CNC Machinist


As a CNC Machinist you will be working with a variety of machine tools, ranging from small work-top based machines, to large free standing machines. You will be producing precision engineered metal products used in the manufacturing and engineering industries.

Also known as

  • Manual Turner
  • CNC Turner
  • Lathe Turner
  • CNC Operator

Work Activities

As a CNC Machinist, you will be working with a variety of machine tools, ranging from small worktop based machines, to large free standing machines. You will be producing precision engineered metal products which are used in the manufacturing and engineering industries. You will need to carefully follow the instructions you are given so that the finished product meets the expected requirements.

Some Machinists use manually operated lathes to shape the metal they are working on, while others use Computerised Numerical Control (CNC) lathes. CNC lathes are operated by computer programmed commands. As a CNC Machinist you will need to make sure that the correct programmes are used and also ensure sure that the lathe is operating correctly.

As a CNC Machinist, your other duties could include:

  • carefully reading and checking product plans and blueprints
  • follow the required quality checks of the finished product
  • ensure that the product passes a final inspection
  • report any faults and maintenance requirements
  • setting and operating CNC lathes, and occasionally creating new programmes

You may be required to carry out maintenance on your lathe. This could include:

  • overhauling machine gearboxes
  • replacing bearings
  • renewing seals in hydraulic and pneumatic equipment

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a CNC Machinist, you'll need:

  • good practical skills
  • an interest in understanding how machines work
  • to understand technical information and diagrams
  • to be able to write reports, describing the repairs and services you have carried out
  • to understand and follow health and safety regulations
  • the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £22,000 - £24,000
  • With experience: £25,000 - £29,500
  • Senior CNC Machinists earn £32,000 - £36,500

Hours of work

CNC Machinists usually work up to 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, shift work, night and weekend work may be required.

Where could I work?

Employers are a broad range of manufacturing companies.

Opportunities for CNC Machinists occur with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, trade industry publications, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Find a Job website.

Vacancies can also be found through specialist engineering recruitment agencies, internet job boards and the websites of professional engineering bodies.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

You can get straight into this career as a school leaver with GCSEs. You will train on-the-job, and might be able to work towards gaining a work-based qualification.

These can form part of an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship. Take a look at our article 'Apprenticeships - How do I apply?' for more details.

You will learn the skills and get the experience you need to become a skilled CNC Machinist.


As a CNC Machinist, you might be able to progress to a specialist posts or to Team Leader/Supervisor positions after further training and experience.


To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


Those with skills gained in industrial production work have an advantage, including:

  • plant maintenance
  • mechanical fault finding
  • reading and following engineering technical drawings
  • installation
  • manual machine operation

Further Information


Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies

Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT

Tel: 0845 6439001



Tomorrow's Engineers

Publisher: EngineeringUK and Royal Academy of Engineering



Construction Industry Training Board (CITB)

Address: Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP

Tel: 01923 260000



Scottish Engineering

Scottish enquiries

Address: 105 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1QL

Tel: 0141 2213181



Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844


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