Automation Engineer Career Path

Automation has been utilized by the manufacturing industry for decades, but other industries have been quickly following suit to automate their services. This rise in automation creates a spike in job outlook for those in the automation engineering industry. Read on if you want to take advantage of this lucrative opportunity by learning how you can become an automation engineer. 

0 %
production associate job openings in the U.S. based on job postings
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of CNC Operators are over the age of 40


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See if your skills align with the most essential CNC operator skills:

Experience with calipers, micrometers, and math. (Oh my!)

Calipers and micrometers are among the most common machine tools that CNC operators use. These measuring devices are essential to daily tasks, and knowledge of their proper use is typically a requirement. Math is a complementary skill that is frequently used to calculate and understand machine specifications and material dimensions.

High safety standards

CNC Machine Operators assume a higher amount of risk than most jobs, which is why this career path typically requires an apprenticeship or extensive on-the-job training. Safety must be taken seriously in this line of work. Operators often perform machine audits to ensure safety standards are being met as well.

Understanding of G Code

G code is the specific language that CNC machines speak. Therefore, the programmer must speak this language to tell the machine what to do. It is helpful when the machine operator understands G Code so that they can perform machine troubleshooting or make necessary performance revisions on machinery.

Welder Job Overview

We think you have what it takes to be a CNC operator… do you?

CNC operators have highly specialized roles in a machine shop. So, what does a CNC operator do? They have the important task of running CNC machines: ensuring their proper use, troubleshooting any machine malfunctions, creating the programs that operate the CNC machinery, and entering the programs into CNC machines. 

Common CNC Operator Job Requirements:

Apprenticeship is often a steppingstone into a CNC operator career, but these key requirements are still the most sought out amongst manufacturers in search of a CNC operator: Keep an eye out for changes –every job posting is different, and every employer has their own preferences for its CNC operators. These are the roles and responsibilities that are common in this career path:   

You’ve made it this far, but where do you go from here?

Getting Started
A Few Years In
Ramping Up
The Future


Few CNC operators have bachelor’s degrees or higher, most start out by enrolling in an apprenticeship, or completing an internship that gives them on-the-job experience. Typically, it takes 3-6 months to gain competency. After training is completed, you should consider certifications to refine your skillset.


After a couple of years working as an operator, the career path possibilities are vast. Here are just some of the roles you can move into: CNC operator II, machinist, tool maker, driver, QA technician, QC inspector, technician, and maintenance technician.

Becoming a Leader

As you build your expertise in one of the career paths listed above, you’ll likely supervise or manage others if you aren’t specializing further in your role. Many CNC operators become line leaders, technicians, lead machinists, production supervisors or shop foremen.

Endless Possibilities

There are vast opportunities in machining. Once you have management experience & industry expertise, you can become a CNC programmer, a senior machinist, a machine shop manager, a plant manager, a lead fabricator, a machine shop supervisor, a shift supervisor, an engineering manager, or a quality control manager. These aren’t even all the options out there, which is why this career path is so great. There are many opportunities to choose a career path that satisfies your desires, skills, and career goals.

Here are some trends we’ve noticed in the industry:

If you live in America, you know that the production and manufacturing industry is facing challenges with supply, economic downturn, and labor shortages. But, somehow, the growth continues in 2023 as consumers demand more products to be “made in America.” 


CNC operator trends

  • Unfortunately, the demand for CNC operators is projected to decline by 8% between 2018 and 2028. 
  • Salaries for operators have overall increased in the past five years, by 11%, even though the demand hasn’t.  
  • In the last four years, there have been two major spikes in CNC operator job growth (in 2019 and 2021). 


Hiring trends in Production and Manufacturing

Finding qualified employees to fill the production roles that are open is still a challenge the United States is facing. Most working CNC operators are above the age of 40. This means that in the next 10-15 years, there will be a significant number of operators that retire from the workforce, leaving a large gap to be filled. 


CNC Operator vs. CNC Machinist – what’s the difference?

While CNC machinists are very similar to CNC operators, there is a distinct difference between the two: CNC operators are typically only operating the CNC machines, whereas machinists have the experience & knowledge to set up the machine, switch out tools, and make adjustments as they see fit. 

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So, how much can you earn?

Let's Talk CNC Operator Salary

A CNC operator’s salary can range anywhere from $42,174 to $79,443 depending on years of experience, technical skills, and the type of CNC machining. This seems like a big range, but we’ll break it down by position, so it makes sense. All salaries are averages for the role and are not specific to a geographic location. The cost of living can greatly impact wages, so keep that in mind for the location you plan to work in. There are also specialty CNC Operators (like set up operators) that may offer different salaries than the general roles listed below. 

Entry level CNC Operator salary (CNC Operator I): $49,800 

Experienced Operator salary (CNC Operator II): $59,700 

Senior level Operator salary (CNC Operator III): $68,500 

These five states have the highest paying salaries: 

  1. West Virginia (avg. salary $42,499) 
  2. Maryland (avg. salary $41,846) 
  3. Idaho (avg. salary $40,866) 
  4. New Jersey (avg. salary $40,821) 
  5. Massachusetts (avg. salary $40,408) 

Salary information gathered from 

These cities have the highest demand for CNC Operators: 

  1. Tualatin, OR 
  2. Lancaster, PA 
  3. Syracuse, NY 
  4. San Diego, CA 
  5. Elk Grove Village, IL 

Unsure of next steps to become an CNC Machinist?

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Let us show you why NCW should be a part of your journey to becoming a manufacturing hire:

NCW has a history of success placing manufacturing professionals in positions they were made for. Whether you have experience in manufacturing and production, or not, we are here to help you get on the right track. Have another specialty? Don’t worry, we’ve got more than manufacturing jobs to offer. We hire for almost every type of manufacturing and production role there is!  

Keep an eye out for these types of CNC machine operator jobs: 

  • Cell Operator 
  • Control Operator 
  • Grinder Operator 
  • Laser Operator 
  • Machine Set Up Operator 
  • Mold Injection Operator 
  • Molder Operator 

Our recruiters have years of experience working with candidates who want to be successful. We want to get to know you, understand your career goals, chat through your experience, and present you with a career opportunity that you’ll love.   

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