Starting or transitioning to a new job can be difficult. New people, different machines, new shop, and a different way of doing things (to an extent). If you’re already hired and can actually do what you put on your resume, it’s not very likely that you’ll be fired in the near future. That is, unless, you have the same routine at every job. Allow me to explain…
It is easier to train one guy to work like the other 20 machinists, than to train the 20 to work like one machinist. If you already have a way of doing things as a machinist, be prepared to change it up a little bit. Just because you learned how to do something at your previous job or jobs, if your new company does it a different way, YOU are the one that has to change.
A company is not going to change how they do things just because that is how you learned it. One of the quickest ways to get fired is by disagreeing or trying to force your own techniques onto the new shop. Unless they are very open to new ideas and strategies on how to manufacture their parts, they will only keep you so long.
So, how do I keep my job after the first week or even month? By working with them and doing things how they want done. Now this doesn’t mean that every technique has to be the exact same, but the process and finished part should be identical. If you think they are doing something wrong or less than efficient, politely suggest to them how they could improve, and ultimately, save money. If that doesn’t catch their attention, then so be it; either deal with it or move on.
If they have a improper machining practices and aren’t willing to accept any better methods, then maybe it’s not so bad that you find another company to work for. It’s often hard to find out how a company operates during one short interview. You don’t really know how they do things until you start working with them.
Are you good at programming on CAM/CAD software? Programmers are in high demand in most areas around the United States. The salary, or wage, for CNC programmers depends on a couple things. There’s a wide spectrum of programmers because not everyone has the same experience. However, just because you have 10 years of programming ‘experience’ doesn’t mean you’re worth more than the other guy that gas only 3 years. More on this later…
Master The Systems
While a programmer with less years on the job can get paid more, the more you know the better. Having 8 years of experience on Mastercam is great, but if you know how to program on Gibbs, Surfcam, as well as multi-axis on CAM systems, you’re worth more to certain companies.
Knowing how to run multiple CAM or CAD systems gives you an edge over the competition if you’re looking for a job because you’ll fit the “requirements” for a lot more companies that are looking for a programmer.
Even if you haven’t worked with a certain software that a company you want to work for uses, having experience with multiple other systems makes you more versatile, which will making it much easier for them to train you in on their programming software. Every CAM/CAD system is different, but you’re essentially doing the same thing with all of them; programming. If you’re used to being acclimated to a new software, learning how to use one more shouldn’t be an issue.
What’s the Demand?
If there’s no demand in your area for a programmer like you, don’t expect to get a high paying job offer in the near future. Big cities with Machining, such as Houston, Minneapolis, and Ohio have a high demand for any and all kinds of Machinists or Programmers. Finding a job in these areas isn’t too difficult today because the manufacturing demand is high.
If you want to get started as a programmer, you can find easier jobs at shops that will start you at the bottom and work your way up if you only have school experience. It’s not going to be a wealthy salary, but it’s better paying than most operators.
Let’s See Some Numbers
Okay, this is probably the real reason why you’re here… Programmers are usually paid more than machine operators, which is a big reason why so many machinists go to school for programming. Before I throw any digits out there, you should know that these are not set in stone. Every market and area of the country/continent is a little bit different. These numbers are a general starting point to show you what a CNC programmer can make for a living.
If you’re looking for a first just as a programmer, even if you’ve been a machinist for a few years, you’ll probably start towards the bottom of the pay scale. Right now, most full-time programmers start out around the 18-20 dollar an hour mark. It won’t make you rich, but if you’re looking for a good starting job, there’s usually a good amount of room for improvement.
If you look in the classifieds of Job listings, you’ll often see Programmer wanted ads with 3-5 years of experience. With more experience, comes more money (for the most part). The compensation is usually in the low-mid 20s for wages, and if you’re working overtime like a lot of shops do these days, that could be a pretty decent paycheck. However, like mentioned before, not only do you have to have the years of experience qualification, but also the right kind of experience as far as programming on CAM/CAD systems.
For you programming masters out there, high 20s and into the $30+/Hr mark is not uncommon. Some machine shops just need a lead programmer that can do it all, and to some companies, that person may be worth 35 bucks an hour.
Lathe and basic mill programmers are usually at the bottom of spectrum because they require the least amount of skill and training. The high-end jobs are usually multi-axis or special milling programmers that require a lot more training.
Once again, these salaries aren’t going to make you a millionaire. But that’s not why you chose CNC Manufacturing as a career, otherwise you would have gone a different and probably less interesting route.
If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment…
For you to get a job as a CNC Machinist, you will need to have some training and/or experience in the industry. While there are no specific requirements that each state has for Machinists, certain cities have a much higher demand for them, and Houston is one of, if not the, biggest one.
For the most part, you must:
Be at least 16 years of age
Be able to read and understand English
Have basic machining skills and knowledge
Be able to pass a background and/or drug test
Have your own tools (varies per company)
In order to meet these requirements you have to get some experience or training, and the easiest way to do that is by going to school for CNC Machining. Depending on the school and what degree you want to graduate with, it can take two semesters, nine months, or 2+ years for the highest degree.
Below are colleges/tech schools that have a CNC classes and/or a Machining program:
UTA – University Texas Arlington
While the U of Arlington doesn’t have a full-on machining course, they offer multiple programming, blueprint, and shop math classes. Unfortunately, there are no machines available to practice on. This would be a good place to go if you already have basic machining experience and want to learn CNC programming.
