Computer-Control Programmers and Operators

Last updated January 01, 2015

The machines that computer-control programmers and operators work with may be controlled by computers, but it's the humans who really run the show -- by controlling the computers.

CNC programmers plot out, step-by-step, the way a machine will do its job of making auto, machine, or other parts that need to meet extremely exact standards. Once the programming is done, CNC operators step in to keep an eye on the machine all the way through the manufacturing process.

Computer-control programmers and operators work with CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines, which cut and shape metal, plastic, or glass to form a finished part.

Did You Know?

Lots of CNC programmers start out as machinists or tool and die makers.

Are You Ready To...?

  • Check blueprints
  • Plan each step of the operation
  • Enter information into machines
  • Load machines with metal
  • Monitor and troubleshoot machines

It Helps To Be...

A problem solver who's good with machines and tools. CNC programmers also need a good eye for detail.

Make High School Count

  • Pay close attention in algebra, trigonometry, and physics. You'll need physics to understand how machines work and you'll use math to plan out how the machines will do each job.
  • Take metal shop to practice working with tools and machines.
  • Sign up for computer-assisted drafting (CAD), where you’ll learn to create and understand blueprints -- a must in this trade.
  • Get a head start with a computer science class.

Did You Know?

The dirtier work is done by the CNC operators, who may handle dangerous liquids and listen to noisy machinery. But most CNC programmers work on desktop computers in clean, quiet offices.