Mining and Geological Engineers Overview
Employment of mining and geological engineers is expected to grow at an average rate with good job opportunities. Typically a bachelor’s degree in engineering, mining engineering or geological engineering is required for mining and geological engineers, but research jobs often require a masters degree in engineering. Continuing education is important in the field to keep up with always-changing technology. Starting salaries for mining and geological engineers are some of the highest.
Nature of the Work for Mining and Geological Engineers
Using the principles of math and science, mining and geological engineers develop economical solutions to technical problems. They use scientific discoveries to develop commercial applications.
Often, mining and geological engineers work on new products considering a variety of factors. They may specify functional requirements, design and test components, and evaluate a final design for cost, safety, effectiveness and reliability.
In addition to design and development many mining and geological engineers work in production, maintenance and testing. They may need to observe factory production, determine why products fail or test products for quality. At the supervisory level mining and geological engineers oversee entire projects or major components.
Computers are a must for mining and geological engineers. They use them to produce and analyze designs, simulate tests, generate specifications, monitor quality and control efficiency. Another new aspect of the design process for mining and geological engineers is nanotechnology.
Mining and geological engineers find, extract and prepare minerals, metals and coal for use by utilities and manufacturing industries. They may supervise the construction of underground mine operations, design open-pit and underground mines and create ways to transport minerals to processing plants. They’re responsible for ensuring the operation of mines is safe, economical and environmentally sound. Some mining and geological engineers work alongside metallurgical engineers and geologists to find and appraise new ore deposits. Some mining and geological engineers direct mineral-processing operations to extract dirt, rock and other materials from valuable minerals. Others develop new mining equipment. Often mining and geological engineers specialize in a particular metal such as gold or coal. As protecting the environment becomes more of a priority, mining and geological engineers must work to solve problems related to water, air pollution and land reclamation. They use their knowledge of mine practices and design to comply with safety regulations and ensure worker safety. They must monitor air quality, examine equipment for safety compliance and inspect surfaces of walls and roofs. Most mining and geological engineers work in laboratories, plants or offices, though they may also spend time at mine sites to direct and monitor operations and solve onsite problems. Some must travel to worksites.
A 40-hour workweek is common for mining and geological engineers. However, longer hours often occur when deadlines must be met.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Mining and Geological Engineers
A bachelor’s degree in engineering, mining engineering or geological engineering is required for most entry-level mining and geological engineers. However, some employers will hire graduates with degrees in natural science or mathematics. Usually, engineering degrees are granted in civil engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical and electronics engineering. With any of those degrees mining and geological engineers can work in a variety of specialties or have the flexibility to transfer from branch to branch.
Typically mining and geological engineers take courses in science, math, design, general engineering, computers, laboratory, social sciences and humanities.
While many mining and geological engineers earn a 4-year bachelor’s degree—often in 5 years—some choose to earn a 2 or 4-year engineering technology degree instead. These programs focus on hands-on classes covering the current issues in engineering to prepare students for production and practical design work rather than jobs that require theoretical or scientific knowledge. Graduates of these programs often find jobs similar to those mining and geological engineers bachelor’s degree holder attain. However, employers consider their skill levels to be between a technician and an engineer.
For faculty positions or research and development work, a masters degree is required. Some experienced engineers seek a graduate degree to broaden their education or learn new technology as well.
Some engineering schools work with students in different ways. Some have agreements with 2-year schools so that students can attend those before finishing at an engineering school. Others offer special 5 or 6-year programs that include a combination of classroom work and practical work experience to provide both a chance to finance part of the education and gain valuable experience.
All states require mining and geological engineers to be licensed if they will offer services directly to the public. To become a professional engineer (PE), mining and geological engineers must have a degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), 4 years of relevant work experience and pass an exam. Recent grads can get started upon graduation by taking one part of the exam to become an engineer intern. Then, after completing suitable work experience they can take the second part.
Other valuable characteristics of mining and geological engineers include being creative, inquisitive, analytical and detail oriented. These workers must have good oral and written communication skills and be able to work as part of a team. For Federal Government positions mining and geological engineers must be US citizens and may need a security clearance.
Those mining and geological engineers just starting out typically work closely with a more experience engineer and may even receive formal education or training on the job. With experience and gained knowledge, they can take on more challenging projects and have great job independence. Later mining and geological engineers may become supervisors or technical specialists. Some even take on managerial roles or sales jobs.
Professional certifications are available through many organizations. They can be advantageous to mining and geological engineers seeking senior technical or managerial positions.
Top 10 Most Popular Mining and Mineral Engineering Schools
1. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, Virginia)
2. Colorado School of Mines (Golden, Colorado)
3. Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, Missouri)
4. Columbia University in the City of New York (New York, New York)
5. University of Kentucky (Lexington, Kentucky)
6. Montana Tech of the University of Montana (Butte, Montana)
7. West Virginia University (Morgantown, West Virginia)
8. University of Arizona (Tucson, Arizona)
9. University of Nevada, Reno (Reno, Nevada)
10. Michigan Technological University (Houghton, Michigan)
Employment and Job Outlook for Mining and Geological Engineers
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).
Engineers hold 1.6 million jobs, but only 7,100 are mining and geological engineers. Most engineering jobs are found in manufacturing and professional, scientific and technical services. Though many engineers also work in wholesale trade, construction and telecommunications. Government agencies employ 12 percent of engineers and 3 percent are self-employed.
Even though engineering positions overall are only expected to experience average growth, jobs for mining and geological engineers should be more favorable. Experts expect the field to grow by 15 percent, which is faster than average for all occupations. In the past the market for mining and geological engineers has been down, but now there is strong growth due to the increase in demand for minerals. Also, many mining and geological engineers currently employed are reaching retirement age and will create more job openings. Graduates who attend dedicated mining and geological engineering programs should find the best job opportunities. These positions may require living oversee for extended periods or frequent travel because mining operations are located around the world and many employ US mining and geological engineers.
Earnings and Salary for Mining and Geological Engineers
The median annual wages for mining and geological engineers is $79,440. The highest 10 percent earned above $119,300, the lowest 10 percent earned under $48,400 and the middle 50 percent earned between $60,920 and $98,190. Mining and geological engineers earn average starting salaries of $64,404, which is one of the highest starting wages among those holding bachelor’s degrees.
Annual Salary for Mining and Geological Engineers
On average, Mining and Geological Engineers earn $79,440 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook