Schools for Aspiring CNC Operators and Programmers: How to Choose

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) programmers write the code that runs the machines responsible for cutting, shaping, rolling and developing mechanical and tooling parts, typically made from metal. Certificate and associate degree programs prepare graduates for immediate entry into the industry. Bachelor's degree programs offer advanced engineering education and management training.

Students who want to become CNC operators or programmers may find training programs at community colleges, technical schools and 4-year colleges and universities.

Schools with CNC Technology Programs

These colleges offer programs for aspiring CNC operators or programmers.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition
Houston Community College Houston, TX 2-year, Public Associate's $1,632 In-district; $3,360 In-state; $3,756 Out-of-state*
Macomb Community College Warren, MI 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $3,169 In-district; $4,945 In-state; $6,641 Out-of-state*
Eastern Iowa Community College Davenport, IA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $4,480 In-state; $6,624 Out-of-state*
Shoreline Community College Shoreline, WA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $3,730 In-state; $6,451 Out-of-state*
Spartanburg Community College Spartanburg, SC 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $4,192 In-district; $5,210 In-state; $8,472 Out-of-state*
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo, IA 2-year, Public Certificate, Diploma, Associate's $4,466 In-state; $5,166 Out-of-state*
College of Lake County Grayslake, IL 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $3,612 In-district; $8,356 In-state; $11,046 Out-of-state*
Lakeland Community College Kirkland, OH 2-year, Public Certificate $97.75 Lake County residents; $126.05 In-state per credit hour; $294.05 Out-of-state per credit hour**
Nashua Community College Nashua, NH 2-year, Public Certificate $200 per credit**

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES); **School Websites

School Selection Criteria

There are a number of things to think about when choosing a program in this field.

  • Programs with machining laboratories that provide students with hands-on learning and emphasize the most up-to-date technology offer graduates advantages in keeping up with this industry.
  • Certificate programs and associate degree programs prepare students for positions in CNC manufacturing, while earning a bachelor's degree in engineering may allow the student to pursue highly specialized CNC programming, operating or management positions.
  • Look for programs that have internships or practicums to form industry connections and broaden the learning experience.


Students in certificate programs learn to read blueprints, interpret engineering drawings and operate manual grinders, lathes and milling machines. Mathematics-intensive curricula teach CNC machine setup, algebra, trigonometry and computer-aided design (CAD), as well as machine operation and basic programming.

Associate Degrees

CNC programming courses are often part of a machine tool automation, machining technology or mechanical engineering program. Students in an associate degree program have the opportunity to study elective areas such as microcomputer applications, functional geometry and fixture design. These programs may emphasize statistical process control, coordinate measuring machines and other quality control processes and tools.

Bachelor of Science in Engineering

Engineering bachelor's degree programs for aspiring CNC operators and programmers include mechanical engineering technology, designing and industrial systems engineering programs.

Programs for CNC operators and programmers are typically offered as certificate or associate's degree programs. It is important to review the course curriculum and consider factors such as hands-on training, cost and location when choosing a program in this field.

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