Mining and geological engineers design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals such as coal and metals for use in manufacturing and utilities.

Duties

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 the walls and roofs of mines, monitor the air quality, and examine mining equipment for possible hazards.

Engineers who hold a master’s or a doctoral degree may teach engineering at colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

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Work Environment

Mining and geological engineers held about 5,900 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of mining and geological engineers were as follows:

Engineering services 20%
Metal ore mining 15
Coal mining 11
Government 8
Oil and gas extraction                                          6

Many work where mining operations are located, such as mineral mines or sand-and-gravel quarries, in remote areas or near cities and towns. Others work in offices or onsite for oil and gas extraction firms or engineering services firms.

Work Schedules

Most mining and geological engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours a week. The remoteness of some mining locations gives rise to variable schedules and weeks during which they work more hours than usual.

Education and Training

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.

Education

High school students interested in entering mining or geological engineering programs in college should take courses in mathematics and science.

Relatively few schools offer mining engineering or geological engineering programs. Typical bachelor’s degree programs in mining engineering include courses in geology, physics, thermodynamics, mine design and safety, and mathematics. Bachelor’s degree programs in geological engineering typically include courses in geology, chemistry, fluid mechanics, physics, and mathematics. Both types of programs also include laboratory and field work, as well as traditional classroom study.

A related degree, such as civil or environmental engineering or geoscience, may be acceptable for some positions as a mining or geological engineer.

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.

Advancement

New 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 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.

Personality and Interests

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for mining and geological engineers was $91,160 in May 2019. 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 $52,160, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $151,230.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for mining and geological engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Oil and gas extraction                                       $131,850
Government 110,400
Metal ore mining 88,300
Coal mining 87,990
Engineering services 84,370

Most mining and geological engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours a week. The remoteness of some mining locations gives rise to variable schedules and weeks during which they work more than usual.

Job Outlook

Employment of mining and geological engineers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2018 to 2028, slower than the average for all occupations.

Employment growth for mining and geological engineers will depend upon demand for coal, metals, and minerals. These resources are used in many products, from construction materials and cars to cell phones and computers. As companies look for ways to cut costs, they are expected to contract more services with engineering services firms, rather than employ engineers directly.

For More Information

For more information about mining and geological engineers, visit

Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration

For information about general engineering education and career resources, visit

American Society for Engineering Education

Technology Student Association

For more information about licensure as a mining or geological engineer, visit

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying

National Society of Professional Engineers

For information about accredited engineering programs, visit

ABET

 

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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