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Career profile Lathe Operator

Also known as Computer Numerical Control Lathe Operator (CNC Lathe Operator), Lathe Operator, Lathe Set Up Person, Machine Operator, Numerical Control Operator (NC Operator), Screw Machine Operator, Screw Machine Tool Setter, Set Up / Operator, Turn Operator

Lathe Operator

Also known as Computer Numerical Control Lathe Operator (CNC Lathe Operator), Lathe Operator, Lathe Set Up Person

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Investigative
  • Conventional
Pay Range
$28,020 - $61,710 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Operations Monitoring
  • Operation and Control
  • Monitoring
Knowledge Areas
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical
  • Education and Training
Core tasks
  • Adjust machine controls and change tool settings to keep dimensions within specified tolerances.
  • Replace worn tools, and sharpen dull cutting tools and dies, using bench grinders or cutter-grinding machines.
  • Inspect sample workpieces to verify conformance with specifications, using instruments such as gauges, micrometers, and dial indicators.
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What does a Lathe Operator do?

Lathe Operators set up, operate, or tend lathe and turning machines to turn, bore, thread, form, or face metal or plastic materials, such as wire, rod, or bar stock.

What kind of tasks does a Lathe Operator perform regularly?

Lathe Operators are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Adjust machine controls and change tool settings to keep dimensions within specified tolerances.
  • Replace worn tools, and sharpen dull cutting tools and dies, using bench grinders or cutter-grinding machines.
  • Inspect sample workpieces to verify conformance with specifications, using instruments such as gauges, micrometers, and dial indicators.
  • Start lathe or turning machines and observe operations to ensure that specifications are met.
  • Position, secure, and align cutting tools in toolholders on machines, using hand tools, and verify their positions with measuring instruments.
  • Crank machines through cycles, stopping to adjust tool positions and machine controls to ensure specified timing, clearances, and tolerances.
  • Study blueprints, layouts or charts, and job orders for information on specifications and tooling instructions, and to determine material requirements and operational sequences.
  • Select cutting tools and tooling instructions, according to written specifications or knowledge of metal properties and shop mathematics.
  • Move controls to set cutting speeds and depths and feed rates, and to position tools in relation to workpieces.
  • Install holding fixtures, cams, gears, and stops to control stock and tool movement, using hand tools, power tools, and measuring instruments.
  • Refill, change, and monitor the level of fluids, such as oil and coolant, in machines.
  • Compute unspecified dimensions and machine settings, using knowledge of metal properties and shop mathematics.
  • Lift metal stock or workpieces manually or using hoists, and position and secure them in machines, using fasteners and hand tools.
  • Move toolholders manually or by turning handwheels, or engage automatic feeding mechanisms to feed tools to and along workpieces.
  • Turn valve handles to direct the flow of coolant onto work areas or to coat disks with spinning compounds.

The above responsibilities are specific to Lathe Operators. More generally, Lathe Operators are involved in several broader types of activities:

Controlling Machines and Processes
Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials
Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
Handling and Moving Objects
Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.

What is a Lathe Operator salary?

The median salary for a Lathe Operator is $41,380, and the average salary is $43,100. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Lathe Operator salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Lathe Operators earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Lathe Operators earn less than $28,020 per year, 25% earn less than $33,690, 75% earn less than $50,840, and 90% earn less than $61,710.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Lathe Operators is expected to change by -4.2%, and there should be roughly 2,200 open positions for Lathe Operators every year.

Median annual salary
$41,380
Typical salary range
$28,020 - $61,710
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
-4.2%

What personality traits are common among Lathe Operators?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Lathe Operator are usually higher in their Realistic, Investigative, and Conventional interests.

Lathe Operators typically have very strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Also, Lathe Operators typically have moderate Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Lastly, Lathe Operators typically have moderate Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Lathe Operator tend to value Support, Independence, and Achievement.

Most importantly, Lathe Operators strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Second, Lathe Operators somewhat value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Lastly, Lathe Operators somewhat value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Lathe Operators must consistently demonstrate qualities such as attention to detail, dependability, and cooperation.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Lathe Operators, ranked by importance:

Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Cooperation
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Initiative
Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.

What education and training do Lathe Operators need?

Working as a Lathe Operator usually requires a high school diploma.

Lathe Operators need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Lathe Operators

  • 19.2% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 52.0% completed high school or secondary school
  • 22.2% completed some college coursework
  • 3.6% earned a Associate's degree
  • 0.8% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 2.2% earned a Master's degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Lathe Operators

Lathe Operators may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as mathematics, mechanical, or education and training knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Lathe Operators might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Mathematics
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Mechanical
Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Production and Processing
Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

Important Abilities needed by Lathe Operators

Lathe Operators must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Lathe Operators need abilities such as control precision, arm-hand steadiness, and finger dexterity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Lathe Operators, ranked by their relative importance.

Control Precision
The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
Arm-Hand Steadiness
The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
Finger Dexterity
The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
Reaction Time
The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).

Critical Skills needed by Lathe Operators

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Lathe Operators frequently use skills like operations monitoring, operation and control, and monitoring to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Lathe Operators, ranked by their relative importance.

Operations Monitoring
Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Operation and Control
Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
Monitoring
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Quality Control Analysis
Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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