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Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Tool Programmer

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What They Do

Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Programmers Career Video

About This Career

Develops programs to control machining or processing of materials by automatic machine tools, equipment, or systems. May also set up, operate, or maintain equipment.

This career is part of the Manufacturing cluster Production pathway.

A person in this career:

  • Writes programs in the language of a machine's controller and stores programs on media, such as punch tapes, magnetic tapes, or disks.
  • Determines the sequence of machine operations, and selects the proper cutting tools needed to machine workpieces into the desired shapes.
  • Analyzes job orders, drawings, blueprints, specifications, printed circuit board pattern films, and design data to calculate dimensions, tool selection, machine speeds, and feed rates.
  • Writes instruction sheets and cutter lists for a machine's controller to guide setup and encode numerical control tapes.
  • Revises programs or tapes to eliminate errors, and retests programs to check that problems have been solved.
  • Observes machines on trial runs or conducts computer simulations to ensure that programs and machinery will function properly and produce items that meet specifications.
  • Enters computer commands to store or retrieve parts patterns, graphic displays, or programs that transfer data to other media.
  • Modifies existing programs to enhance efficiency.
  • Determines reference points, machine cutting paths, or hole locations, and computes angular and linear dimensions, radii, and curvatures.
  • Sorts shop orders into groups to maximize materials utilization and minimize machine setup time.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would sit most of the time. There's some walking and standing. You may have to lift and carry things like books, papers or tools weighing 10 lbs. or less.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Overtime work
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • CAD CAM Programmer (Computer-Aided Design Computer-Aided Manufacturing Programmer)
  • Computer Numerical Control Machinist (CNC Machinist) — Interprets blueprints, manuals and other work instructions and studies sample parts to determine dimensions of finished work pieces and CNC equipment setup requirements. They then set the machine and load it with the correct cutting tools to shape parts.
  • Computer Numerical Control Programmer (CNC Programmer)
  • Programmer


  • Email Support

  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900


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