CNC machinist

CNC operator

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Computer numerically controlled (CNC) machinists make precision parts for the engineering and manufacturing industries.

Salary range: £18,000 to £30,000

How to become a CNC machinist

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship

College

You could do a college course to learn some of the practical engineering skills that employers want. Relevant courses include:

  • Level 1 Certificate in Performing Engineering Operations
  • Level 1 Certificate in Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Level 2 Certificate in Mechanical Engineering

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 or fewer GCSEs at grades 3 to 1 (D to G), or equivalent, for a level 1 course
  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course

More information

Apprenticeship

You can do an intermediate apprenticeship as an engineering operative or advanced apprenticeship in engineering manufacturing.

You can also do a furniture CNC technician advanced apprenticeship, if you’re working in the furniture manufacturing industry.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

More information

More information

Further information

You can find out more about engineering careers from Tomorrow’s Engineers.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools
  • maths knowledge
  • the ability to work on your own
  • knowledge of manufacturing production and processes
  • analytical thinking skills
  • design skills and knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day tasks could include:

  • programming the CNC machine tool with data taken from technical drawings
  • working out the most efficient order to carry out machining tasks
  • choosing the right tools for each stage
  • setting the cutting speeds and tolerance levels
  • operating the machine
  • checking the work meets quality and technical standards
  • maintaining equipment

Working environment

You could work in a factory.

Your working environment may be noisy.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

Career path and progression

With experience and further training, you could move into a supervisory role.

You could also move into quality inspection or become an engineering technician.

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