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.
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.
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.
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.
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.