Numerical Control Tool Programmers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

High school courses in computer science, algebra, geometry, and English provide the basics needed to become a CNC programmer. More specific courses in blueprint reading, drafting, and computer-aided design are also useful. In addition, shop classes in metalworking can provide an understanding of machinery operations.

Postsecondary Training

Employers prefer to hire skilled machinists or tool operators to work as CNC programmers. Workers are usually trained through formal apprenticeships or postsecondary programs, or informally on the job. Apprenticeship programs usually last four years and include training in machine operations, program writing, computer-aided design and manufacturing, and analysis of drawings and design data. Classes include blueprint reading and drawing, machine tools, industrial mathematics, computers, and operation and maintenance of CNC machines.

Formal apprentice programs are becoming rare as more programmers receive training through community or technical colleges. Associate's degrees are available in areas such as manufacturing technology and automated manufacturing systems. Typical classes include machine shop, numerical control fundamentals, technical mechanics, advanced NC programming, introduction to robotic technology, and computer-assisted manufacturing.

For specialized types of programming, such as in aerospace or shipbuilding, employers often require a four-year degree in engineering in addition to technical skills and work experience.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for numerical control tool programmers.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Numerical control tool programmers should be proficient at using computer software and hardware. They should have specific knowledge about work-related materials and have mechanical experience in designing and using tools and machines. These programmers must be able to create, read, and revise drawings and models. In addition, they must have a solid understanding of how a product is made and the materials and steps needed to manufacture it.

Numerical control tool programmers should possess precision work skills gained through on-the-job programs, either following the lead of an experienced worker or through employer-sponsored formal training. Experience as a machinist is very helpful as employers often choose such workers for this position.