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Spring 2013
Vol. 57, Number 1
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Resources work: Careers in mining, oil, and gas

How would you like to make $40,000 or more per year with a high school education? Or make twice that with a college degree? If those earnings sound intriguing, consider exploring a career in mining or in oil and gas extraction.

Overall, the industry pays better than most: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data show that median annual wages of workers in mining, oil, and gas extraction were $46,100 in May 2011, compared with $34,460 for workers in all industries. And the industry had the highest starting salaries of any industry for 2012 bachelor's degree recipients, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Earnings are high, in part, because of working conditions. For example, jobs might require workers to live in remote areas, be out at sea for weeks at a time, or spend long periods underground. And mining, oil, and gas workers can face potentially hazardous conditions.

Still, much of the industry now relies on technology that has helped to make the work safer and more efficient. "It's not a pick-and-shovel operation. We have high-tech machines underground," says Jeff Tutalo, manager of human resources at an underground coal mine in Grafton, West Virginia. "The skills you need to play video games are the types of skills you need to operate our equipment."

This article describes occupations in the mining, oil, and gas extraction industry. It does not include occupations related to the processing or distribution of these resources. The first section covers the industry's employment and outlook. The second section highlights some common occupations. The third section discusses pros and cons of the work. The fourth section describes how to start a career in mining or oil and gas. And the fifth section provides sources for more information.

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U.S. Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Last Updated: March 26, 2013