Mining engineering is a lucrative profession, and it offers a number of job possibilities. An affinity for math and science is a prerequisite for a successful career in this field. Primary career options are mining engineer and mining safety engineer, though a limited number of applicants may find employment as a sales engineer for mining equipment manufacturers.
Training and Education
Mining engineers need to obtain a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, which usually takes four years to complete. ABET is a non-profit organization that accredits college programs in science and engineering. Typical programs combine classroom study with field work and time spent in the laboratory. Some individuals spend an additional two years obtaining a master's degree in mining engineering, often specializing in areas such as mining regulation and resource development. Engineers who wish to work as credentialed professional engineers will need to take additional steps toward licensing. Four years of relevant work experience, combined with completion of a state exam, is necessary to obtain the professional engineer designation.
Many graduates decide to become mining engineers, often specializing in one particular metal or mineral. Their job is to develop a mine that will get the greatest amount of material out of the deposit. Every mine needs to accomplish this in the safest way possible and that is the responsibility of the mining safety engineer. They safeguard the workers by ensuring the mine is in compliance with federal and state safety regulations. Another career choice for those with an inclination towards selling is that of sales engineer. This complex equipment requires someone with significant mining knowledge plus sales ability, in order to be marketed effectively. (Reference 1 and 4)
The typical mining engineer earns between $64,910 and $107,160 annually, according to Bureau of Labor May 2011 data. The median annual wage for the same time period is $84,300. Though mining engineers earn an income far greater than the national average, they earn significantly less than engineers working in the closely related petroleum industry. Bureau of Labor data from the same period indicates that petroleum engineers earn a median annual wage of $122,280.
The Bureau of Labor projects job growth of 10 percent from 2010 to 2020, which compares to the 14 percent average for all U.S. occupations. On the bright side, many engineers will be reaching retirement age by 2020, making it easier for anyone entering the job market. In the meantime, the need for mining engineers will be primarily driven by demand for mining operations. Recent federal policy changes have allowed greater access to low-sulfur coal deposits on certain federal lands. Mining engineers will be required to prepare feasibility studies and proposals on how to mine this globally in-demand coal. Mining safety engineers will also enjoy favorable job prospects as both new and existing mining operations place greater emphasis on workplace safety.
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Outlook Handbook; Mining and Geological Engineers
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011; Petroleum Engineers
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011; Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining Safety Engineers
- O*net: Summary Report for Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining Safety Engineers
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