Mining and geological engineers held about 7,900 jobs in 2012. They work at mining operations in remote locations. However, some work in sand-and-gravel operations that are located near large cities. More experienced engineers can get jobs in offices of mining firms or consulting companies, which are generally in large urban areas.
The industries that employed the most mining and geological engineers in 2012 were as follows:
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||30%|
|Metal ore mining||17|
|Management of companies and enterprises||8|
|Support activities for mining||6|
Most mining and geological engineers work full time. The remoteness of some of the locations gives rise to working variable schedules and longer-than-normal workweeks.
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited engineering program is required, to become a mining or geological engineer, including a mining safety engineer. However, to work as a credentialed professional engineer requires licensure. Requirements for licensure vary by state but generally require passing two exams.
High school students interested in entering mining engineering programs should take courses in mathematics and science in high school.
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. ABET 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
In every state, engineers who offer their services directly to the public must be licensed in that state. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) administers two exams for licensure for this occupation. The first covers the fundamentals of engineering (FE), the second the principles and practices of engineering (PPE). The FE exam can be taken upon graduation. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After 4 years of relevant work experience, EITs and EIs can take the PPE exam.
Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs).
Generally, licensure requires the following:
- A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
- 4 years of relevant work experience
- Successful completion of a state examination
In several states, engineers must take 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 engineering graduates usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. In large companies, engineers starting out also may receive formal classroom or seminar-type training. As new engineers gain knowledge and experience, they are assigned more difficult projects with 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 job profile on sales engineers.
Mining and geological engineers typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a mining and geological engineer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Mining and geological engineers should also possess the following specific qualities:
Analytical skills. Mining and geological engineers must consider the wider implications of their immediate work to plan for environmental reclamation. They must be able to consider several competing, but interconnected, issues at the same time.
Decision-making skills. These engineers perform work that can affect not only companies’ profits but also miners’ lives. The ability to anticipate problems and deal with them immediately is crucial.
Logical-thinking skills. In planning mines’ operations, mineral processing, and environmental reclamation, these engineers have to be able to put work plans into a coherent, logical sequence.
Math skills. Mining and geological engineers use the principals of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Problem-solving skills. Mining and geological engineers must explore for mines, plan the operations of mines, work out the mineral processing, and design environmental reclamation projects. These are all complex projects requiring an ability to identify and work toward goals, while solving problems along the way.
Writing skills. Mining and geological engineers must prepare reports and instructions for other workers. Therefore, they must be able to write clearly so that others can easily understand their thoughts and plans.
The median annual wage for mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers, was $84,320 in May 2012. 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 $49,680, and the top 10 percent earned more than $140,130.
In May 2012, the median annual wages for mining and geological engineers in the top five industries in which these engineers worked were as follows:
|Management of companies and enterprises||$92,030|
|Support activities for mining||84,030|
|Metal ore mining||83,280|
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||79,580|
The vast majority of mining and geological engineers work full time. However, many work more than a typical full-time schedule, and others work a variable schedule. The remoteness of some of the locations gives rise to working variable schedules and longer than normal workweeks.
Employment of mining and geological engineers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Employment growth for mining and geological engineers will be driven by demand for mining operations. Some growth may come from recent changes in federal policy concerning access to coal deposits on federal lands in some western states. Because this coal is low in sulfur content, it is in demand globally. The feasibility studies and proposals needed to gain access to these and other mineral deposits will spur demand for these engineers.
Additionally, other countries may restrict exports of certain minerals known as “rare earths”, which are used in the manufacture of many high-tech products. This should help spur 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 2022. In addition, the education and licensing required to enter this occupation will limit the supply of engineers competing for these positions. Lastly, mining and extraction companies are expected to increasingly seek the skills of mining safety engineers. Engineers who specialize in this area should enjoy favorable prospects.
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