The manufacturing industry has a wide range of fields to choose from when looking for a new career. However, to those unfamiliar with manufacturing, some of the job titles can sound the same. What’s the difference between a CNC machine operator and a CNC machinist? What does CNC even mean?

We’re here to answer these questions and guide you down the career path that works best for you.

What Is CNC Machining?

CNC machining is Computerized Numerical Control machining. It’s a computerized manufacturing process where pre-programmed software and code controls the movement of manufacturing equipment. CNC machines are automated machines, such as grinders, lathes, and turning mills. 

CNC machines are commonly used to create computer parts, automobile frames, artificial knees and hips, military equipment, metal plaques and trophies, and even wooden furniture. Because they’re computer-programed, they can achieve a level of precision, efficiency, and consistency that would be impossible for manual machines.

What Is A CNC Machine Operator?

Because a CNC machine is automated, you might not assume that it needs an operator. This is an incorrect assumption. While a CNC machine is mostly hands-off, there still needs to be a CNC machine operator to manually set up the machine and load materials, primarily metals and plastics. CNC machine operators also prepare test runs, read blueprints, and inspect the finished products for quality and accuracy.

What Is A CNC Machinist?

A CNC machinist is a more advanced version of the CNC machine operator. They do everything a CNC operator does and more. This includes calibrating all of the CNC machines to ensure they’re functioning at the highest operational level. They might even be asked to repair, modify, and maintain the machines. CNC machinists track a product through each phase of its creation, ensuring that the CNC machines are doing their job correctly. 

woman pushing button on machine

Should I Become A CNC Operator or CNC Machinist?

While some might use the two job titles interchangeably, they are, in fact, different positions. A CNC machine operator is considered an entry-level position. It’s a great starting point for someone interested in a manufacturing career, as advancement comes primarily from experience.

Meanwhile, a CNC machinist is a mid-level position. That’s because it requires more advanced skills and experience than a CNC machine operator. Many of these skills are learned on the job, but there are also opportunities to get more advanced training to move your career forward. There’s also a lot more math involved, as you might be required to recalibrate machines if mistakes are being made.

If a career in CNC machining sounds appealing to you, you can sign up for one of our training programs. These no-cost to you training programs will give you the hands-on experience needed to excel in the manufacturing industry.