Mining and Geological Engineering


Quick Facts: Mining and Geological Engineers
2017 Median Pay $94,240 per year 
$45.31 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 7,300
Job Outlook, 2016-26 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 600

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Mining and Geological Engineering Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Mining and Geological Engineers Do

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

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Mining and Geological Engineering

Duties of mining and geological engineers

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.


Work Environment for Mining and Geological Engineers

Mining and geological engineers held about 7,300 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of mining and geological engineers were as follows:

Engineering services: 26%

Metal ore mining: 12%

Oil and gas extraction: 12%

Coal mining: 9%

Government: 8%

Work Schedules

Most mining and geological engineers work full time, and about 2 in 5 worked more than 40 hours a week in 2016. The remoteness of some mining locations gives rise to variable schedules and weeks during which they work more hours than usual. 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.


How to Become an Mining and Geological Engineers

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.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Mining and geological engineers must take many factors into account when evaluating new mine locations and designing facilities. They must also plan for the restoration of the surrounding environment after operations end.

Decisionmaking skills. These engineers make decisions that influence many critical outcomes—from worker safety to mine production. 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 put work plans into a coherent, logical sequence.

Math skills. Mining and geological engineers use the principles 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 potential mines, plan their operations and 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 ideas and plans.

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.



salaries for Mining and Geological Engineers

The median annual wage for mining and geological engineers was $94,240 in May 2017. 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 $54,700, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $160,320.

In May 2017, the median annual wages for mining and geological engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Oil and gas extraction: $122,030

Government: $97,090

Engineering services: $92,460

Metal ore mining: $91,900

Coal mining: $83,820

Most mining and geological engineers work full time, and more than 2 in 5 worked more than 40 hours a week in 2016. The remoteness of some mining locations gives rise to variable schedules and weeks during which they work more than usual.


Job Outlook for mining and geological engineers

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. More mining and geological engineers are expected to be employed by engineering services firms, which provide specialized mine exploration, design, and production services. As companies look for ways to cut costs, they are expected to contract more services with engineering services firms, rather than employ engineers directly.

Employment projections data for Mining and Geological Engineers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 7,300

Projected Employment, 2026: 7,900

Change, 2016-2026: +8%, +600


Careers Related to mining and geological engineers

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Architectural and engineering managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in architectural and engineering companies.

Civil Engineers

Civil engineers conceive, design, build, supervise, operate, construct, and maintain infrastructure projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policymakers, or work with industry to reduce waste.

Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Geological and petroleum technicians provide support to scientists and engineers in exploring and extracting natural resources, such as minerals, oil, and natural gas.

Geoscientists

Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth, such as its composition, structure, and processes, to learn about its past, present, and future.

Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to protect people from illness and injury and property from damage. They combine knowledge of engineering and of health and safety to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other products will not cause harm to people or damage to property.

Hydrologists

Hydrologists study how water moves across and through the Earth’s crust. They use their expertise to solve problems in the areas of water quality or availability.

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the Earth’s surface. Petroleum engineers also find new ways to extract oil and gas from older wells.

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Architectural and Engineering ManagersBachelor's degree$137,720
Civil EngineersBachelor's degree$84,770
Environmental Scientists and SpecialistsBachelor's degree$69,400
Geological and Petroleum TechniciansAssociate's degree$54,190
GeoscientistsBachelor's degree$89,850
HydrologistsBachelor's degree$79,990
Mechanical EngineersBachelor's degree$85,880
Petroleum EngineersBachelor's degree$132,280
Sales EngineersBachelor's degree$98,720
Health and Safety EngineersBachelor's degree$88,510

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Mining and Geological Engineers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mining-and-geological-engineers.htm