Coal Miners


Education and Training Requirements

High School

A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement for this work. Coal miners must be at least 18 years of age and in good physical condition to withstand the rigors of the job.

To work in this field, you should complete at least two years of mathematics, including algebra and geometry, and four years of English and language skills courses, with emphasis on reading, writing, and communication training.

You should also take physics and chemistry. Computer skills are also important, particularly knowledge of computer-aided drafting and design programs. Courses in mechanical drawing or drafting are also helpful.

Postsecondary Training

Federal laws require that all mine workers be given safety and health training before starting work and be retrained annually thereafter. Federal and state laws also require preservice training and annual retraining in subjects such as health and safety regulations and first aid.

It is possible to start a coal mining career as an unskilled worker with a high school diploma, but it is difficult to advance within the coal mining industry without the foundation skills. In general, companies prefer employees who bring formally acquired technical knowledge and skills to the job.

The first year of study in a typical two-year coal mining technician program in a technical or community college includes courses in the basics of coal mining, applied mathematics, mining law, coal mining ventilation and atmospheric control, communication skills, technical reporting, fundamentals of electricity, mining machinery, physical geology, surveying and graphics, mine safety and accident prevention, roof and rib control, and industrial economics and financing.

The second year includes courses in mine instrumentation and electrical systems, electrical maintenance, hydraulic machinery, machine transmissions and drive trains, basic welding, coal mine environmental impacts and control, coal and coal mine atmosphere sampling and analysis, mine machinery and systems automation and control, application of computers to coal mining operations, and first aid and mine rescue.

In some programs, students spend the summer working as interns at coal mining companies. Internships provide a clear picture of the field and help you choose the work area that best fits your abilities. You will gain experience using charts, graphs, blueprints, maps, and machinery and develop confidence through an approach to the real operation of the industry.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Requirements for certification of mine workers vary. A state may require that any person engaged at the face of the mine must first obtain a certificate of competency as a miner from the state's miner's examining board. In some cases, a miner may obtain a certificate of competency after completing one year of underground work. A miner who has an associate's degree in coal mine technology may be able to obtain the certificate after completing six months of underground work.

For those seeking a certificate of competency as a mine examiner or manager, a state may require at least four years of underground experience; graduates with associate's degrees in coal mining technology, however, may be able to qualify after only three years of experience.

Coal mining technician students can usually meet the state's criteria for employment while still in their technician preparatory program. It is important to be familiar with these criteria if technicians plan to work in a state other than the one where they begin their education and work experience.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Students should obtain as much experience in the field as possible by participating in summer internships and part-time jobs as helpers.

To be a successful coal miner, you will need to work well with others and accept supervision. You must also learn to work independently and accept responsibility. You must be accurate and careful, as mistakes can be expensive and hazardous and even fatal.