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Computer Control Programmer Job Description, Career as a Computer Control Programmer, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Median—$19.31 per hour

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Computer control programmers carefully plan and prepare the process of using computer numerically controlled machines to cut metal, plastic, or glass precisely, shaping a finished part or product. First, they review three-dimensional blueprints of a part. Next, they calculate the operations that must be performed on the workpiece. Then they select the tools and materials for the job. And finally, they plan the sequence of the tasks that need to be performed to produce the finished part or product.

Computer control programmers must then turn the detailed plan of machining operations into a set of numerical commands for the computer numerically controlled machine to follow. After the program is written, the programmers check the programs to make sure that the machinery functions properly and that the finished parts and products meet specifications. Computer control operators then download the set of commands to the computer numerically controlled machine, position the workpiece on the machine tool, set the controls, and let the machine do the necessary cuts and other operations.

Education and Training Requirements

Computer control programmers generally receive their training from community colleges or technical schools in combination with training on the job. Highly skilled programmers who work for industries that produce complex parts, such as the aerospace or shipbuilding industries, usually need college degrees in engineering. Those who wish to enter apprenticeship programs should have high school degrees, basic knowledge of computers and electronics, and several years of experience with conventional machine tools.

The National Institute of Metalworking Skills developed a set of skills standards for computer control programmers that have been adopted by a number of vocational training facilities and colleges. Classroom training includes computer programming basics. Graduates of these programs are certified by the National Institute of Metalworking Skills.

Computer control programmers turn machining operations into instructions that are translated into a CAM program containing a set of commands for the machine to follow. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

Getting the Job

Due to a shortage of qualified computer control programmers, some companies promote these workers from within, training experienced computer control operators in programming. Workers with associate's or bachelor's degrees in engineering can apply directly to companies where they would like to work. Graduates of National Institute of Metalworking Skills certificate programs can also apply directly to machine shops. State employment offices and classified help wanted ads in the newspaper also list job openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Computer control programmers may advance to more complex programming jobs with additional training and experience. Some may be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions. A few programmers open their own shops.

The number of computer control programmer jobs is expected to decline through 2014 as advances in computer numerically controlled machines result in increasing automation of the programming process. However, the shortage of people entering training programs means that certified applicants should have good job opportunities.

Working Conditions

Computer control programmers typically work in clean, well-lit, and well-ventilated offices that are separate from the shop floor. Programmers occasionally enter the shop when testing or monitoring computer numerically controlled machine operations. On the shop floor, they may be exposed to dust, noise, and chemicals. Programmers generally work forty-hour weeks.

Where to Go for More Information

National Institute for Metalworking Skills
3251 Old Lee Hwy., Ste. 205
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 352-4971

National Tooling and Machining Association
9300 Livingston Rd.
Fort Washington, MD 20744
(800) 248-6862

Precision Machined Products Association
6700 West Snowville Rd.
Brecksville, OH 44141
(440) 526-0300

Precision Metalforming Association Educational Foundation
6363 Oak Tree Blvd.
Independence, OH 44131-2500
(216) 901-8800

Earnings and Benefits

The median hourly wage for a computer control programmer was $19.31 in 2004. Benefits usually include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesManufacturing & Production