Schools for Aspiring CNC Operators and Programmers: How to Choose

Oct 20, 2021

Students who want to become CNC operators or programmers may find training programs at community colleges, technical schools and 4-year colleges and universities.

Schools with CNC Technology Programs

These colleges offer programs for aspiring CNC operators or programmers.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2018-2019)
Houston Community College Houston, TX 2-year, Public Associate's $1,632 In-district; $3,360 In-state; $3,756 Out-of-state*
Macomb Community College Warren, MI 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $3,375 In-district; $5,952 In-state; $7,649 Out-of-state*
Eastern Iowa Community College Davenport, IA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $5,184 In-state; $7,328 Out-of-state*
Shoreline Community College Shoreline, WA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $3,873 In-state; $6,622 Out-of-state*
Spartanburg Community College Spartanburg, SC 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $4,662 In-district; $5,742 In-state; $9,342 Out-of-state*
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo, IA 2-year, Public Certificate, Diploma, Associate's $5,311 In-state; $6,021 Out-of-state*
College of Lake County Grayslake, IL 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $3,948 In-district; $9,212 In-state; $12,236 Out-of-state*
Lakeland Community College Kirkland, OH 2-year, Public Certificate $112.75 Lake County residents; $141.05 In-state per credit hour; $319.05 Out-of-state per credit hour**

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES); **School Websites

School Selection Criteria

There are a number of things to think about when choosing a program in this field.

  • Programs with machining laboratories that provide students with hands-on learning and emphasize the most up-to-date technology offer graduates advantages in keeping up with this industry.
  • Certificate programs and associate degree programs prepare students for positions in CNC manufacturing, while earning a bachelor's degree in engineering may allow the student to pursue highly specialized CNC programming, operating or management positions.
  • Look for programs that have internships or practicums to form industry connections and broaden the learning experience.


Students in certificate programs learn to read blueprints, interpret engineering drawings and operate manual grinders, lathes and milling machines. Mathematics-intensive curricula teach CNC machine setup, algebra, trigonometry and computer-aided design (CAD), as well as machine operation and basic programming.

Associate Degrees

CNC programming courses are often part of a machine tool automation, machining technology or mechanical engineering program. Students in an associate degree program have the opportunity to study elective areas such as microcomputer applications, functional geometry and fixture design. These programs may emphasize statistical process control, coordinate measuring machines and other quality control processes and tools.

Bachelor of Science in Engineering

Engineering bachelor's degree programs for aspiring CNC operators and programmers include mechanical engineering technology, designing and industrial systems engineering programs.

Programs for CNC operators and programmers are typically offered as certificate or associate's degree programs. It is important to review the course curriculum and consider factors such as hands-on training, cost and location when choosing a program in this field.

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