CNC Careers – Machine Operator vs. Machinist
If you’re investigating CNC careers, a machine operator is likely near the top of your list. Growing the knowledge, skills and talents to operate complex CNC machinery is a worthy goal and is one pathway to a successful and interesting career. Perhaps you’ve also heard the term ‘machinist.’ Are there differences? Let’s explore what you should know about a CNC machine operator and a machinist.
Duties of a CNC Machine Operator
A machine operator is considered an entry-level position in most shops and manufacturing centers because basic skills are all that are required. Still, with an average base pay of $16.83 per hour across the United States (some states go as high as $22-$25 per hour), it isn’t a bad job for entering the machining industry.
Common duties of a CNC machine operator typically include:
- Loading materials into CNC machines
- Calculating the correct the amount of material to use for a task
- Determining the cutting path on a material for the task at hand
- Adjusting the operating speed of a machine as it runs
- Inspecting each finished item for quality and accurate measurements
- Cleaning and maintaining CNC equipment and workspaces
Duties of a CNC Machinist
While many in the industry use the terms ‘machine operator’ and ‘machinist’ interchangeably, this is technically incorrect. In most settings, a machinist will have more experience, and usually more technical training, than a machine operator. Machinists’ average base pay across the U.S. is $22.74, with many shops going as high as $35-$40 per hour.
This higher pay is reflective of the higher expectations of machinists. In addition to being capable and qualified to carry out the duties of a machine operator above, a machinist may also have these additional duties:
- Setting up & programming CNC equipment
- Troubleshooting CNC equipment
- Servicing equipment
- Routine maintenance on CNC equipment
- Quality control
- Supervising machine operators