Salary and Career Info for a CNC Machinist

Oct 20, 2021

The median salary of a computer numerical control (CNC) machinist was $49,222 as of 2021, according to Many CNC machinists prepare for their careers through on-the-job training or by completing an apprenticeship. There are also certificate and associate's degree programs available, although many employers do not require entry-level machinists to have a degree.

Essential Information

A computer numerical control (CNC) machinist runs computer-operated equipment to create machine parts, tools and other mass-produced items. He or she may work in a machine shop or in the manufacturing industry as an expert in the installation, maintenance, programming and operation of CNC technology. A high school diploma is usually required by employers. Training can be acquired through a variety of methods, but most machinists choose to enter into an apprenticeship. Candidates should be confident in their math and science skills as well as their ability to handle complex machines and tools. Certification through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) is highly recommended.

Required Education High school diploma and on-the-job training or an apprenticeship; certificate and associate's degree programs also available
Other Requirements National Institute for Metalworking Skills certification recommended
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 4% (for all machinists)*
Median Salary (2021) $49,222**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

CNC Machinist Salary Information reports from 2021 indicate that CNC machinists earned a median salary of $49,222. Most of these professionals earned from $35,000-$74,000 per year.

CNC Machinist Career Information

The BLS predicted an 4% growth in employment for machinists in general from 2019-2029 due to improvements in technology. The BLS expects ample job opportunities for entry-level machinists since the number of machinists entering the field is projected to be as fast as the average.

According to job listings on, employers were hiring CNC machinists who had experience using milling, lathe and manual machines. These same employers expected candidates to be able to read blueprints and use hand tools, in addition to being proficient with computer programs, such as Microsoft Office software.

Education Requirements

High school graduates may be eligible for entry-level CNC machinist positions that provide on-the-job training. Students can prepare by taking classes that allow them to gain experience working with tools, drafting, welding and blueprint reading. Computer and math classes, especially geometry, trigonometry and algebra, also might be useful.

After high school, aspiring machinists often enter apprenticeship programs, which offer a combination of hands-on and classroom training. Apprenticeships might be available through a manufacturing facility, machinists' union, vocational school or community college.

Alternatively, completion of a certificate program could qualify graduates for employment. CNC machinist technology and CNC technician certificate programs usually offer a focused curriculum that teaches students about setting up, programming and using CNC equipment. Courses also cover reading blueprints, operating hand tools, inspecting equipment and reading measuring tools. Some course credits may be applied toward an associate degree in machining technology. Most employers do not require a CNC machinist to have an associate degree, but it can be helpful for someone who wishes to advance in his or her career.


The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) offers three levels of machining certification. The NIMS credentialing program assesses a machinist's skills against national standards, from entry-level programming and operating of CNC equipment to mastery of CNC milling and turning. While certification is voluntary, the BLS maintains that it could lead to advanced employment options.

A CNC machinist creates a range of mass-produced items such as tools or machine parts by operating computerized equipment. The skills many employers may look for when hiring a CNC machinist might include experience with manual machines, lathes, and milling equipment. Experience with computers and the ability to read blueprints can also be useful skills.

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