Occupational Guides banner
Detailed Guide for

Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers in Santa Clara County

May also be called: Computer Control Programmers; Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Programmers; Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) Programmers; Numerical Control Programmers; Numerical Tool Programmers

What Would I Do?

Many of the functions in machining that were formerly performed by human operators are now more precisely performed by a computer-controlled module. This is true for machines such as lathes, multiaxis spindles, laser cutting machines, water jets, turrets, press brakes, milling machines, and electrical discharge machines.

Before Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers, also called Computer Control Programmers, machine a part, they must carefully plan, prepare, and write computer programs for the operation. First, they review three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) blueprints of the part. Next, they calculate where to cut or bore into the workpiece, how fast to feed the metal into the machine, and how much metal to remove. They then select tools and materials for the job and plan the sequence of cutting and finishing operations. Finally, they turn the planned machining operation into a set of instructions or program for the machine to follow. Computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines operate by reading the code included in a computer-controlled module, which drives the machine tool and performs the functions of forming and shaping a part formerly done by machine operators.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

TaskSkill Used in this Task
Analyze job orders, drawings, blueprints, specifications, printed circuit board pattern films, and design data in order to calculate dimensions, tool selection, machine speeds, and feed rates.Mathematics
Determine reference points, machine cutting paths, or hole locations, and compute angular and linear dimensions, radii, and curvatures.Engineering and Technology
Determine the sequence of machine operations, and select the proper cutting tools needed to machine workpieces into the desired shapes.Mechanical
Write programs in the language of a machine's controller and store programs on media such as punch tapes, magnetic tapes, or disks.Information Ordering
Enter computer commands to store or retrieve parts patterns, graphic displays, or programs that transfer data to other media.Computers and Electronics
Compare encoded tapes or computer printouts with original part specifications and blueprints to verify accuracy of instructions.Reading Comprehension
Observe machines on trial runs or conduct computer simulations to ensure that programs and machinery will function properly and produce items that meet specifications.Near Vision
Revise programs and/or tapes to eliminate errors, and retest programs to check that problems have been solved.Critical Thinking
Modify existing programs to enhance efficiency.Production and Processing
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET) at online.onetcenter.org

Working Conditions

Computer Control Programmers work on desktop computers in offices that typically are near, but separate from, the shop floor. These work areas are usually clean, well lit, and free of machine noise. Computer Control Programmers occasionally need to enter the shop floor to monitor numerically controlled machining operations. Possible hazards are flying metal chips, abrasive dust, sharp cutting tools, and moving parts. However, without the proper safety precautions such as earplugs, facemasks, and safety glasses, the job can be noisy and hazardous.

Most Computer Control Programmers work a 40-hour week; however, overtime is common during peak production periods. Although most machine tool operators work the day shift, Computer Control Programmers may work on any of three eight-hour shifts. Evening and night shift workers normally receive higher pay.

Depending on the type and location of the employer, these workers may belong to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers or other labor organizations.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Computer Control Programmer may appeal to those who are mechanically inclined and enjoy performing duties that are organized, clearly defined, and require accuracy and attention to detail. Computer control programming occupations satisfy those who enjoy following set procedures and routines where the lines of authority are clear.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2021 for Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers in California was N/A annually. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/wages.html Wages do not reflect self-employment.


Benefits generally include health and life insurance, retirement plans, and vacation and sick leave. Many employers, especially those with formal apprenticeship programs, offer tuition assistance for training classes.

What is the Job Outlook?

There will be fewer new jobs for Computer Control Programmers as more firms now use ready-made software or require machinists to use CAD systems to write programs. This could have an adverse effect on the number of Computer Control Programmers required by employers. However, due to the limited number of people entering training programs, employers are expected to continue to have difficulty finding workers with the necessary skills and knowledge. Some growth is expected in the semiconductor component industry, as well as forging and stamping firms.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers are expected to increase by 22.2 percent, or 400 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

In San Benito and Santa Clara Counties, the number of Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers are expected to increase by 14.6 percent, or 60 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Total Job
San Benito and Santa Clara Counties
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/employment-projections.html

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Computer Control Programmers usually follow one of the following training paths: formal apprenticeships, vocational schools, community college programs, certificate programs, or extensive on-the-job training. Some community colleges offer tool design technology courses in their machine tool technology programs. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) accredits training programs.

Employers may prefer individuals with a degree in engineering for some specialized types of programming needed to produce complex parts for industries, such as aerospace or shipbuilding.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in this kind of work should take mathematics, especially trigonometry, as well as drafting, computer programming, and metal shop courses.

Apprenticeship Programs

Apprenticeship programs consist of shop training and related classroom instruction. In shop training, apprentices learn filing, hand tapping, and dowel fitting, as well as the operation of various machine tools. Classroom instruction includes math, physics, programming, blueprint reading, CAD software, safety, and shop practices. Skilled Computer Control Programmers need an understanding of the machining process, including the complex physics that occur at the cutting point. Thus, most training programs teach Computer Control Programmers to perform operations on manual machines prior to operating CNC machines. Most apprenticeship programs are four years in length and lead to all around journey-level status. Apprentice applicants usually must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or qualifying scores on the General Educational Development (GED) or the California Proficiency Test.

Continuing Education

As machine tools change in their complexity and makeup, Computer Control Programmers should learn new skills to keep abreast of the changes. Courses are offered by machine tool manufacturers and professional associations.


To boost the skill level of all metalworkers and to create a more uniform standard of competency, a number of training facilities and colleges have implemented curriculums by incorporating national skills standards developed by NIMS. After completing a curriculum and passing a performance requirement and written exam, trainees are granted a NIMS credential that provides formal recognition of competency in a metalworking field, such as CNC Turning: Programming Setup and Operations. Completion of a formal certification program provides expanded career opportunities.

For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site at www.acinet.org and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" at www.acinet.org/certifications_new/default.aspx and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing50.5%
Aerospace Product & Parts Manufacturing11.8%
Machinery Manufacturing9.5%
Electronic Instrument Manufacturing4.8%
Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods2.1%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/employment-projections.html

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Union members search for jobs by registering with their local hiring hall. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers.

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, use "Find Employers" on the LaborMarketInfo Web site at http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/aspdotnet/databrowsing/empMain.aspx?menuChoice=emp

Where Could This Job Lead?

Experienced Computer Control Programmers can advance to tool designers or management positions. A few open their own shops.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Numerical Tool and Process Control Programmers.

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification at www.bls.gov/soc/51-4012
O*NET - Occupational Information Network at online.onetcenter.org/
   Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic51-4012.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC) at online.onetcenter.org/find/descriptor/browse/Interests/#curICR
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs at nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/cip2000/
   Computer Programming/Programmer, General 110201
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs at www.ccccurriculum.info/ (California Community Colleges)
   Computer Software Development070700
   Computer Programming070710

The California Occupational Guides are a product of:
The California Employment Development Department
Labor Market Information Division

Printed on Sunday, June 26, 2022