Technological advancements have made coal mining today more productive than it has ever been. To keep up with technology and to extract coal as efficiently as possible modern mining personnel must be highly skilled and well trained in the use of complex, state-of-the-art instruments and equipment. Many jobs require four-year university degrees. Computer knowledge has also become greatly valued within the industry as most of the machines and safety monitors are computerized.
The use of sophisticated sensing equipment to monitor air quality is common and has replaced the use of small animals such as canaries, often referred to as "miner's canaries".
In the United States, the increase in technology has significantly decreased the mining workforce from 335,000 coal miners working at 7,200 mines fifty years ago to 104,824 miners working in fewer than 2,000 mines today.