How to Become a CNC Machinist in California

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How to Become a CNC Machinist in California

An occupation that has a high demand is that of a CNC machinist.

CNC stands for “Computer Numerical Control.”

As you can tell, this is a relatively new occupation.

Additionally, the technology it uses also evolves, thus the machinists must pay attention to the changes.

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If all this sounds interesting to you, then read on and learn how to become a CNC machinist in California!

CNC Machinist Job Description

Finding out what a CNC machinist does is important in making a decision.

Such a professional must use a CNC-controlled machine to create pieces out of a variety of materials and with high accuracy.

The pieces can be prototypes that may be adjusted in the future, unique pieces for certain projects, or serving other purposes.

These pieces can only be obtained while using a CNC machine because of its precision.

The machines used before the CNC ones were created, were louder and of slightly lower accuracy.

Additionally, they were more difficult to operate as well.

Lathes, mills, and grinders are the most common machines using this technology.

Let’s find out the most common duties of a CNC machinist:

  • Set up the machines
  • Write and test programs
  • Make adjustments to those programs
  • Interpret blueprints and designs to understand the specs of the needed piece
  • Check to see if the completed parts meet the specifications
  • Prioritize tasks

Like any other job, there are other duties included that haven’t been mentioned.

CNC Machinist Job Requirements

Everyone has to meet some requirements upon getting employed.

This is true for CNC machinists too.

The most important of these prerequisites for these professionals are listed here:

  • Graduating high school or obtaining a GED
  • Having a GPA of 2.5 at minimum
  • Obtaining a degree or a certification in the field
    • You can still get hired without these
  • Accumulate experience
    • You can train on the job too if you don’t have experience
  • Having the necessary skills for a machinist

Becoming a CNC Machinist in California

If you have decided to become a CNC machinist, then you must know that there are just 3 steps to follow and complete.

Step 1 – Education

Few employers will hire someone without a high school diploma or GED.

A CNC machinist can choose to attend higher education as well, though it’s not mandatory because a vocational route is also available.

This secondary education will ensure you’ll be well prepared for the job ahead.

Additionally, you’ll have higher chances of getting chosen for hiring, according to the Top Trade Schools website.

Step 2 – Earn The NIMS Certification

The NIMS Machinist Level 1 certification is at the national level.

This is because the National Institute of Metalworking Skills offers it.

The best news is that this certification never expires.

Other certifications also exist and earning them will make your resume stand out when applying for a job.

This is also according to the Top Trade Schools website.

Step 3 – Apply for a Job

The easiest way of getting a job is by first participating in an apprenticeship.

In many instances, the school you attended for your training can also help with finding employment.

CNC Machinist Training in California

It’s time you looked at some training schools in California!

Los Angeles Trade Technical Center

The program here awards 2 diplomas:

  • Associate in Science degree in Machine Shop CNC
  • Certificate of Achievement

The program is available only full-time, about 21 hours per week, and has 48 course units.

Students have access to labs where they can practice what they learned.

Cerritos College

When applying to this college, you have a handful of diplomas to choose from:

  • An associate of arts degree in Machine Tool Technology
  • 4 certificates of achievement

The certificates are for the following areas:

  • CNC Programmer
  • CNC Operator
  • Machinist
  • Tool and Die Maker

Students get to practice on 17 CNC machines, including:

  • 4 axis,
  • 5 axis,
  • Automatic Part Loader (APL),
  • Bar Feeder,
  • A multi-axis turning center
School Name Address
Los Angeles Trade Technical Center 400 West Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Cerritos College 11110 Alondra Blvd, Norwalk, CA 90650,
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CNC Machinist Salary in California

California has a higher cost of living and this means higher salaries as well.

Per year, according to, a machinist earns around $55,880, on average.

Various factors will influence how much you’ll get, but keep in mind this figure is for an entry-level position.

In the table below you can find the cities where the pay is higher.

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
Alviso $63,580
Santa Clara $63,580
Saratoga $63,560
Brisbane $63,330
San Francisco $63,330
San Quentin $63,310
Stinson Beach $63,210
Richmond $61,860
Alameda $61,810
Alamo $61,670

Regional Salary in California

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA390$51,580$24.8$72,940$36,060
Chico, CA90$50,940$24.49$73,770$35,210
Fresno, CA390$48,980$23.55$66,540$35,040
Hanford-Corcoran, CA40$53,880$25.91$76,530$38,060
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA11,750$52,880$25.43$76,370$35,590
Madera, CA70$45,240$21.75$59,830$35,430
Merced, CA60$51,900$24.95$73,860$35,460
Modesto, CA250$51,790$24.9$75,380$35,690
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA890$52,110$25.05$70,710$36,640
Redding, CA70$56,020$26.93$94,650$35,330
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA2,890$49,980$24.03$65,580$35,280
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA1,010$54,740$26.32$79,340$36,870
Salinas, CA110$57,460$27.63$79,290$37,330
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA3,020$55,830$26.84$77,320$36,240
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA2,900$65,120$31.31$95,420$41,760
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA2,900$65,330$31.41$92,650$44,630
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA160$60,420$29.05$92,990$37,750
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA110$57,090$27.45$81,160$37,840
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA280$53,250$25.6$74,960$37,110
Santa Rosa, CA300$56,720$27.27$75,940$37,610
Stockton-Lodi, CA290$51,190$24.61$71,300$35,570
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA320$50,650$24.35$75,190$32,140
Visalia-Porterville, CA180$44,010$21.16$61,490$31,450
Yuba City, CA60$48,910$23.51$80,100$35,400
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Machinists, OCC Code 51-4041, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some skills I need to work as a CNC machinist in California?

Here are some of the most useful skills you need for this job:

  • Attention to details
  • Able to read blueprints
  • Able to follow written instructions
  • Strong working ethics
  • Problem-solving skills

How much experience does a CNC machinist need in California to be considered a master?

A full-fledged CNC machinist has at least 5 years of experience under their belt.

Can I train as a CNC machinist outside of California?

The short reply is yes, as long as it is not an online program.

USA CNC Machinist by State

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