CNC Operator Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A CNC Operator, or CNC Machine Operator, is responsible for overseeing the daily functions of manufacturing machinery. Their duties include running tests before the start of operations, programming and monitoring machines when assembling products and inspecting machinery at the end of each shift to identify parts needing repair.

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CNC Operator duties and responsibilities

CNC Operators have specific duties and responsibilities that can vary from industry to industry. Generally, CNC Operators are expected to do the following: 

  • Set up or program the computer responsible for the machinery.
  • Follow safety requirements and maintain certifications.
  • Inspect the machinery and product for quality assurance.
  • Perform daily maintenance on the machinery.
  • Handle materials appropriately and safely.
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What does a CNC Operator do?

CNC Operators typically work for factories and manufacturing plants to ensure product quality by overseeing factory machinery. They control the safe and efficient management of machinery and assembly equipment to create various products. Their job is to review machine manuals to determine the correct method for operations and they pre-program machines to perform tasks at specific intervals. They may also be responsible for requesting new machine parts and conducting standard repairs on machines.

CNC Operator skills and qualifications

CNC Operators will have skills and qualifications related to the field of computers, machinery and product creation. The ideal CNC Operator candidate will demonstrate the following: 

  • Strong math skills for inputting specific dimensions and figures into the CNC machinery
  • Ability to analyze the information provided on blueprints or other explanatory documents to make sure the final product matches the draft
  • Strong computer skills as CNC Operators use computer software to control machinery
  • Understanding of how the machine works to maintain the machinery for which they are responsible and ensure it functions properly. 
  • Problem-solving skills in order to detect issues in the creation process and find solutions to ensure the machinery creates the product provided in the draft

CNC Operator salary expectations

A CNC Operator makes an average of $16.55 per hour. Pay rate may be dependent on factors like geographical location, industry, education and job experience. 

CNC Operator education and training requirements 

CNC Operators must have a high school diploma at a minimum. Many go on to earn certificates specific to the field in which they hope to work, such as through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, Inc. (NIMS) or the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International (FMA). While earning a professional certificate, many CNC Operators work as apprentices or interns in their industry to gain practical experience. 

CNC Operator experience requirements

CNC Operators must have experience before gaining full-time employment in their field. Most companies hiring CNC Operators want applicants to have 3 or more years of experience. This experience can be gained through professional coursework, apprenticeships or internships. 

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Frequently asked questions about CNC Operators

 

What is the difference between a CNC Operator and a CNC Machinist?

Both CNC Operators and CNC Machinists operate machinery in a factory setting, but there are a few distinguishable features that differentiate the roles. The main differences between a CNC Operator and a CNC Machinist are the scope of their job responsibilities and level of seniority. For example, CNC Machinists have the qualifications that allow them to set-up and program machinery for use. In contrast, CNC Operators have enough knowledge to operate machines once set-up and programmed. CNC Machinists may also be able to make more advanced repairs to machinery. 

Further, CNC Machinists have more experience than CNC Operators and typically have a few years of experience working in an Operator role before assuming the title of a Machinist. In contrast, CNC Operators are entry-level professionals who have the authority to operate specific parts and perform other standard procedures.

 

What are the daily duties of a CNC Operator?

On a typical day, a CNC Operator starts by reviewing quota expectations for their shift. They participate in meetings with factory staff to learn about new manufacturing policies and changes to product designs. They gather raw materials or product parts and run them through equipment to determine the best speed and assembly methods for each product. 

Throughout the day, they monitor factory equipment to ensure the quality of each finished product and make adjustments to the assembly process as needed. They also take allotted breaks during their shift to maintain their energy and focus levels. Toward the end of their shift, CNC operators turn off machines, clean equipment, and record their quotas.

 

What qualities make a good CNC Operator?

A good CNC Operator is someone who values continued education. This inspires them to repeatedly seek out training opportunities and certification courses related to CNC programming and operation. They also have excellent time management that enables them to devote specific time frames to reading machine manuals, running tests and overseeing production lines. Further, a good CNC Operator has a dedication to maintaining product quality by using the correct machines, tools and assembly timing.

 

Who does a CNC Operator report to?

A CNC Operator typically reports to the Facility Supervisor or the Facility Shift Manager to inform them of equipment malfunctions and receive instructions. The Facility Supervisor or Shift Manager also provides the CNC Operator and other Factory Workers with their work schedules and paychecks.

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