities for skilled workers. The job market for CNC machinists is expected to grow, and it is a good career choice for those who are willing to upskill and adapt to the changing technology.

FAQs: Is a CNC Machinist a Good Career?

1. What is a CNC machinist?

A CNC machinist operates and programs computer numerical control (CNC) machines to create precision parts and products.

2. What are the job prospects for CNC machinists?

The job prospects for CNC machinists are strong, with demand expected to increase due to advancements in technology and an aging workforce.

3. How much does a CNC machinist make?

The average salary for a CNC machinist is around $45,000 per year, but this can vary based on experience, location, and industry.

4. What training is required to become a CNC machinist?

To become a CNC machinist, you typically need a high school diploma and completion of a vocational or technical program in machining or a related field.

5. What skills are important for a CNC machinist?

Important skills for a CNC machinist include technical knowledge of CNC machines, attention to detail, problem-solving skills, and the ability to read and interpret blueprints.

6. What are some challenges of being a CNC machinist?

Some challenges of being a CNC machinist include working with hazardous materials, standing for long periods of time, and dealing with repetitive tasks.

7. Is a career as a CNC machinist fulfilling?

Many CNC machinists find their work fulfilling, as they are able to use their technical skills to create precise and complex parts and products for a variety of industries.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Reading!

We hope that this article has helped answer your questions about whether a career as a CNC machinist is right for you. With strong job prospects and good income potential, becoming a CNC machinist can be a rewarding career choice. If you’re interested in pursuing this field, be sure to investigate the training and education options in your area. Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you again soon!