CNC Machinist Apprenticeship

CNC Machinist Apprenticeship

Apprentice CNC machinists help programme and operate machine tools that cut, shape, drill, and polish metal and other materials to produce precision engineering components. A CNC machine is used for precision cutting. This involves typing instructions onto a computer panel.


Throughout your apprenticeship, you may help:

  • programme the CNC machine tool with data from technical drawings
  • work out the most efficient order to carry out machining tasks
  • choose the right tools for each stage and operate the machine
  • set the cutting speeds and tolerance levels
  • check that work meets quality and technical standards and maintain equipment.


  • The starting salary for apprentice CNC machinists is normally around £17,000 a year.
  • With experience this can rise to £21,000 to £25,000 a year.
  • Senior machinists may earn up to over £40,000 a year. Bonuses and extra pay for shift work are common.

Working hours

You will typically work 42 to 44 hours per week, including evenings and weekends on shifts.

Working environment

  • You would work in a factory or workshop.
  • Working conditions can vary from clean and quiet to dirty and noisy depending on what you are making.
  • You have to stand for long periods of time and you have to take care to avoid accidents with the machines.
  • You would normally wear overalls and protective glasses, gloves, ear defenders and safety shoes.


Qualifications you can achieve as an apprentice CNC machinist include:

  • Level 3 Machining Technician – Entry requirements for this level include 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship. This qualification will take 42 months to complete.


On a CNC machinist apprenticeship, you’ll learn:

  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools
  • maths knowledge
  • the ability to work on your own
  • knowledge of manufacturing production and processes
  • analytical thinking skills
  • design skills and knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently.

Career path and progression

With experience and further training, you could move into a supervisory role.

You could also move into quality inspection or become an engineering technician.

Updated on December 30, 2022

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