CNC Machinist

Job Description:

CNC machinists use computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools to cut, shape and finish products that are used by engineers and manufacturers.

Job Category:
Manufacturing & Electronics

What you will do:

You’ll make precision parts for the engineering and manufacturing industries. You’ll work with metals, wood, composites and plastics. The tools you’ll operate might include lathes, cutters, milling machines, grinders and borers. CNC machines are designed to produce large quantities of components to exactly the same specifications.

Your day-to-day tasks could include:

  • converting instructions into a numerically-based program for the computer to follow
  • working out the most efficient order to carry out machining tasks
  • choosing the right tools for each stage
  • setting the cutting speeds and tolerance levels
  • operating the machine
  • checking the work meets quality and technical standards
  • maintaining equipment


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of manufacturing production and processes
  • design skills and knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools
  • the ability to work on your own
  • analytical thinking skills
  • creativity – the ability to think outside the box
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machinist, you don’t typically need specific GCSE subjects, but certain subjects can be helpful in preparing you for this career and enhancing your skills. CNC machinists work with computer-programmed machinery to create precision parts and components. Here are some relevant GCSE subjects and skills that can be beneficial:

  1. Mathematics (Maths): Strong math skills are essential for CNC machining. You’ll need to understand measurements, geometry, trigonometry, and algebra to interpret technical drawings and create accurate machine programs.
  2. Design and Technology (DT): This subject can provide you with a basic understanding of engineering principles, materials, and mechanical systems. It may also introduce you to basic machining concepts.
  3. Science: While not a strict requirement, studying science subjects (such as physics) can help you grasp the principles of mechanics and understand how different materials behave under different conditions.
  4. ICT (Information and Communication Technology): Familiarity with computers and software is crucial in CNC machining, as you’ll be working with computer-controlled machinery. Basic programming skills can be beneficial as well.
  5. English: Good communication skills are important, as you may need to read technical manuals, communicate with coworkers, and write reports.
  6. Engineering Courses (if available): Some schools offer engineering-related GCSE courses, which can provide valuable knowledge and skills related to CNC machining.

Post School

While these GCSE subjects can provide a solid foundation, it’s important to note that CNC machining is a skill-based profession, and many employers may prioritize hands-on training and experience over academic qualifications.

Therefore, pursuing further education or vocational training after completing your GCSEs can be highly beneficial. Consider enrolling in a CNC machining apprenticeship program or vocational training courses that offer practical experience with CNC machines.

It may help you to find work if you complete an engineering apprenticeship by completing a college course in:

  • engineering
  • engineering and manufacturing
  • mechanical engineering
  • engineering systems/practice
  • manufacturing engineering
  • computer aided design and technology (CAD)
  • software engineering

These subjects will teach you how to use software and coding languages to create programs to run the most effective manufacturing process, and ideally how to read and interpret engineering drawings.

Additionally, some CNC machinists pursue industry-recognized certifications, such as those offered by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) or City & Guilds, to demonstrate their expertise in CNC machining. These certifications can be valuable in advancing your career and securing job opportunities in the field.

Working Hours and Environment:

You’ll usually work 37 to 40 hours a week, possibly on shifts covering weekends, evenings and nights.

You’ll spend most of your time in a factory or workshop, operating and monitoring the machines.

For most jobs, you’ll wear protective overalls, boots, goggles and ear defenders.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience and further training, you could move into a supervisory role.

You could also move into quality inspection or become an engineering technician.