So you have interest in the industry. Not sure what it means to be a machinist or how to become a machinist? Whether you are a man or a woman, you have come to the right place! Well, we hope the information on this webpage helps you to develop a better understanding of possible career paths and options available to you. A required educational background of a GED or High School diploma is required for all of the positions discussed here.

Looking for training resources? Please view our training resource page by clicking here.

CNC Machining Positions:

The positions listed below are some of the most commonly advertised for in New Hampshire. Each employer may have their own unique twist on duties and responsibilities for the jobs they are hiring for. However, the expected job skills and knowledge are pretty much standard through the industry.

Entry Level CNC Operator

This position requires a person to load, unload and adjust the equipment and ensure the machine is operating properly. Although this job may sound like a "easy" job it is not. Being a full trained operator who is proficient is key to any successful operation. Operators are expected to notice when the operation run time and quality of the product coming out the machine IS not holding up. Depending on the operation it could take up to two years depending on your incoming skills to become a effective, qualified independent CNC Operator.

Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities Needed

Physical Demands - These physical demands will apply for all positions discussed on this page
But you want more, you want a career path so what is next?

CNC Set-up Operator

Transitioning to a CNC Set-up Operator may require you to take some machining classes in order obtain the knowledge and skills required to become a proficient CNC Set-up Operator. A CNC Set-up Operator will more than likely receive instructions on a job by job basis from the lead person on the shop floor. The CNC Set-up Operator will take those general instructors and proceed to set-up the equipment by loading the tooling in the correct order or position within the machine, install all necessary fixtures and related equipment ,run the first pieces to ensure the machine is running correctly and make any additional minor offset entries into the program. Those changes are driven by the specifications provided on the blue print and job router. Once the machine is running correctly, the CNC Set-up operator maybe required to have the Quality Assurance area sign off on what is call the first article of inspection. This process ensures that all machined features are correct to the print. From this point the CNC Set-up Operator is generally responsible for the entire run of the job. During that time period tool changes may be required. Adjustments to the program may also need to occur due to the tool change.

How long does it take to become a proficient and successful CNC Set-up Operator? Well that will truly depends on if the individual is relying solely on the experiences in the work environment or if they chose to take classes to enhance their knowledge. In addition to that is the variable of how many different types of equipment the person has run. Some experience is easily transferred between different machines and manufacturers of equipment and some are not. In general terms, most industry leaders will say it can take up to 2 years to become a highly trained, proficient, solely independent CNC Set-up Operator. Yes, that is in additional to the 2 years as a CNC Operator.

Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities Needed
Still want more of the challenge and want the Career path to continue to greater challenges and more money?

CNC Machinist

We, the NHMA, always caution folks to be very careful with the term, CNC Machinist. In many cases when a person says they are a CNC Machinist, they must rely on others to assist them in certain areas. Most CNC Machinists have worked their way through a company and with additional training and experiences have moved into the position called, CNC Machinist.

A CNC machinist will have all the work experiences we have already talked about. However most have at some point in time taken some type of additional classes or educational programming. A CNC Machinists is someone who is able to make adjustments (both minor and major) to the programs as needed to run the machine(s), along with all the details and responsibilities mentioned in the CNC Operator position. In some instances the CNC Machinist will write the entire program. In addition they may interface with the engineering staff, and production planning staff regarding specifics of the job being worked on.

Learning to write CNC programs is not as easy as it sounds. In order to be successful one must learn a whole new language! Depending what machines are being run you will become proficient in several different languages as well! Knowledge in the materials being processed, speeds & feeds, along with a complete understanding of tooling. In addition you may need to learn how to use specific software such as CADCAM.

So you have moved up the ladder starting out as a CNC operator, to and CNC Set-up Operator within a time frame of say 4 years. How long until you become a successful CNC Machinist? Well that really does depend on your educational background, work experience and the effort you put into it. In the best case, you would need at least 3 more years! Many of our members and their staff say they are still learning after decades with all the increasing technologies which become available!

Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities Needed
So, what job will be in high demand?
A Machinist!

