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CNC Machinist career guide

If you enjoy a role where you get to operate machinery to help create parts for the automotive and aerospace industries, this may be the role of you.

Safeera Sarjoo
07th April 2016
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What is a CNC Machinist?

A CNC Machinist produces machined parts by programming, setting up and operating a computer numerical control machine which cuts, drills and finishes components. These components can be made from metal, plastic or other materials. A CNC machinist makes sure that their machines are working at full capacity, stocked with needed materials, are well maintained and perform periodic checks on output. They look at the finished product and ensure that it is defect-free and ready for the next step in the production process.

CNC machinists can work on a range of machinery or specialise on one complex machine. Many of the parts made by CNC machinists would be used within the automotive, power, aerospace and manufacturing industries.  

What are their responsibilities?

Some of the responsibilities CNC machinists undertake include:

  • Programming the machine tool with data taken from technical drawings
  • Carrying out routine maintenance
  • Planning the most efficient order of machine operations for each job
  • Carrying out operations
  • Checking that work meets quality and technical standards
  • Plans stock inventory by checking stock to determine amount available.

What are some charactertistics that suit this role?

Exceptional Maths and computer skills are required for this role. Additional qualities that will be best suited to this line of work includes the ability to read engineering drawings and instructions, working to a high degree of accuracy and being able to work unsupervised.

A reasonable level of fitness is also advantageous as well as being able to concentrate and focus and being able to work flexibly.

Entry Requirements and Training

Skills for this role can be gained through vocational schools, technical colleges or community college programs or an apprenticeship in engineering. In order to get accepted on to an apprenticeship, employers may ask for GCSEs in Maths, English and Science. Other subjects like engineering, design and technology.

You could also take a college course to learn some of the practical engineering skills that may be required from a potential employer. Training on the job is provided once you start working. This is inclusive of learning how to operate machinery, health and safety and company procedures. You could be encouraged by your employer to gain some industry qualifications relevant to your niche such as:

Level 2/3 (NVQ) Diploma in Mechanical Manufacturing Engineering

Level 2 (NVQ) Diploma in Performing Engineering Operations


Training and Courses have a number of mechanical engineering courses that can prepare you for a role as a CNC machinist.


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