Mine Cutting Machine Operator Careers: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a mine cutting machine operator? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a mine cutting machine operator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Mine Cutting and Channeling Machine Operator Career

Because workers who operate mine cutting machines often operate a variety of other mining equipment including longwall shears and plows, they are referred to as mine cutting and channeling machine operators. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons associated with this career.

Pros of Being a Mine Cutting and Channeling Machine Operator
No formal education required**
Above-average wages (median annual salary of about $50,000 in 2014)*
Exercise critical-thinking and problem-solving skills**
Learn your trade through on-the-job training**

Cons of Being a Mine Cutting and Channeling Machine Operator
Little job growth (3% from 2012-2022)*
May be exposed to contaminants**
May have to work around dangerous equipment and situation, such as cave-ins**
Work may be physically strenuous**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Mine cutting and channeling machine operators use special mining machines to cut along surfaces in stone quarries, salt mines or coal mines in order to remove minerals from the earth's crust. Operators may drive track-mounted mobile drilling or cutting machines or trucks in mines, quarries and construction sites. They position machines and operate controls to make additional cuts or holes. They also adjust the movement of equipment to control the the height, depth and speed of cuts. Operators may control conveyor belts to regulate conveyor movement so materials can be loaded or moved into dump trucks and mine cars. To support the mine and prevent cave-ins, operators position timbers and roof supports and install casing.

Job Growth and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual wage for mine cutting and channeling machine operators was about $50,000 in 2014. In this year, it was reported that most of these professionals earned between $30,000 and $66,000 annually. The BLS also reported that these professionals would see little growth in employment from 2012-2022.

Education and Training Requirements

There are no mandatory educational requirements for mining machine operators. According to the U.S. Department of Labor in 2012, 60% of mine cutting and channeling machine operators had a high school education, 27% had less than a high school diploma and 12% had some college but no degree. Academic institutions offer certificate and associate degree programs in mining, but these are designed to prepare individuals for supervisory positions and are not required for mining machine operators. You will need to have the following general skills and talents:

  • The ability to quickly and precisely adjust machine controls
  • The ability to apply general rules to specific problems in order to provide solutions
  • The ability to react or respond quickly to signs and signals
  • The ability to correctly operate machinery
  • Depth perception and hearing sensitivity

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers seek miners with varying degrees of work experience and educational backgrounds. Many employers may not specifically seek cutting and channeling machine operators but will include the operation of these machines as job duties. See the following job postings that were open in April 2012 to get a sense of the kinds of mining jobs that are available with a high school education.

  • A company in New Mexico was seeking a full-time underground miner. This job required a high school diploma or GED, a valid driver's license and at least one year of work experience. This employer boasted an excellent mining safety record and offered a full benefit package including 401(k).
  • A company in Illinois was seeking mine operators for full-time employment. This job required a high school education and 1-2 years of work experience. This job also required workers to relocate to the area of the mine.
  • In Illinois, a company was seeking an underground mine equipment operator. Job duties included operating and installing underground mining equipment, conveyor belts and power distribution equipment. This job required a high school diploma or a GED, at least one year of experience in underground coal mining and experience in operating mining equipment, such as a continuous miner, roof bolter or scoop.

How to Stand Out in the Field

One way to stand out in this field is to become familiar with a wide range of equipment used in mining operations. Many employers value employees who understand different types of equipment. Since work experience is a common requirement for a job, you may consider completing an apprenticeship in the field, which would allow you to work alongside experienced employees and learn directly from them.

Alternative Career Paths

Continuous Mining Machine Operator

If you're interested in operating mining machinery but don't want to specialize in cutting and channeling machines, then you may wish to consider a career as a continuous mining machine operator. These operators use machines to gather coal and convey it to shuttle cars or floors. They drive machines into position at working faces and re-position these machines in order to make new holes or cuts. Using levers and controls, they raise and lower hydraulic safety bars that support the roofs above machines until the framing is completed by other workers. They may also fix mining equipment and change cutting teeth. According to the BLS, the median annual salary of a continuous mining machine operator was about $51,000 in 2011. From 2010-2020, the BLS predicted little or no growth in the employment rates for these professionals.

Mining Engineer or Geological Engineer

If you want a role in mining processes with more responsibilities, educational requirements and a higher salary, then you may want to become a mining engineer or a geological engineer. These engineers select locations and plan mining operations. They specify equipment, processes and labor usage that will ensure the economical, safe and environmentally sound extraction of ores and minerals. These engineers also prepare schedules, estimate costs and supervise mine construction operations. Mining and geological engineers typically hold bachelor's degrees, and some have graduate degrees. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for these engineers was about $84,000 in 2011, and these individuals were expected to see a ten percent increase in job growth from 2010-2020.

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