CNC Laser Operator

Etch and engrave metal, plastic or wood with computer-aided precision.
picture of CNC Laser Operator

Quick Stats


Salary Range
$23,000 – $51,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor


What do CNC Laser Operators do?

A CNC Laser Operator cuts or engraves metal, wood, plastic, or paper. People have been doing these tasks for decades, of course. Metal Workers in medieval times often scratched fancy designs on soldiers’ suits of armor, for example.

But as a CNC Laser Operator, you have a secret weapon: The machine you use is run by computers, and it’s incredibly powerful. In a single day, a CNC Laser Operator could do the work of 100 medieval Metal Workers!

A CNC Setup Operator programs the machine, and you download the program at the beginning of your shift. Then, you load the raw materials into the hopper and start the process. When the piece is complete, you pull it out of the machine and check it carefully to make sure it’s been handled just perfectly.

Lasers are stronger when they’re first turned on, so often, you must adjust the strength of the laser throughout your workday to make sure the cuts are consistent. These small manual overrides are easy for you to accomplish, but if you spot larger problems, such as an inaccurate measurement or a strange wobble in the edges, you call the CNC Setup Operator and ask for a program adjustment.

Throughout your workday, you listen for humming, shrieking, or other strange noises from your machine. These sounds could indicate that a screw is coming loose or the equipment is simply too hot and needs a coffee break. If something goes terribly wrong, you’ll see a coded help signal pop up on the display screen, and you’ll know what to do to fix the problem and get the machine back up and running.


Should I be a CNC Laser Operator?

You should have a high school degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Logical Thinker: You take a step-by-step approach to analyze information and solve problems.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.
  • Outside the Box Thinker: Your creative brainpower gets a workout as you come up with innovative ideas.

  • Also known as: CNC Set-Up Operator, Metal CNC Operator, Tape Keller Operator

    How to become a CNC Laser Operator

    Most CNC Laser Operators have no higher education and get on-the-job training. Think about earning a Certificate or Associate's degree to increase your competitiveness in the field. Chart?chd=s:9fcaaa&chl=no+college+%2864%25%29|certificate+%2832%25%29|associate%27s+%283%25%29|bachelor%27s+%281%25%29||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,64,64
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