Fort Worth ISD Adult Education Center
The Adult EDU center in Fort Worth has a small machine shop with manual machines, along with basic machining classes to go with. However, the classes are geared towards people that have at least a few months of experience/training in machining already. Fort Worth has CAD/CAM, CNC programming, and 3D programming classes, as well as Blueprint reading and shop math. The equipment isn’t as high tech as a full on Machining course at a Tech school, but it may be worth it to take some classes here to get some knowledge on these.
MT Training Center
MT Training center is a vocational school that has a complete CNC Machining program for anyone that has graduated high school. It covers almost everything from the basics to CNC programming and machine set-up.
Texas State University
TSU doesn’t have a specific CNC Machinist program, but it does have a Manufacturing Engineer degree with CNC classes. The school has a couple of CNC machines that students can practice on after learning how to use CAD/CAM software, as well as manual programming. It may not be a full-on machining course like a tech school, but it’s a good place to go for programming and machine set-up since they have quality equipment/software.
Tarleton State University
Much like Texas State U, Tarleton State offers various classes for CNC machining and programming. There’s several mills and lathes to practice set-ups and run parts on after learning how to program. There’s some machining 101 classes here, but you may want to have a little experience before committing to this school.
Texas State Technical College
Texas State Tech has a few different courses for Manufacturing. There’s a couple 18 month-long associate degree programs for manufacturing, and a CNC-based program is 12 months. They have all of the necessary classes, starting with basic machining, blueprint reading, shop map, as well as CNC programming, and CAD/CAM classes. There’s a CNC shop with computers and machines to learn on. If you’re looking to go to school for machining, this is a good place to get your career started.
Going to school is one of the easiest ways to get started in a new career, especially for Machinists since you can be done in two years or less. Plus the fact that most programs cost much less than going to a regular four-year school. It’s never too late to get started, whether you’re 25 or 45. You can complete an entire program from start to finish, or just take some night classes to boost your knowledge and move up in your workplace.
Before working as a CNC Machinist, most companies require some previous experience or training. It could be getting certified at a Tech school, a certain number of years working with a number of machines and program controllers, or using specially tooling/machinery.
It really depends on the shop and what they’re looking for, but you should decide what kind of shop you’re wanting to work at in the first place so you know what to work towards.
Here’s some general requirements for each stage of a Machinist Career (Each level is a prerequisite for the next level)…
Basic Shop Helper/Student:
High School Diploma/Currently enrolled
Basic math knowledge
Can Pass drug/background check
Ability to lift 30+ lbs.
Listens to authority
Quick learner and motivated
Entry Level Machinist/Operator:
1-2 years of Machine trade school or previous experience
Ability to use basic inspection tools such as: caliper, micrometer, thread gauges
Be able to set tool/work offsets if needed
Can change out parts and properly deburr
Operate a band-saw
Occasional light assembly
Able to interpret blueprints
Mid-level CNC Machinist:
3-5 years of previous machining experience and/or schooling in Machine Trades
Ability to do to set-ups on CNC milling machine or CNC Lathe
Ability to program and edit programs if needed
Some experience with CAD/CAM software preferred (depends on the position)
Ability to inspect own parts with proper tools
Math/Basic trigonometry skills
Basic knowledge of feeds and speeds for materials
Good communication/interaction skills
Proficient in troubleshooting machine and program problems/alarms
5 or more years of previous experience
Ability to teach and train new employees on machine operating, set-ups
Certified and experience with fork-lift operation
Report all maintenance and important issues to Manager
Understand the capabilities and limitations of each machine
Be a leader and organized
2-5+ years of previous programming experience with CAD/CAM software (Gibbs,Surf,Bob,Mastercam,Solidworks,etc.)
Complete understanding of machine usage and programming G & M codes
Awareness of cutting tool technology
Complete understanding of work-holding strategies
Ability to make/utilize work fixtures with simple and complex parts
Strong tooling knowledge, as well as optimum feeds and speeds for each job
Ability to program for different machines; mill/lathe/4th axis/live tooling (if required)
Now not all of these are going to be the exact requirements for the job you’re applying for. However, it is important that you experience and can do all or most of the above in the given category for the job you want.
The more you know, the more your future employer will consider you. Having a strong resume doesn’t always get you the job, but it can help you get the wage/salary that you deserve based on your skill level.
CNC Machinist Jobs are in demand. Manufacturing is starting to pick up again here in the States. Don’t miss out, as there are already job openings, and many more to come, as the “baby boomers” will soon be retiring… Check your local classifieds and listings for jobs in your area. Currently, the Houston, Minneapolis, and Ohio areas in the the highest demand for CNC Machinists.
CNC Machinist salaries can vary greatly, depending on what your job role is, who you’re working for, and how many hours you’re working. A lot of companies require overtime, so you may be working 50, 60, and possibly 70 hours a week at certain jobs. Not all of them are this way, but you will be making a considerably higher amount by working overtime (time and a half)
New CNC Machinists start out around 30,000-40,000 a year. While this is pretty good pay after finishing school, it can be rather difficult to support a family with just this job.
A more experienced machinist with a higher role will make more due to the fact that they know how to do more, and can often run a shift as a shop foreman. A typical experienced CNC machinist will make about 50-60,000 a year, with a possibility of more with more overtime hours.