Mastercam Programmer: Job Outlook & Career Info

Learn what a Mastercam programmer does. Find out what kind of education and training are required for employment. See about the career prospects and earning potential to decide if this job is right for you.

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Mastercam programmers combine computer skills with manufacturing knowledge to program manufacturing software programs to create machined parts in an efficient, precise process with less waste, increased product consistency, and reduced energy consumption. They are generically referred to as numerical tool and process control programmers.

Mastercam programmers first determine the sequence of events needed to make a part by reviewing 3-dimensional computer blueprints. They may calculate how fast to feed the metal into the machine or how much metal to remove. Mastercam programmers use the Mastercam software to then develop code that will be read by a computer-controlled module. The module directs machining tools including lathes or milling machines, which cut and shape pieces such as automobile, aviation, and machine parts, according to

Education Associate degree programs available
Job Skills Manufacturing knowledge, attention to detail
Median Salary (2015)* $48,990 for computer numerically controlled machine tool programmers
Job Growth (2014-2024)* -13% for metal and plastic machine workers, 6% for machinists, and tool and die cast makers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Manufacturing technology associate's degree programs can provide aspiring Mastercam programmers the background in both computers and manufacturing that employers demand. Coursework includes computer-aided design and manufacturing, blueprint-reading, and manufacturing processes. Mastercam courses are typically a requirement of these programs, which usually lead to an associate degree. Online and certificate programs are available in Mastercam for those with experience in manufacturing and computers.

Skills Required

Employers place a heavy emphasis on manufacturing knowledge. Many design programs often fail to detail each step in the manufacturing process. Mastercam programmers must bridge these gaps through an understanding of the machining process, including the complex physics that occur at the cutting point. To date, no computer can reason like a human machinist.

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Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for metal and plastic machine workers were expected to shrink by 13% from 2014-2024, in part because of competition from businesses from other countries. The 2014-2024 employment projection for machinists and tool and die makers was an increase of 6%. The median annual salary for computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tool programmers, among which are counted Mastercam programmers, was $48,990, as of May 2015.

Alternate Career Options

Consider these other choices for careers in machine operation:


A millwright is responsible for taking apart or setting up sophisticated industrial machinery step by step. Their duties can include fixing machines and making adjustments to return them to optimal settings. Millwrights use a variety of tools, including cranes when working on large jobs. Completion of an internship or associate's degree program is typically required for employment. Jobs in this field are expected to increase 16% from 2014-2024, per the BLS. The median salary for millwrights was $51,390 in 2015, and the industries that employed the greatest number of millwrights were building equipment contractors, building construction (non-residential), and pulp, paper, and paperboard mills.


A cutter operates highly specialized tools that use electric arcs, plasma gas, and other burning gasses to cut metal with heat. Cutters can modify metal pieces to a particular size through machine work, or they can cut up large metal objects like railroad cars or ships. Cutters can complete on-the-job training or a postsecondary education program at a technical or vocational school. The BLS anticipates that jobs in this field will increase 4% from 2014-2024. The median pay was $38,150 in 2015; most jobs were in the industries of architectural and structural metals manufacturing; agriculture, construction, and mining machinery manufacturing; and motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing.

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