- JOB DUTIES
- JOB OUTLOOK
- EDUCATION AND TRAINING NEEDED
Mining and geological engineers design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals such as coal and metals for use in manufacturing and utilities.
Mining and geological engineers typically do the following:
- Design open-pit and underground mines
- Supervise the construction of mine shafts and tunnels
- Devise methods for transporting minerals to processing plants
- Prepare technical reports for miners, engineers, and managers
- Monitor mine production to assess the effectiveness of operations
- Provide solutions to problems related to land reclamation, water and air pollution, and sustainability
- Ensure that mines are operated in safe and environmentally sound ways
Geological engineers search for mineral deposits and evaluate possible sites. Once a site is identified, they plan how the metals or minerals will be extracted in efficient and environmentally sound ways.
Mining engineers often specialize in one particular mineral or metal, such as coal or gold. They typically design and develop mines and determine the best way to extract metal or minerals to get the most out of deposits.
Some mining engineers work with geoscientists and metallurgical engineers to find and evaluate ore deposits. Other mining engineers develop new equipment or direct mineral-processing operations to separate minerals from dirt, rock, and other materials.
Mining safety engineers use best practices and their knowledge of mine design to ensure workers’ safety and to maintain compliance with state and federal safety regulations. They inspect mines’ walls and roofs, monitor the air quality, and examine mining equipment for possible hazards.
Engineers who hold a master’s or a doctoral degree frequently teach engineering at colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.
The median annual wage for mining and geological engineers was $93,720 in May 2016. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $55,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $160,510.
In May 2016, the median annual wages for mining and geological engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Oil and gas extraction||$126,020|
|Support activities for mining||91,960|
|Metal ore mining||91,660|
Most mining and geological engineers work full time, and more than 2 in 5 worked more than 40 hours a week in 2014. The remoteness of some of the locations gives rise to variable schedules and weeks during which they work more than usual.
Employment of mining and geological engineers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Employment growth for mining and geological engineers will depend upon demand for mining operations. Growth will be affected by recent changes in federal policy concerning clean air policy. Coal with low sulfur content is found on federal lands and is the most environmentally friendly, and mining such coal presents the best possibility for continued operations. The feasibility studies and proposals needed to gain access to these and other mineral deposits will help spur demand for these engineers.
Other countries may restrict exports of certain minerals known as “rare earths,” which are used in the manufacture of many high-tech products and military equipment. This could help encourage exploration and further development of mines in the United States that yield these minerals.
Employment growth also will be driven by demand for engineering services. As companies look for ways to cut costs, they are expected to contract more engineering services with these firms, rather than employ engineers directly.
Job prospects should be favorable for those entering the occupation, because many of these engineers will be reaching retirement age by 2024. In addition, the education and licensing required to enter this occupation will limit the supply of engineers competing for these positions.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING NEEDED
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited engineering program is required to become a mining or geological engineer, including a mining safety engineer. Requirements for licensure vary by state but most states require applicants to pass two exams.
High school students interested in entering mining engineering programs in college should take courses in mathematics and science.
Relatively few schools offer mining engineering programs. Typical bachelor’s degree programs in mining engineering include courses in geology, physics, thermodynamics, mine design and safety, and mathematics. Programs also include laboratory and field work, as well as traditional classroom study.
Programs in mining and geological engineering are accredited by ABET, whose accreditation is based on a program’s faculty, curriculum, facilities, and other factors.
Master’s degree programs in mining and geological engineering typically are 2-year programs and include coursework in specialized subjects, such as mineral resource development and mining regulations. Some programs require a written thesis for graduation.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a mining or geological engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires
- A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
- A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
- Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
- A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.
In several states, engineers must earn continuing education credits to keep their licenses. Most states recognize licenses from other states, provided that licensure requirements in the other states meet or exceed the first state’s own requirements.
Beginning mining and geological engineers usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. In large companies, new engineers also may receive formal classroom or seminar-type training. As engineers gain knowledge and experience, they are assigned more difficult projects and they are given greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions.
Engineers may advance to become technical specialists or to supervise a staff or team of engineers and technicians. Some eventually become engineering managers or enter other managerial or sales jobs. In sales, an engineering background enables them to discuss a product’s technical aspects and to assist in product planning, installation, and use. For more information, see the profiles on architectural and engineering managers and sales engineers.