Stecker Machine Blog

The 4 Most Important Tips to Advancing Your CNC Manufacturing Career Path

10/30/2019 | Tom Sprang

Stecker employee working at a CNC machine

What was it about this article’s title that grabbed you?

You must be either currently in or interested in CNC manufacturing. With demand sky high and modern CNC machine shops being as safe, clean, and worker-friendly as ever, it’s a smart career path that pays better than many other jobs.

Before jumping into the career tips, we want you to know about other blog topics that you may find interesting:

OK, how can you advance your CNC manufacturing career path? Here are 4 proven tips:

1) Think “Career” Not “Job”

A great first step to elevating your CNC manufacturing career is to rethink how you look at employment. A job pays. A career pays off with long-term fulfillment.

For instance, what begins as a CNC manufacturing apprenticeship can take a career path up to lead worker, supervisor, or even owner. To do that, you need to be excited about learning new skills and taking on new challenges.

Is a CNC manufacturing career right for you? Answers these questions:

  • Are you good at solving problems?
  • Do you have strong mathematical and mechanical skills?
  • Are you a reliable teammate (willing to help whenever needed)?
  • In order to improve in your position, are you willing to take additional training?
  • Do you want to someday be an engineer, supervisor, or quality technician?

Whatever your current position, career-focused people answer “yes” to these questions. Positive energy and a hunger to learn get noticed by management, often giving you more opportunities.

Manufacture your career! See open positions at Stecker Machine.

2) Think “Big”

Some CNC machine shops use advanced technology (robotics, computerized controls, laser etching, etc.) to fulfill customer needs. Yet, many shops want cutting-edge ideas, too. The type of ideas that enhance operations and positively impact a CNC manufacturer’s bottom line.

Take a look at your company’s processes and systems. If there’s an opportunity to improve, share it with leadership. These big ideas could result in you working on new and exciting projects, which looks great to your employer.

Many CNC manufacturing innovations are based on taking initiative, making improvements, and trying new ideas. If your idea can speed up a process into efficient business success, most companies will jump at the chance. And when your idea helps your manager or lead worker succeed, it’s a win for everyone — the company, your manager, and your career.

3) Think “Smart”

CNC manufacturing values both “rockstars” and “superstars.” Rockstars want to perfect their current skills. Superstars are people who want to expand their roles and grow; they have broad ambition, a knack for mechanics, and a desire to constantly learn new skills and take on new challenges.

Many CNC machine shops offer entry-level opportunities to both degreed and non-degreed people. The best ones have apprenticeship programs for experienced and new employees, which are usually a combination of on-the-job training and classroom learning.

The key is your willingness to learn evolving technology. New techniques are continuously being created and implemented to improve operations. Keep up with industry changes, and you won’t be left behind.

Many manufacturers want employees to obtain certificates or degrees for specific positions. However, some entry-level jobs simply require on-the-job training. Typically, higher level positions require further education: certificates, 2-year degrees, and 4-year degrees.

4) Think “Progress”

Continuing education isn’t the only way to advance. Some CNC manufacturers prefer to groom employees, encouraging advancement from one level to the next without requiring any degrees.

For instance, a path may look like this: Youth Apprentice → CNC OperatorCNC Technician/SetupLead-WorkerProduction Supervisor.

First Level →

Second Level →

Third Level



Production Supervisor

Manufacturing Inspector

Automation Technician

Mechanical Engineer

CNC Operator

CAD/CAM  Technician/Programmer

Manufacturing Engineer

Plant PM Maintenance

Manufacturing Technician

Supply Chain Management

Production Worker

Quality Technician

Quality Engineer

Youth Apprentice

Mechanical Designer

Scheduler, Production Planner


Life’s too short for boring work! View our CNC Machine Operator positions.

Fill a Need and Advance Your CNC Manufacturing Career Path 

According to a 2021 survey conducted by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, U.S. manufacturers believe that finding the right talent is now 36% harder than it was in 2018.

A number that large indicates a real need for good people to fill manufacturing jobs. Not only that, but organizations are looking for people who think: people who express their opinions, bring process improvement recommendations, and have customers’ best interests in mind.

So, while you’re asking yourself, “What can this company do for my career?” you should also consider, “What can I do for this company?”

CNC manufacturers today need skilled and smart people to make a difference. Now you have some tips to help you do that, advance your career, and feel good while doing it.

One more article you might love: What Is the Most Powerful Tool in a CNC Machine Shop?

If working at an empowering company with family ownership sounds interesting, explore a career at Stecker Machine. Contact us today!


Tom Sprang

About the Author

Tom staffs and develops Stecker Machine's Production team (the shop's largest with over 150 people), including three shifts and two plants. He also leads the tool crib and scheduling as well as transitions new jobs to production by mapping work and identifying/mitigating risks. Tom became familiar with CNC machining at an apprenticeship and ended up working at a SMC competitor for 24 years. He's seen the shop floor, worked as a shift Supervisor, moved to Continuous Improvement, and became Production Manager. Today, Tom is also instrumental in bringing new work into the shop.

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