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…