Computer Control Programmers and Operators Career Description
Computer-Control Programmers and Operators use computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines to create specialized parts for a range of industries, such as aerospace and automobile makers. The CNC machining tools can be anything used to shape a piece of metal or plastic into the finished article. These pieces tend to be produced in large numbers, although occasionally bespoke items may be produced. Necessary Computer-Control Programmer or Operator skills include a requirement for understanding of the properties of the materials used, as well as programming knowledge of the relevant CNC machine, to create the finished product to the precise specification required. Computer-Control Programmer or Operator duties include ensuring the CNC machine is correctly set up, the program to create the part has been tested correctly, and that it produces parts to the correct specification once in operation. This task might also be required on several machines simultaneously.
There are two distinct environments where Computer-Control Programmers and Operators work. The CNC machines are housed in well-lit, clean and ventilated shop-floors with stringent safety precautions in place due to the noise of the machines, the likelihood of flying bits of cut material, and toxicity of the lubricants used in the machines. This is a physically demanding environment, and operatives might be required to stand for long periods of time and handle heavy parts. There are also Computer-Control Programmers working on desktop computers in separate offices close to the machine shop. These offices will also be clean and well lit, but free of machine noise.
Computer-Control Programmer or Operator opportunities are widely available and very diverse. Employment is mainly in private sector manufacturing industries, with a split of 89% Computer-Control Operators and 11% Computer-Control Programmers. Employment is concentrated in manufacturing industries, making mostly aerospace and automobile parts. The major benefit of a career as computer-control programmer and operator is the range of manufacturing industries requiring these skills. Despite the general decline in employment, demand for skilled workers in this category will remain strong. Computer-Control Programmer and Operator opportunities are unlikely to decline despite the current economic climate, due to the limited number of people joining the profession.
How much does a Computer-Control Programmer or Operator make - Computer-Control Programmer or Operator Salary and Wages
The Computer-Control Programmer and Operator salary range depends on experience, specialization and location. Median per-hour income based on years of experience breaks down as follows: 1-4 years, $12.36-$16.70 ($506 annual bonus); 5-9 years, $15.09-$19.87 ($717 annual bonus); 10-19 years, $17.00-$22.77 ($1009 annual bonus); 20+ years, $19.13-$25.76 ($12.65 annual bonus).
How to become a Computer-Control Programmer or Operator
Education and Training
The educational background and training requirements for computer-control programmers and operators depend on the role and type of job. Training is done in various ways: via apprenticeship programs; informal on the job; and secondary, vocational, or post-secondary schools. Entry-level Computer-Control Operators qualifications depend on the specific job and may require only a few weeks of on-the-job training to become proficient, especially if the worker has previous machining experience. Computer-Control Programmers, however, will need many years of experience or training. Computer-Control Programmers and Operators qualifications require at a minimum exposure to this type of work in high school. Computer-Control Programmer and Operator courses are also offered at post-high school vocational schools in Mathematics (Trigonometry and Algebra), Blueprint reading, Computer Programming, Metalworking and Drafting. A growing number of Computer-Control Programmer and Operator degrees are offered, with the most skilled workers now receiving formal training from community or technical colleges. Advancement can be attained in various ways. Experienced Computer-Control Operators may become Computer-Control Programmers. Promotion to supervisory or administrative positions is also possible; some will even open their own facilities.