The Boston Tooling & Machining Association, Inc​​

​​Affiliate Chapter of The National Tooling & Machining Association

PO Box 95, Dracut MA 01826  978-457-5881
Vocational Programs
Youth Programs

Planning a career?

The Precision Custom Manufacturing Industry in New England is a vibrant, growth industry. A career in our industry will provide you with great work, great wages and benefits, and great opportunities to advance. Precision custom manufacturing companies have modern facilities that house state of the art equipment and technology, and a lot of creative brainpower!

The industry provides parts and products to a wide range of industries including aerospace, power generation, automobile, electronics, nuclear, construction, appliance, defense and many more. If you really think about it, everything that is produced has been touched in some way by custom manufacturers. There's a broad array of jobs and careers in our industry - and skilled workers are in great demand.

A Career In Manufacturing - A Choice Well Made!
A video produced in conjuction with the BTMA and Western MA NTMA by Film and Noise
The project was funded by the Massachusetts Office of Housing and Economic Development through the Precision Manufacturing Program of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County. Enjoy the video, we hope you enjoy it.

What is a Machinist?

CNC machinists work with precision computer numeric controlled (CNC) equipment from setup to operation to produce parts and tools from metal, plastic or other materials. Below is a overview of the career path to become a professional CNC Machinst. We have put together this summary of the CNC career ladder to help you understand the career path. 

​Entry Level CNC Operator

This position requires a person to load, unload and adjust the equipment and ensure the machine is operating properly. Although this job may sound like a "easy" job it is not. Being a full trained operator who is proficient is key to any successful operation. Operators are expected to notice when the operation run time and quality of the product coming out the machine IS not holding up. Depending on the operation it could take up to two years depending on your incoming skills to become a effective, qualified independent CNC Operator.

​Skills, Knowledge and  Abilities Needed:
Math skills-high school algebra
Measurement skills
Basic interpretation technical drawings
Basic QC skills
Knowledge of safety standards for equipment being run
Some mechanical abilities
Strong communication abilities
Critical thinking abilities
Ability to easily adapt to changing environment
Ability to monitor operations
Ability to quickly react to non confirming as they occur
Ability to produce parts within tolerances
Ability to measure, cut, or work on items with great accuracy

​Physical Demands​These physical demands will apply for all positions discussed on this page.
Lifting, twisting, and bending
Reaching
Carrying
Standing for long periods of time
Seeing clearly close up
Judging depth and distance

​Decided you want to make the next move in this career path?

​Next Stop on the career ladder......

​CNC Set-Up Operator

Transitioning to a CNC Set-up Operator may require you to take some machining classes in order obtain the knowledge and skills required to become a proficient CNC Set-up Operator. A CNC Set-up Operator will more than likely receive instructions on a job by job basis from the lead person on the shop floor. The CNC Set-up Operator will take those general instructors and proceed to set-up the equipment by loading the tooling in the correct order or position within the machine, install all necessary fixtures and related equipment, run the first pieces to ensure the machine is running correctly and make any additional minor offset entries into the program. Those changes are driven by the specifications provided on the blue print and job router. Once the machine is running correctly, the CNC Set-up operator maybe required to have the Quality Assurance area sign off on what is call the first article of inspection. This process ensures that all machined features are correct to the print. From this point the CNC Set-up Operator is generally responsible for the entire run of the job. During that time period tool changes may be required. Adjustments to the program may also need to occur due to the tool change.

How long does it take to become a proficient and successful CNC Set-up Operator? Well, that will truly depend on if the individual is relying solely on the experiences in the work environment or if they chose to take classes to enhance their knowledge. In addition to that is the variable of how many different types of equipment the person has run. Some experience is easily transferred between different machines and manufacturers of equipment and some are not. In general terms, most industry leaders will say it can take up to 2 years to become a highly trained, proficient, solely independent CNC Set-up Operator. Yes, that is in additional to the 2 years as a CNC Operator.

​Skills, Knowledge and Abilities Needed:
Advanced math skills- college level Algebra, geometry, and some trigonometry
Advanced measurement skills
Knowledge physical sciences
Read, interpret technical drawings and standards
Interpret, and document QC standards as a part of the operation.
Knowledge of tooling capabilities
Knowledge of safety standards for equipment being run
Some mechanical abilities
Strong communication abilities
Critical thinking abilities
Multi-tasking abilities
Ability to easily adapt to changing environment
Ability to monitor operations
Ability to quickly react to non-confirming operations as they occur
Ability to produce parts within tolerances
Ability to measure, cut, or work on items with great accuracy

Thinking you still want more... take the next step on the career ladder...

​Next Step CNC Machinist

A CNC machinist will have all the work experiences we have already talked about. However most have at some point in time taken some type of additional classes or educational programming. A CNC Machinists is able to make adjustments (both minor and major) to the programs as needed to run the machine(s), along with all the details and responsibilities mentioned in the CNC Operator position. In some instances, the CNC Machinist will write the entire program. In addition, they may interface with the engineering staff, and production planning staff regarding specifics of the job being worked on.
Learning to write CNC programs is not as easy as it sounds. To be successful, one must learn a whole new language! Depending what machines are being run you will become proficient in several different languages as well! Knowledge in the materials being processed, speeds & feeds, along with a complete understanding of tooling. You may need to learn how to use specific software such as CADCAM.

So, you have moved up the ladder starting out as a CNC operator, to and CNC Set-up Operator within a time frame of say 4 years. How long until you become a successful CNC Machinist? Well that really does depend on your educational background, work experience and the effort you put into it. In the best case, you would need at least 3 more years! Many of our members and their staff say they are still learning after decades with all the increasing technologies which become available!

​Skills, Knowledge and Abilities Needed
Advanced math skills-college algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus
Advanced measurement skills
Knowledge and application of physical sciences
Read, interpret technical drawings and standards
Interpret, and document QC standards, and applications required as a part of the operation
Knowledge of tooling capabilities and applications
Knowledge of advanced programming languages
Knowledge of production processes, and material
Knowledge of safety standards and safe guards.
Strong mechanical abilities
Strong communication abilities
Critical thinking abilities
Ability to easily adapt to changing environment
Ability to monitor details of processes
Ability to monitor multiple machines at same time
Ability to produce parts within tolerances
Ability to measure, cut, or work on items with great accuracy