what is a CNC machinist?

A CNC machinist operates CNC machinery in factories. You start as a CNC machine operator when you are new to the profession. The role involves loading raw materials, observing the CNC machine, making adjustments to specifications and ensuring that the machine creates the tools correctly.

Over time, you advance to higher positions with more responsibilities. However, you still have the same basic duties; loading raw materials, keeping the machine running, and ensuring that measurements are exact to the millimetre. The tiniest mistake could result in wasted materials and tools, costing your company money and forcing you to start again.

Working as a CNC machinist requires physical stamina and digital know-how. CNC machinists don't have backbreaking jobs, but you stand on your feet for long periods. Your employer won't expect you to know how to configure the machine when you start. Still, you should be familiar with the technology and software. Fortunately, employers provide the required training to keep the machinery running smoothly. You'll create tools, work with your hands and learn new skills. Furthermore, CNC machinists are always in demand in the mining, manufacturing and construction industries.

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average CNC machinist salary

As a CNC machinist, your average remuneration package is $76,430 yearly. In an entry-level position, you receive a salary of $68,250 annually. With experience and qualifications, you earn $97,500 per year. Your earnings as a CNC machinist depend on your duties and where you work.

what factors affect the salaries of CNC machinists?

CNC machinists work with various tools depending on the industry they work in. When your job involves using complex tools, you will likely earn more due to the experience required to perform the tasks. When you have additional qualifications, you earn more as a CNC machinist. Specialised training in operating or calibrating machinery is an added advantage; the additional skills improve your earnings.

The location can also influence your earnings. When you work in some regions in Australia, your earnings are higher due to the high demand for the role. Metro areas may also pay higher salaries due to the high living costs or demand for CNC machinists.

Want to know what you will earn as a CNC machinist? Check out what you are worth with our salary checker.

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types of CNC machinists

Some types of CNC machinists include:

  • CNC operators: as a CNC operator, you load stock material into the machine and run the parts. The job is usually suitable for beginners since it doesn't involve adjusting the machine specifications and complex tasks.
  • CNC set-up operators: you set up tools, prepare and test the program, and ascertain that the parts work as expected. In case of a breakdown, you fix the problem.
  • CNC programmers: your job is to read and interpret blueprints to determine how to make specific parts. You also write programs to generate the needed parts and pick out the tools required for the process.
smiling male operating machinery
smiling male operating machinery

working as a CNC machinist

As a CNC machinist, you work with various tools to shape and assemble parts of equipment and machines. Discover some of the duties, responsibilities and work environment of CNC machinists.


education and skills

If you want to work as a CNC machinist in Australia, complete a relevant qualification and an apprenticeship. Some of the qualifications you require include the following:

  • education: complete relevant training to learn the ropes of becoming a CNC machinist. A VET qualification like a Certificate III in engineering (fitting and turning) or mechanical trade prepares you for the role. You should also complete an apprenticeship that involves on-the-job training and some courses.
  • gain experience: apprenticeship helps you learn about the specific CNC machinery and familiarise yourself with the vocational skills. You learn about the safety techniques used in the role. Entry-level jobs also improve your experience and prepare you for other roles.

CNC machinist skills and competencies

Some of the qualities of a CNC machinist include the following:

  • technical knowledge: as a CNC machinist, you require technical knowledge to understand machinery. When you have technical skills, you transfer knowledge of CNC operations to new machinery. Having an aptitude for technology improves your experience in the role. You can boost technical skills through apprenticeship and taking additional courses.
  • physics: as a CNC machinist, knowing how machinery works requires various physics modules. For instance, you rely on electrical circuits and wiring knowledge to resolve CNC machine problems. Your numerical capabilities are also valuable for analysing issues in machines.
  • problem-solving skills: solving problems is one of the main tasks of CNC machinists. Hence, you require problem-solving skills to isolate particular issues when handling machinery. For instance, if a finished product doesn’t meet the quality standard, you can identify the issue and recalibrate the machines to ensure the finished product is perfect for assembling.
  • teamwork skills: as a CNC machinist, you work with various professionals to ensure the machines operate as expected. To work well with others, you require teamwork skills. It helps you collaborate with others and brainstorm ideas on fixing machines. Communication skills are also valuable for delegating tasks and explaining complex product concepts to other CNC operators.

FAQs about working as a CNC machinist

Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a CNC machinist.

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