Continuous Mining Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a continuous mining technician career? Get real descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a continuous mining technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Continuous Mining Technician

Continuous mining technicians operate continuous mining machines, which are critical to modern mining methods. The following table includes pros and cons that you can use to weigh factors that may be important to you.

Pros of a Continuous Mining Technician Career
Entry-level jobs can be attained with a high school diploma.*
Annual mean wages as of May 2014 were about $49,000.*
Training available on-the-job.*
Pre-employment study guides may be easily obtainable through state agencies.***

Cons of a Continuous Mining Technician Career
Work environment includes exposure to dangerous equipment and hazardous materials.**
The projected growth rate for this job is -5% (declining) in the 2012-2022 decade.**
In 2010, the mining industry had one of the highest job fatality rates in America.*
Hours can be irregular.*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine, ***West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training

Career Information

Job Description and Working Conditions

A continuous miner is actually a machine, rather than a person, that mechanically extracts material from rock and deposits it in cars or conveyor belts to be brought up from the earth. In addition to operating the machine, you might troubleshoot minor repairs, make adjustments to the machine and participate in necessary tasks to establish safe work environments and prevent cave-ins. Mining machines may also be used to extract rock, sand, stone, metal ore and nonmetal ore from underground. Although some continuous mining technicians work on surface projects, the majority of them work underground. These technicians may be exposed to hazardous chemicals and fumes in underground workspaces. A typical work environment for a miner includes loud noises, dangerous equipment, cramped workspaces and dim lighting.

Salary Information

According to salary information reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2014, continuous miner technicians earned an annual mean wage of nearly $49,000; this includes all areas of use. The coal mining industry employed the majority of these technicians and paid mean annual wages of about $50,000. Continuous mining technicians in Wyoming earned the highest wages with annual mean figures at just over $74,000.

What Are the Requirements?

Education requirements are minimal and employment is possible without the benefit of having a high school diploma or equivalent. Some states may require you to hold state certification. An entry-level miner may be known as a 'green hat' and must have a minimum number of days of supervised training and experience working underground to earn an experienced miner certification. Some mining companies even offer on-the-job training programs that can assist you in completing the hours needed toward earning your certification. States may offer pre-employment study guides online for free through state agencies that oversee miners' health, safety and training.

What Employers Want

The ability to work in cooperative groups and the ability to be attentive to the safety of your co-workers are vital traits in this job. Some employers may require you to pass a drug screening prior to being hired. The following are summaries from job postings found in April 2012.

  • A Kentucky coal company seeks miners for both surface and underground projects, including continuous mining machine operation. Current mining certification and at least two months of experience are required.
  • Another company in Kentucky is hiring inexperienced miners for continuous mining machine operator work. In addition to a high school diploma or GED and current mining certification, applicants must complete a WorkKeys test of job skills through a local adult education agency.
  • A third Kentucky company seeks miners with at least 12 months of experience and current mining certification. This posting is for a day shift job and pay is commensurate with experience.

How to Stand Out

In 2011, O*Net OnLine reported that more than half of all continuous mining technicians surveyed by the agency did not complete a high school education. Even if you've already begun your mining career, it's never too late to earn your diploma or GED. If you're still in school, completing your studies before you start your mining career could put you ahead of the crowd, since some employers specify that they will consider only applicants who have a high school diploma or GED.

Know Your Field

State agencies whose scope encompasses miners' health and safety may offer free downloadable pre-employment study guides. You might also be able to download or purchase printed guides to mine safety rules and regulations from these same offices.

Alternative Career Paths

Truck Driver

If the potential hazards in mining aren't for you, you might be interested in becoming a truck driver. Mining companies rely on the transportation industry, and truck drivers not only work with them, but also with many other types of wares. Truck drivers are not limited to working during weekday or daytime hours, and they may also work on holidays, with long-haul truck drivers' hours additionally regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The BLS predicted that heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers would see an increase of 21% in jobs between 2010 and 2020, which is considered faster than average when compared with other careers. Generally, a high school diploma or equivalent is the highest education requirement. You'll also need a couple of years' related work experience and a Commercial Driver's License to get hired. As of May 2011, the BLS showed the annual mean wage for truck drivers to be about $40,000.

Mining Engineer

You can earn a significantly fatter paycheck by getting a four-year degree in mining and geological engineering and still work with the mining industry. The BLS showed that mining and geological engineers earned an annual mean wage of over $90,000 as of May 2011, which was nearly double the amount of money made by continuous mining technicians. The employment outlook for these engineers for the 2010-2020 decade showed a projected increase of ten percent, reported by the BLS as average growth when compared with other careers.

An important thing to look for when seeking an engineering education at the bachelor's degree level is an ABET-accredited program. Although requirements can vary by state, typically, you'll need to complete such a program to earn your professional engineer license; a minimum of work experience and sitting for a series of exams administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying are also generally required. If taking time away from work would be too great a financial burden, you might be interested to know that - although uncommon - you could enroll in a program that will allow you to alternate periods of work and study to complete your degree within five years.

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