Mining Machine Operator: Job Description & Career Info

Mining machine operators run the equipment that extracts coal, rock, stone, and nonmetal ores from underground deposit beds. Because of the highly specialized nature of machinery and computer systems that mining machine operators work with, they require specialized training in mining technology. Read on for more information.

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Career Definition for a Mining Machine Operator

Mining machine operators manipulate heavy specialized machinery in a process called continuous mining. They work underground where they drill through deposits of coal, ore or rock, then load it onto carts that deliver it to the surface. They work with a team of mining machine operators, mining technicians and other mining specialists.

Education Vocational training and associate degrees available
Job Skills Knowledge of drilling techniques, team player, good judgment, good health
Median Salary (2015)* $48,620 for continuous mining machine operators; $48,550 for all other mining machine operators
Job Growth (2014-2024)* -5% for continuous mining machine operators; none for all other mining machine operators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Mining machine operators require specialized training to operate and handle increasingly complex equipment which is used in the extraction process. Most employers prefer to hire mining machine operators who have completed at least two years of vocational training, though some may ask for an associate degree in mining technologies. State-enforced safety precautions and procedures require new employees to receive at least 40 hours of safety training on the job, and employers often require additional safety training for new hires.

Required Skills

Mining machine operators spend hours in the same position laying or sitting while operating heavy machinery using buttons and levers. They require specialized knowledge in mining machine operations and drilling techniques. Because they work together with a team of mining specialists operating heavy machinery hundreds of feet underground, they must be great team players, possess good judgment and general good health.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the occupational outlook for employment in the mining industry from 2014-2024 predicted a 5% drop in jobs for continuous mining machine operators, and no change in employment for all other mining machine operators. The annual median salary for mining machine operators in 2015 was $48,550, and for continuous mining machine operators, the median was $48,620.

Alternate Career Options

You can also look into these other career options for heavy machine operation:

Material Moving Machine Operator

Normally having a high school education, some of these operators are also required to have related work experience, in addition to on-the-job training. These professionals transport objects with machinery around mines or building sites. A 3% growth in available positions was projected by the BLS from 2014-2024, and the annual median wage was $33,640 in 2015.

Construction Equipment Operator

Although experience may be learned on the job by high school graduates, many learn the necessary skills to drive and control heavy machines for constructing roads and buildings through apprenticeships or trade school programs. The BLS predicted faster than average employment growth of 10% from 2014-2024 and reported an annual median salary of $43,810 in 2015.

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