So what is a MACHINIST?

The phrase, "I am a machinist." is often very misunderstood. There are two types. One is a manual machinist, the second is a CNC machinist. Both are highly skilled trained individual who has more than likely been working in the world of machine tool/advanced manufacturing for as many as 7 or more years. A machinist is an individual who can perform without assistance operations/techniques as well as all facets of advance machining operations/techniques. In addition most machinists have been through some type of apprenticeship. Through the apprenticeship experience, most have taken educational classes to learn in detail about critical manual machining and CNC operations/programming. Most apprenticeships include 8,000 of work experience along with 576 hours of educational programming. Becoming a machinist, is a great stepping stone to the next phase of career development in the industry. After becoming a season machinist, you could move up into management as a floor supervisor, then operational supervisor, the options are endless if you want it.

Training to become a Machinist

Training varies from a formal apprenticeship and post secondary programs to learning the trade informally on the job. A high school or technical high school education, including mathematics, technical drafting, machine tool, and physical sciences is desirable however is not required. To become a Machinist it could take 4 to 5 years within a structure training program such as apprenticeship with additional work experience of another 2 to 3 years before you would considered a experienced machinist . In order to be considered a machinist you would be required to acquire the abilities knowledge, skills, and techniques listed below to perform without assistance or guidance manual and CNC machining techniques.

Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities Needed

So what are the wages paid to machinists?

Information provided in the chart below was sourced through the NH Occupational Employment and Wages. Data is from May 2012-aged to June 2013. The SOC Number referenced was 51-4041 - Machinist. Wages listed below DO NOT REPRESENT WAGES FOR TOOL&DIE or ANY FORM OF CNC POSITIONS.

  Entry Average Median Experienced
New Hampshire $15.13 $21.05 $20.23 $24.01
Claremont Area $13.02 $18.96 $20.17 $21.92
Concord Area $13.94 $19.94 $19.22 $22.64
Exeter Seabrook Area $16.97 $21.61 $21.34 $23.93
Lebanon & Hanover Area $19.18 $24.55 $24.53 $27.23
Keene Area $13.01 $17.54 $17.68 $19.82
Laconia Area $15.98 $19.08 $18.62 $20.64
Manchester Area $16.80 $22.39 $18.69 $25.18
Nashua & Derry Area $14.01 $20.62 $19.65 $23.88
Peterborough Area $16.75 $19.71 $19.60 $26.20
Rochester-Dover Area $17.58 $23.50 $24.32 $26.45

Information provided in the chart below was sourced through the NH Occupational Employment and Wages. Data is from May 2012-aged to June 2013. The SOC Number referenced was 51-4011 - "CNC Operator".

  Entry Average Median Experienced
New Hampshire $13.04 $17.59 $16.97 $19.88

Information provided in the chart below was sourced through the NH Occupational Employment and Wages. Data is from May 2012-aged to June 2013. The SOC Number referenced was 51-4012 - "CNC Programmer".

  Entry Average Median Experienced
New Hampshire $19.19 $24.85 $23.47 $27.68

Need Help with the terms?

Listed below are the explanations direct from the Department of Labor's Website.

SOC Code Number
The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system's unique, six-digit (plus hyphen) numerical identifier for each occupation. When the SOC code is a link, clicking on it leads to a page that contains the occupational definition and national cross-industry estimates.

The estimated total occupational employment (not including self-employed).

Mean Hourly Wage
The estimated total hourly wages of an occupation divided by its estimated employment, i.e., the average hourly wage.

Mean Annual Wage
The estimated total annual wages of an occupation divided by its estimated employment, i.e., the average annual wage.


Now that you have read about different types of positions and career options we are sure you noticed one common theme. Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities. How do you achieve better skills, knowledge, and abilities? Training and Education! Realize that there are no short cuts, but taking it step by step, and if you want it bad enough you just never know what you can achieve! Check out our training page by clicking here!

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New Hampshire Machining Association
PO Box 1581
Merrimack, NH 03054
Phone: (603) 880-0115