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Mining Machine Operator: Job Duties & Career Requirements

Find out the skills needed to become a mining machine operator. Learn the job duties, education requirements and outlook for this career, as well as some alternative career options.

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Career Definition for Mining Machine Operators

As part of a crew at a mining site, mining machine operators use hydraulic and motor-driven machinery to drill holes and excavate rocks, metals, and other materials, such as coal. These operators may control continuous mining machines or other heavy equipment in surface or underground mines. Mining machine operators also assist in the clearing and moving of the extracted material. These machine operators may be responsible for the maintenance and repair of their equipment.

Education High school diploma or GED and on-site training; bachelor's degrees may improve employability
Job Skills Computer literacy, observation skills, intent listening, physical fitness, mechanical dexterity
Median Salary* $48,620
Career Outlook 2014-2024* 6% (mining and geological engineers)
3% (material moving machine operators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A high school diploma or equivalent may be required to become a mining machine operator, and on-the-job training is common. Mining machine operators may be required to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL), which may require a training course. CDLs are issued by each state, and candidates typically must pass knowledge and skills tests before obtaining the license.

For those looking to advance their careers, a 4-year degree in geology or earth science from a college or university may afford them opportunities in mining management.

Skills Required

Mining machine operators use large, powerful equipment. To use this equipment, they must have physical strength and stamina, safety consciousness, and good mechanical dexterity. They must also have good observation and listening skills to constantly monitor the equipment they are using. Mining machine operators may also need to use computers to control some machinery.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that continuous mining machine operators made a median salary of $48,620 in May 2015. The number of jobs for loading machine operators who work in underground mining is expected to increase 6% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. But, employment for material moving machine operators who work in coal mining is expected to decline by 3% from 2014 to 2024 because of the decrease in coal mining. Additionally, the use of advanced technology, such as robots and lasers, has lessened the need for machine operators.

Alternative Career Option

Similar careers are:

Operating Engineer

Those who like operating large equipment and are looking for a growing career field might be interested in becoming operating engineers or construction equipment operators. According to the BLS, the field of operating engineers and other construction equipment operators is expected to increase by 10% from 2014 to 2024.

Although formal education may help in getting a job, many construction equipment operators learn through on-the-job training. Workers in this field need to be physically able to operate large machines, and a CDL may be required. As of May 2015, the median annual salary for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators was $43,810, according to the BLS.

Mining Safety Engineer

Those who like working in mines and want to ensure the safety of all mine workers may consider a career as a mining safety engineer. These engineers inspect all aspects of a mine to ensure the mine conforms to safety laws and regulations. This career requires more education than a mining machine operator, but it also has a higher salary potential.

Mining engineers need a minimum of a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited school, and they may be required to be licensed professional engineers (PE). The BLS reported in 2015 that the occupational group including mining, geological, and mining safety engineers had a median annual salary of $94,040. The BLS projects that this group of workers will see a 6% increase in job opportunities from 2014 to 2024.

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