Mining and geological engineers design mines for the safe and efficient removal of minerals such as coal and metals for manufacturing and utilities.
Mining and geological engineers typically do the following:
- Design open-pit and underground mines
- Supervise the construction of mine shafts and tunnels in underground operations
- Devise methods for transporting minerals to processing plants
- Prepare technical reports for miners, engineers, and managers
- Monitor 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 use their knowledge of geology to 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 geologists and metallurgical engineers to find and evaluate new 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 their knowledge of mine design and best practices to ensure workers’ safety and to ensure 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.
Mining and geological engineers held about 7,900 jobs in 2012. They work at mining operations in remote locations. However, some work in sand-and-gravel operations that are located near large cities. More experienced engineers can get jobs in offices of mining firms or consulting companies, which are generally in large urban areas.
The industries that employed the most mining and geological engineers in 2012 were as follows:
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||30%|
|Metal ore mining||17|
|Management of companies and enterprises||8|
|Support activities for mining||6|
Most mining and geological engineers work full time. The remoteness of some of the locations gives rise to working variable schedules and longer-than-normal workweeks.
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited engineering program is required, to become a mining or geological engineer, including a mining safety engineer. However, to work as a credentialed professional engineer requires licensure. Requirements for licensure vary by state but generally require passing two exams.
High school students interested in entering mining engineering programs should take courses in mathematics and science in high school.
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. ABET 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 consider the wider implications of their immediate work to plan for environmental reclamation. They must be able to consider several competing, but interconnected, issues at the same time.
Decision-making skills. These engineers perform work that can affect not only companies’ profits but also miners’ lives. 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 be able to put work plans into a coherent, logical sequence.
Math skills. Mining and geological engineers use the principals 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 the operations of mines, work out the 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 thoughts and plans.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
In every state, engineers who offer their services directly to the public must be licensed in that state. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) administers two exams for licensure for this occupation. The first covers the fundamentals of engineering (FE), the second the principles and practices of engineering (PPE). The FE exam can be taken upon graduation. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After 4 years of relevant work experience, EITs and EIs can take the PPE exam.
Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs).
Generally, licensure requires the following:
- A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
- 4 years of relevant work experience
- Successful completion of a state examination
In several states, engineers must take 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.
Beginning engineering graduates usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. In large companies, engineers starting out also may receive formal classroom or seminar-type training. As new engineers gain knowledge and experience, they are assigned more difficult projects with 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 job profile on sales engineers.
The median annual wage for mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers, was $84,320 in May 2012. 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 $49,680, and the top 10 percent earned more than $140,130.
In May 2012, the median annual wages for mining and geological engineers in the top five industries in which these engineers worked were as follows:
|Management of companies and enterprises||$92,030|
|Support activities for mining||84,030|
|Metal ore mining||83,280|
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||79,580|
The vast majority of mining and geological engineers work full time. However, many work more than a typical full-time schedule, and others work a variable schedule. The remoteness of some of the locations gives rise to working variable schedules and longer than normal workweeks.
Employment of mining and geological engineers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Employment growth for mining and geological engineers will be driven by demand for mining operations. Some growth may come from recent changes in federal policy concerning access to coal deposits on federal lands in some western states. Because this coal is low in sulfur content, it is in demand globally. The feasibility studies and proposals needed to gain access to these and other mineral deposits will spur demand for these engineers.
Additionally, other countries may restrict exports of certain minerals known as “rare earths”, which are used in the manufacture of many high-tech products. This should help spur 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 should be favorable for those entering the occupation, because many of these engineers will be reaching retirement age by 2022. In addition, the education and licensing required to enter this occupation will limit the supply of engineers competing for these positions. Lastly, mining and extraction companies are expected to increasingly seek the skills of mining safety engineers. Engineers who specialize in this area should enjoy favorable prospects.
For more information about mining and geological engineers, visit
For information about general engineering education and career resources, visit
For more information about licensure as a mining or geological engineer, visit
For information about accredited engineering programs, visit