14 Pros and Cons of Being a CNC Machinist

Today’s CNC machinists represent a key link in America’s manufacturing, production, and supply chain.

Highly skilled professionals are trained to input specifications and manufacture precise products to meet the needs of clients in the aerospace, automotive, technology, medical device, and public defense industries.

If you’re thinking about starting a rewarding career as a certified CNC machinist, this is the guide for you! 

Our guide takes an in-depth look at some of the most common pros and cons of working as a CNC machinist to help you decide if this career is right for you.

7 Pros of Being a CNC Machinist

Many people who work as CNC machinists report high levels of job satisfaction and rewarding careers.

Today’s CNC machinists are more in demand than ever across a variety of industries that help build America.

The following are a few examples of some of the upsides of working as a CNC machinist in the US. 

Pro #1. – Steady Job Outlook

One of the biggest pros of working as a CNC machinist is the inherent job stability that comes along with the role.

CNC operators are highly skilled mechanical technicians who perform precision-based duties that are in demand.

Machinist’s skills are projected to remain in steady demand by the BLS.

Highly skilled machinists who take on roles in manufacturing, aerospace, government, technology, or defense can feel confident in their job stability.

There is also a wide variety of opportunities for career advancement for machinists who branch out into medical devices and other specialized fields. 

Pro #2. – High Earnings Potential for Certified Machinists

Entry-level CNC machine operators earn a comfortable salary with an average annual earnings of around $50,000.00 per year in most US states.

Experienced CNC technicians with more years of experience and those who earn coveted industry certification issued by NIMS can see their annual earnings skyrocket past $90,000.00 per year.

Technicians who work in specialized areas of industries can also earn higher salaries.

Pro #3. – Low Entry Barrier

Starting a career as a certified machinist can take less than two years with a low entry barrier.

Most entry-level machinists start by completing their high school education followed by being admitted to a local training or vocational school offering NIMS-based training classes.

Vocational schools and online self-study programs can typically take between six months to two years to complete.

Pro #4. – Highly Marketable Skill

The highly marketable skills of CNC machinists are in demand across a wide variety of industries.

Their skills are sought out by many of the following potential employers.

  • Aerospace and Defense Companies – Seek out machinists for manufacturing airplane parts, tools, and components
  • Automotive and Transportation Manufacturers – Producing engine parts, transmissions, and custom builds
  • Medical Device Manufacturers – Manufacturing medical implants, surgical instruments, and diagnostic equipment
  • Emerging Technologies and Artificial Intelligence – Manufacturing of parts for hybrid technologies, IoT, and artificially intelligent devices
  • Energy and Power Generation Plants – Creating turbine components, generator parts, and power plant machinery

Pro #5. – Job Satisfaction

CNC machinists play a crucial role in the engineering and manufacturing industries.

High reliance on their skill set can lead to greater levels of job satisfaction when working technicians complete orders to specification.

Machinists can also feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment in knowing that many national products and services rely on their unique set of skills to operate.

The inherent job security that comes along with this highly respected role can also lead to high levels of job satisfaction for working machinists.

Pro #6. – Diverse Work Opportunities

Their unique set of skills allows today’s CNC operators, programmers, and machinists to work in a variety of different industries.

Technicians can find satisfying and high-paying work in their choice of industries, including the highest-paid aerospace, government, and technology employers who hire skilled CNC machinists.

Employment opportunities for highly skilled CNC machinists in oil and gas companies, militaries, government, medical devices, and customer product manufacturers, which means that certified machinists will rarely be out of work. 

Pro #7. – Creative Problem-Solving Opportunities

Working machinists often encounter a variety of novel manufacturing problems for which they are skilled at creating novel solutions.

Creative thinkers who work as machinists enjoy being able to improve product efficiency, optimize machining processes, and ensure quality output by combining their machinist training with stimulating intellectual engagement and hands-on problem-solving skills.

7 Cons of Being a CNC Machinist

We’ve taken a look at some of the most promising aspects of working as a certified CNC machinist.

Now that you have an idea of the positive aspects of working as a CNC machinist, let’s look at some of the cons for a balanced perspective on this highly challenging role.

Con #1. – High Stress

While there are tons of upsides to working as a certified CNC machinist, this high-paying career also presents a few downsides, with high stress levels making the top of the list.

