10 Tips to Get a High-Paying Senior CNC Programmer Position – Updated

This post was originally published on September 4, 2018 and updated on August 29, 2019.

CNC programming is one of the hottest jobs in advanced manufacturing right now. As of July 2019, Senior CNC Programmer Jobs in Los Angeles pay an average of $85,960, while the national average hovers around $76,000. In this market, you’re probably asking yourself: Am I getting paid what I’m worth?

Here Are 10 Tips to Help You Land a Senior CNC Programming Job

1) Nothing beats your real world experience. Senior CNC Programmers have skills you only get from years on the job. A mid-level candidate may say the right things during an interview, but a strong senior candidate has already done them.Be ready to show prospective employers your chops, especially since you probably already have great examples from of real results that you created in prior jobs. Keep your examples top of mind so when you get asked about your CNC lathe experience, you have an answer ready to go:

“At my last company, I also modified the setup process, which cut load and unload times by 50%.”

2) Complexity is key. Many senior positions require ten years’ experience programming multi-axis machines with 2D/3D CAM/CAD software. Have you programmed for complex parts using 5+ axis machines? That type of experience will set you apart as a senior CNC programmer.Here are some examples of what you might put on your resume:

  • Programmed for complex aerospace components using advanced plastics on a 5-Axis Vertical Machining Center.
  • Designed fixtures, clamps, and gauges to support surgical tools and implants.
  • Programmed CNC Machining Center for all shifts in automotive wiring harness factory.

3) Specialty skills can make you more money. Just because your current company doesn’t put your 5-axis milling experience or six sigma knowledge to good use, doesn't mean someone else won't. Make sure to list your advanced knowledge like your CAD software skills, 3D printing, or NX Programming experience.

4) Size matters. Knowing how to work with really large parts or extremely small tolerances is expertise companies will pay for. If your background includes working with machines the size of a building or drilling to microscopic tolerances, focus on finding a company looking for people with these specialties.

5) Some industries and locations pay more than others. You can get paid more for the exact same job just by working at a consumer electronics company versus an auto parts supplier. Just because you’ve spent your entire career in automotive doesn’t mean your skills won’t translate to a different industry. Also, some states pay more than others. A move or a new commute, can get you a substantial pay bump, just be mindful of any changes in your cost of living.

6) Shops care about results. It all comes down to time and money. Whether you want a job at a billion-dollar public company or a family-owned facility, hiring managers are always focused on the bottom line. One smart improvement can make all the difference, and employers love to hear stories about how you fixed a production error, improved quality, or changed a process that saved the company time and money.If you’ve trained operators on how to correct offset mistakes or worked with engineers on ways they could modify their designs to move through production fast, make sure to highlight these in your resume or during your interviews.

7) Certifications and accreditations are valuable. Every employer knows that you can set up CNC machines, but the company wants to be reassured that you can maintain the quality and safety standards to meet their compliance accreditation. If you have special certifications, or if you’ve worked in facilities with high accreditations, don’t forget to mention this in your application.

8) Show, don't tell. An interviewer will likely ask you to walk them through common operations. For example, to assess your basic skills, they may ask, “How would you machine a square block from round stock?”You can make it easy for them by bringing in actual parts, along with photos or videos of the most advanced products you’ve made. Use a video to walk your interviewer through how you approach projects and how you solved machining a complex part. There aren’t much better ways to help an employer get a good understanding of everything you can do.

9) Technical skills are table stakes. People hire people they want to work with. Your personality counts more than you realize. When it comes down to two great candidates with awesome technical skills, employers will choose the reliable, team player who can help solve problems.Employers look for responsible, independent employees who can mentor, solve problems, and communicate effectively. During an interview, explain and demonstrate your communication style. You may say something like this:

“I pride myself on my ability to communicate clearly with coworkers and customers. I know that by communicating clearly, I can prevent delays, shorten the machining cycle, and increase efficiency.”

10) Continuous learning is a given. When you discussing your background, find ways to highlight that you’re always trying to learn new skills. You may also want to highlight that you’re a quick learner. Tell the employer that while you rock at Mastercam, you can pick up a different CAM software quickly.

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