If you’re interested in becoming a machine operator, then you’ll need some training before an employer will hire you. There are several ways to do that. But one of the most effective is to attend a machine operator school or complete a certification program.
To that end, we’ve put together a list of the top machine operator schools and certifications for your consideration. Keep reading to learn more.
Why go to school or pursue certification for machine operating?
You can technically get hired as a machine operator with just a high school diploma so you may be asking yourself whether going to school to become one is even worth it. There’s certainly no requirement to do so. But you’ll likely be glad that you did in the long run.
Employers prefer to hire candidates that already have the skills necessary to begin contributing from day one. It’s very unlikely that you would be able to do it if you don’t go through at least some type of training for machine operation.
An employer may still take a chance on hiring you. But they likely wouldn’t prioritize your application over someone who’s already spent time developing their machine operator skills.
Even if you do somehow possess excellent machine operation skills without having attended school, employers will have no way of verifying this if you don’t have a degree backing your qualifications up.
For all of these reasons, it’s often a smarter decision to pursue a certification or a degree in machine operation before beginning your job hunt.
Top 5 schools for machine operators
FORT RANGE COMMUNITY COLLEGE – WESTMINSTER, CO
Fort Range Community College is one of the best places to study to become a machine operator for residents of the Colorado region. The school offers several different certification programs and technical degree options to pursue. One of its best offerings is its CNC Machining program.
Students at Fort Range Community College who wish to specialize in CNC machine operators can complete the school’s dedicated program to develop the skills they need to get hired. The program includes a wide variety of useful classes, including:
- Intro to CNC Turning Operations
- CNC Turning Operations II
- Intro to CNC Milling Operations
- CNC Milling Operations II
- CAD/CAM 2D
SOUTHEASTERN COMMUNITY COLLEGE – WHITEVILLE, NC
Southeastern Community College is another excellent place to train as a machine operator. The school has a Precision Machining and Automation Technology program that has been training students since 1941. This makes it one of the oldest programs in the United States.
There are lots of different opportunities within this program. For example, the company offers both certifications and associates degrees in several different machine operator specialties. Here’s a sample of what you can learn while attending Southeastern Community College:
- Blueprint reading and technician analysis
- Project layout
- Tool and materials selection
EVERETT COMMUNITY COLLEGE – EVERETT, WA
If you call the Pacific Northwest home, then Everett Community College may be the best spot for you to train for a new career as a machine operator. The school has a precision machining degree program as well as a conventional and CNC machine operator certification option.
These programs can be a good fit for machinists with varying skill levels. For example, the school says that its programs can help new machinists learn fundamental skills as well as experienced machinists learn advanced skills.
The programs will teach you how to safely operate both CNC and conventional mills while also teaching you how to perform all of the supplementary tasks you need to know to accomplish your goals as a machine operator.
MONROE COMMUNITY COLLEGE – ROCHESTER, NY
Monroe Community College offers a Precision Machining associate’s degree program that stands out. Students who complete the program will get to learn foundational theory in the classroom while also developing real-world skills.
Monroe Community College says that students who graduate from the program often go on to start careers in:
- Mold making
- Die making
- Machine building
- CNC machining
PIMA COMMUNITY COLLEGE – TUCSON, AZ
Closing out our list is Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. The school offers an associate of applied science degree in machine tool technology. The program teaches students who complete the fundamental skills of machine shop operations.
There are many different machine operation classes that a student will complete while working towards this degree. Here are some of the highlights:
- Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Programming I, II, and III
- Computer-Aided Machining (CAM) I, II, and III
- Applied Metallurgy
- Manual Machine Shop
Top certifications for machine operators
CNC MACHINE OPERATOR CERTIFICATE
The CNC Machine Operator certification is offered by many different organizations. You can earn one from a community college, a trade school, or even a union.
The certificate demonstrates that you have the knowledge and skill set needed to work as an entry-level operator in a manufacturing technician. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a way to qualify for basic CNC machine operation jobs without having to complete a full apprenticeship.
The Operator Certification is offered by the Concrete Sawing & Drilling Association (CSDA). This certificate is best for aspiring machine operators who wish to work in the construction sector. Earning it signifies that you know the correct applications and techniques for the operation of various types of sawing and drilling equipment.
Machine Tool Service Technician Certificate
This certificate is offered by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA). It’s a course that will provide you with a comprehensive overview of all of the skills you need to be a technician who works with machine tools.
The program will teach you about everything from basic safety standards to processes for identifying joint types and floor slab types.
BASIC MECHANICAL SYSTEMS
The Basic Mechanical Systems Certification is offered by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS). It’s a program that consists of 20 different e-learning modules, which each cover a different skill. By completing this certification, you’ll show potential employers that you possess the following capabilities:
- Troubleshoot power transmissions
- Identify lubrication points, select the correct lubricant, and apply it
- Successfully use a variety of dimensional measuring tools
- Install and align shaft couplings, belt drives, and more
BASIC HYDRAULIC SYSTEMS
This is another certification that’s offered by NIMS. Its structure is quite similar to the Basic Mechanical Systems certification process. The only real difference is that this certification program covers different topics. By completing it, you’ll demonstrate that you know how to complete the following tasks:
- Service hydraulic fluid
- Troubleshoot hydraulic circuits
- Interpret fluid power schematics
- Adhere to safety rules
- Adjust hydraulic actuator speed
Factors to consider before choosing an academic path
There are many different ways to develop the skills that you need to have to be successful as a machine operator. This is good because it gives you some freedom to pick the path that’s right for you. But it can also be challenging to zero in on the best option for your goals.
If you’re not sure where to go with your machine operator education, take some time to consider a few of the following factors.
First, think about what your long-term goals in the industry are. Do you want to specialize in a particular type of machine operation? If so, you might as well begin training yourself to perform that kind of work now by picking an academic path that offers specialized training.
For example, if you know you want to work with CNC machines, make sure that you pick a CNC machine operator program and not just a standard machine operation plan.
You should also consider how much time you’re willing to commit to your education. Apprenticeships can take up to four years to complete. Associates degrees will often require two years of your time. But you can complete a machine operation certification in just a few months.
Think about which of these options fits your timeline. Doing so could help you figure out which types of programs you should be focusing on.
Certain types of machine operators learn more than others. For example, CNC operators are in hot demand currently so you may be able to earn more income by going through specialized training in that area.
Becoming a CNC operator isn’t the only way to make good money as a machinist. But it’s another example of the types of things that you should be thinking about before committing to an academic plan.