Meeting production deadlines, troubleshooting production issues, and maintaining quality standards are just a few stress-inducing factors affecting today’s increasingly frustrated machinists at work.

Having to interrupt work mid-production to troubleshoot or recalibrate malfunctioning CNC machines can add to high-stress levels.

Con #2. – Shift Work Leaves Some Machinists Feeling Sluggish

Machinists have to meet the production requirements to meet product demand and manufacturing schedules that help keep logistics providers and shipments on time.

CNC machinists may be required to work long or irregular hours in manufacturing centers.

Irregular work schedules and shift work are often tailored to meet industry production needs.

Taking on a shift-work-based career can result in working shifts that begin in the middle of the day, late at night, or in the wee hours of the morning. 

Con #3. – Technical Challenges Can Slow Down Productivity

The nature of the work of the CNC machinists means that technical challenges will inevitably arise.

This can be another downside for highly stressed machinists as they work diligently to repair downed equipment to keep manufacturing and logistics projects on track.

Technicians can spend precious manufacturing and production time on diagnosing and repairing CNC machines.

Common repairs can include retooling or reprogramming machines that can drastically impact production.

Con #4. – Limited Creativity Can Lead to Frustration or Boredom

The role of a CNC machinist is based on repetitive manufacturing processes and strict adherence to production and quality standards.

Some CNC machinists working in industries where the products are relatively the same and the standards set in stone may run into boredom as they experience the negative effects of limited creativity.

Complex production and manufacturing standards have little room for deviation and must be followed to the letter to prevent production issues or product quality issues.

Con #5. – Monotonous Tasks Can Drive Job Dissatisfaction

There is little wiggle room for CNC techs to carry out manufacturing tasks according to computer-generated instructions and blueprints

CNC operators can experience a lasting sense of boredom from a lack of creativity in fabricating metal and plastic parts and components.

Carrying out repetitive motions and machine operations for routine tasks can lead to lower job satisfaction for technicians seeking a wider variety of job tasks to bolster their creativity.

Con #6. – Job Safety Risks Are a Reality

The role of a CNC operator comes along with job safety risks based on working with high-tech machines in manufacturing environments.

Power tools and machining equipment required to manufacture specific parts can impose safety risks for technicians who don’t follow safety protocols and precautions to the letter.

Con #7. – Mentally / Physically Demanding Role

CNC machinists carry out mentally and physically demanding tasks that require them to stand for prolonged periods, lift and move heavy materials, and carry out repetitive motions that can lead to physical strain or fatigue when technicians become mentally overtaxed from high levels of stress or work interruption when technicians suffer from repetitive motion injuries.

14 Pros and Cons of Being a CNC Machinist – Summary Table

1. Steady Job Outlook1. High Stress
2. High Earnings Potential for Certified Machinists2. Shift Work Leaves Some Machinists Feeling Sluggish
3. Low Entry Barrier3. Technical Challenges Can Slow Down Productivity
4. Highly Marketable Skill4. Limited Creativity Can Lead to Frustration or Boredom
5. Job Satisfaction5. Monotonous Tasks Can Drive Job Dissatisfaction
6. Diverse Work Opportunities6. Job Safety Risks Are a Reality
7. Creative Problem-Solving Opportunities7. Mentally / Physically Demanding Role

Should You Become a CNC Machinist?

Deciding to begin a new career isn’t always easy, especially when you aren’t sure what to expect.

After reviewing our list of the pros and cons of being a CNC machinist – is this the right career for you?

If you’re still wondering if working as a CNC operator is the best career choice you can make – consider the following questions when mulling over the idea of enrolling in a CNC machinist training program to jumpstart your new career. 

  1. Do you enjoy working in fast-paced environments with strict production deadlines?
  2. Do you have the time and dedication required to complete CNC education, training, and certification?
  3. Are you excited by the idea of working in specialized industries like aerospace, military defense, or medical device manufacturing?
  4. Do you have a keen focus with a strong attention to detail and the ability to follow strict specifications?

If the answer to most of these questions is yes – becoming a CNC machinist could be the right career pathway for you! Learn more about working as a highly trained and certified CNC machinist by researching related salaries, employers, and CNC machinist training schools.

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