So you have interest in the industry. Not sure what it means to be a machinist or how to become a machinist? Whether you are a man or a woman, you have come to the right place! Well, we hope the information on this webpage helps you to develop a better understanding of possible career paths and options available to you. A required educational background is required for all of the positions discussed here.

CNC Machining Positions:

The positions listed below are some of the most commonly advertised for in Hampshire. Each employer may have their own unique twist on duties and responsibilities for the jobs they are hiring for. However, the expected job skills and knowledge are pretty much standard through the industry.

Entry Level CNC Operator

This position requires a person to load, unload and adjust the equipment and ensure the machine is operating properly. Although this job may sound like a "easy" job it is not. Being a full trained operator who is proficient is key to any successful operation. Operators are expected to notice when the operation run time and quality of the product coming out the machine IS not holding up. Depending on the operation it could take up to two years depending on your incoming skills to become a effective, qualified independent CNC Operator.

Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities Needed
  • Math skills-high school algebra
  • Measurement skills
  • Basic interpretation technical drawings
  • Basic QC skills
  • Knowledge of safety standards for equipment being run
  • Some mechanical abilities
  • Strong communication abilities
  • Critical thinking abilities
  • Ability to easily adapt to changing environment
  • Ability to monitor operations
  • Ability to quickly react to non confirming as they occur
  • Ability to produce parts within tolerances
  • Ability to measure, cut, or work on items with great accuracy
Physical Demands - These physical demands will apply for all positions discussed on this page
  • Lifting, twisting, and bending
  • Reaching
  • Carrying
  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Seeing clearly close up
  • Judging depth and distance
    • Ability to monitor details of processes
    • Ability to monitor multiple machines at same time
    • Ability to produce parts within tolerances
    • Ability to measure, cut, or work on items with great accuracy
  • CNC Machinist
We always caution folks to be very careful with the term, CNC Machinist. In many cases when a person says they are a CNC Machinist, they must rely on others to assist them in certain areas. Most CNC Machinists have worked their way through a company and with additional training and experiences have moved into the position called, CNC Machinist.

A CNC machinist will have all the work experiences we have already talked about. However most have at some point in time taken some type of additional classes or educational programming. A CNC Machinists is someone who is able to make adjustments (both minor and major) to the programs as needed to run the machine(s), along with all the details and responsibilities mentioned in the CNC Operator position. In some instances the CNC Machinist will write the entire program. In addition they may interface with the engineering staff, and production planning staff regarding specifics of the job being worked on.

Learning to write CNC programs is not as easy as it sounds. In order to be successful one must learn a whole new language! Depending what machines are being run you will become proficient in several different languages as well! Knowledge in the materials being processed, speeds & feeds, along with a complete understanding of tooling. In addition you may need to learn how to use specific software such as CADCAM.

So you have moved up the ladder starting out as a CNC operator, to and CNC Set-up Operator within a time frame of say 4 years. How long until you become a successful CNC Machinist? Well that really does depend on your educational background, work experience and the effort you put into it. In the best case, you would need at least 3 more years! Many of our members and their staff say they are still learning after decades with all the increasing technologies which become available!

Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities Needed
  • Advanced math skills-college algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus
  • Advanced measurement skills
  • Knowledge and application of physical sciences
  • Read, interpret technical drawings and standards
  • Interpret, and document QC standards, and applications required as apart of the operation Knowledge of tooling capabilities and applications
  • Knowledge of advanced programming languages
  • Knowledge of production processes, and material
  • Knowledge of safety standards and safe guards.
  • Strong mechanical abilities
  • Strong communication abilities
  • Critical thinking abilities
  • Ability to easily adapt to changing environment
  • Ability to easily adapt to changing 

So what is a MACHINIST?

The phrase, "I am a machinist." is often very misunderstood. There are two types. One is a manual machinist, the second is a CNC machinist. Both are highly skilled trained individual who has more than likely been working in the world of machine tool/advanced manufacturing for as many as 7 or more years. A machinist is an individual who can perform without assistance operations/techniques as well as all facets of advance machining operations/techniques. In addition most machinists have been through some type of apprenticeship. Through the apprenticeship experience, most have taken educational classes to learn in detail about critical manual machining and CNC operations/programming. Most apprenticeships include 8,000 of work experience along with 576 hours of educational programming. Becoming a machinist, is a great stepping stone to the next phase of career development in the industry. After becoming a season machinist, you could move up into management as a floor supervisor, then operational supervisor, the options are endless if you want it.

Training varies from a formal apprenticeship and post secondary programs to learning the trade informally on the job. A college education, including mathematics, technical drafting, machine tool, and physical sciences is desirable however is not required. To become a Machinist it could take 4 to 5 years within a structure training program such as apprenticeship with additional work experience of another 2 to 3 years before you would considered a experienced machinist . In order to be considered a machinist you would be required to acquire the abilities knowledge, skills, and techniques listed below to perform without assistance or guidance manual and CNC machining techniques.

Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities Needed
  • Advanced math skills-college Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus.
  • Advanced measurement skills
  • Knowledge and application of physical sciences- physics is suggested
  • Read, interpret technical drawings and standards
  • Interpret, and document QC standards, and applications required as apart of the operation.
  • Knowledge of tooling capabilities and applications for both CNC and manual machining processes
  • Knowledge of manual machining techniques and applications
  • Knowledge and application of fixtures
  • Knowledge of advanced programming languages
  • Knowledge of production processes, and material
  • Knowledge of safety standards and safe guards
  • Strong mechanical abilities
  • Strong communication abilities
  • Critical thinking abilities
CNC Set-up Operator
How long does it take to become a proficient and successful CNC Set-up Operator? Well that will truly depends on if the individual is relying solely on the experiences in the work environment or if they chose to take classes to enhance their knowledge. In addition to that is the variable of how many different types of equipment the person has run. Some experience is easily transferred between different machines and manufacturers of equipment and some are not. In general terms, most industry leaders will say it can take up to 2 years to become a highly trained, proficient, solely independent CNC Set-up Operator. Yes, that is in additional to the 2 years as a CNC Operator.


Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities Needed
  • Advanced math skills- college level Algebra, geometry, and some trigonometry
  • Advanced measurement skills
  • Knowledge physical sciences
  • Read, interpret technical drawings and standards
  • Interpret, and document QC standards as apart of the operation.
  • Knowledge of tooling capabilities
  • Knowledge of safety standards for equipment being run
  • Some mechanical abilities
  • Strong communication abilities
  • Critical thinking abilities
  • Multi-tasking abilities
  • Ability to easily adapt to changing environment
  • Ability to monitor operations
  • Ability to quickly react to non confirming operations as they occur
  • Ability to produce parts within tolerances
  • Ability to measure, cut, or work on items with great accuracy