Mining and Geological Engineers

Summary

mining and geological engineers image
Mining engineers devise methods for transporting minerals to processing plants.
Quick Facts: Mining and Geological Engineers
2014 Median Pay $90,160 per year
$43.34 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 8,300
Job Outlook, 2014-24 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 500

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.

Work Environment

Mining engineers work mostly in mining operations in remote locations. However, some work in sand-and-gravel operations located near large cities.

How to Become a Mining or Geological Engineer

A bachelor’s degree from an accredited engineering program is required to become a mining or geological engineer.

Pay

The median annual wage for mining and geological engineers was $90,160 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

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 be driven by demand for mining operations. In addition, as companies look for ways to cut costs, they are expected to contract more services with engineering firms, rather than employ engineers directly.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for mining and geological engineers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of mining and geological engineers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about mining and geological engineers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Mining and Geological Engineers Do

Mining and geological engineers
Mining and geological engineers prepare technical reports for miners, engineers, and managers.

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 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.

Work Environment

Mining and geological engineers
Mining and geological engineers must visit the worksite to keep close watch on the progression of their designs.

Mining and geological engineers held about 8,300 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most mining and geological engineers were as follows:

Engineering services 24%
Metal ore mining 15
Support activities for mining 11
Oil and gas extraction 11
Coal mining 10

Many work at mining operations in remote locations; some work in sand-and-gravel operations that are located near large cities; and some engineers work in offices of mining firms or consulting companies, which are generally in large urban areas.

Work Schedules

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 hours than usual.

How to Become a Mining or Geological Engineer

Mining and geological engineers
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited engineering program is required to become a mining or geological engineer.

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 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.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Mining and geological engineers must consider the wider implications of their immediate work to plan for restoring environmental health. They must be able to consider several competing, but interconnected, issues at the same time.

Decisionmaking skills. These engineers make decisions that influence many critical outcomes—from worker safety to company profits. 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 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

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.

Pay

Mining and Geological Engineers

Median annual wages, May 2014

Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers

$90,160

Engineers

$88,720

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for mining and geological engineers was $90,160 in May 2014. 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 $52,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $159,010.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for mining and geological engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Oil and gas extraction $115,860
Support activities for mining 103,590
Metal ore mining 85,530
Coal mining 83,390
Engineering services 78,560

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.

Job Outlook

Mining and Geological Engineers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers

6%

Engineers

4%

 

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

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.

Employment projections data for mining and geological engineers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers

17-2151 8,300 8,800 6 500 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of mining and geological engineers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Architectural and engineering managers

Architectural and Engineering Managers

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

Bachelor's degree $130,620
Civil engineers

Civil Engineers

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

Bachelor's degree $82,050
Environmental scientists and specialists

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.

Bachelor's degree $66,250
Geological and petroleum technicians

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.

Associate's degree $54,810
Geoscientists

Geoscientists

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

Bachelor's degree $89,910
Hydrologists

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.

Bachelor's degree $78,370
Mechanical engineers

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Bachelor's degree $83,060
Natural sciences managers

Natural Sciences Managers

Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists. They direct activities related to research and development, and coordinate activities such as testing, quality control, and production.

Bachelor's degree $120,050
Petroleum engineers

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.

Bachelor's degree $130,050
Sales engineers

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.

Bachelor's degree $96,340

Contacts 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

O*NET

Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining Safety Engineers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Mining and Geological Engineers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mining-and-geological-engineers.htm (visited February 06, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015