Mining and geological engineers locate, extract, and process coal, metals, and minerals that are eventually used in manufacturing and utilities. They use computers to design underground mines, oversee the construction of mine shafts in underground mines, and create new ways to transport minerals extracted from the mines to processing plants. Some work closely with metallurgists and geologists, locating and appraising ore deposits. Others are responsible for the safety, profitability, and environmental impact of mines. Still others design new types of mining equipment or mining operations. Mining and geological engineers usually specialize in one mineral or metal, like coal or gold.
Today, due to the increased emphasis on environmental responsibility, many mining and geological engineers are working on land reclamation and water and air pollution. Another specialization is mining safety, which includes using knowledge of mine design to improve the safety of workers, as well as to help businesses comply with State and Federal safety regulations. They examine and inspect mining equipment, walls, and roof surfaces, and test air quality.
Mining and geological engineers need to be able to work effectively as part of a team. They should have the ability to communicate in writing and orally. These communication skills are vital in the field of mining and geological engineering because mining and geological engineers interact so often with many non-engineering specialists in a wide variety of fields. Mining and geological engineers should be analytical, creative, detail-oriented, and inquisitive.
In 2002, mining and geological engineers earned a median annual salary of $61,770. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $36,720, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $93,660. According to a 2003 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelor’s degree candidates in mining and geological engineering received starting offers averaging $44,326.
Training and Education
A bachelor’s degree is required for all entry-level mining and geological engineering positions. Most programs include study in the mining and geological specialty, as well as courses in mathematics and science. Many programs include a design course, along with a computer or laboratory class. Many colleges offer students the option of earning a 2- or 4-year degree in engineering technology, which include hands-on laboratory courses that prepare students for practical design and production work, as opposed to more theory-based jobs. While graduates of these programs may obtain the same kinds of jobs as graduates with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, they are not qualified to register as professional engineers.
Faculty positions and many research and development programs in mining and geological engineering require graduate training. Some engineers earn degrees in business administration to enhance their education and give themselves more career options. In fact, many high-level executives in government and business started their careers as engineers. Engineers in the United States are required to be licensed if they offer their services directly to the public. When engineers become licensed, they are designated Professional Engineers (PE). PE requirements include a degree from an engineering program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), 4 years of relevant work experience, and successful completion of a State examination. Entry-level engineers usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers, and may advance to become technical specialists or to supervise a staff of engineers and technicians.
In 2002, mining and geological engineers held about 5,200 jobs. 40% worked directly in the mining industry, and over one-third worked in professional, scientific, and technical services firms which provide consulting services to the mining industry.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of mining and geological engineers is expected to decline due to a projected decline in the coal, metal, and copper mining industries. Despite this fact, very good employment opportunities are projected in the occupation. This is because very few schools offer mining engineering programs, and the number of graduates is not expected to stay the same. Mining operations in other parts of the world are expected to recruit U.S. mining engineering program graduates, creating even more opportunity abroad.
For more information on how to pursue this profession, please see our Computer Training and Technology Education directory.