Education and Training: College
Salary: Median—$64,690 per year
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Mining engineers plan mining operations and design underground and surface mines. They also design mining equipment and supervise technicians and workers who use it. Most mining engineers work for firms in the coal and metal industries. Some specialize in just one of these industries. Engineers can work for companies that make mining equipment. Others work for government agencies that regulate the mining industry.
When new deposits of ore are discovered, mining companies send engineers to determine whether the deposits can be mined profitably. Engineers study maps, waterways, and samples of rock. They also meet with scientists and government officials. If the mining engineers decide that the deposits can be mined profitably, they begin to plan mining operations. If an underground mine is to be used, engineers design mine shafts and tunnels. If the situation calls for surface mining, the engineers decide where to dig the pits and where to put the rock and soil that are removed during the mining process.
Mining engineers supervise the mining operation. They train crews of workers and supervisors. Engineers and engineering technicians inspect mines to make sure that the roofs of underground mines are supported correctly and that the air in mine shafts does not contain poisonous gases. These engineers may also inspect and repair mining equipment. Some mining engineers help to plan ways of restoring the land around mine sites so that it can be used for other purposes.
Mining engineers may specialize in designing equipment used to excavate and operate mines. This equipment includes ventilation systems, earth- and rock-moving conveyors, and underground railroads and elevators. Engineers also design equipment that chips and cuts rocks and coal. Others select explosives used to blast ore deposits.
Mining engineers also work for firms that sell mining supplies and equipment. Experienced mining engineers teach in colleges and universities and serve as consultants to industry and government.
Education and Training Requirements
At least a bachelor's degree is required to be a mining engineer. Some colleges and universities offer degrees in mining engineering. Some employers hire engineers with a degree in mechanical, electrical, or civil engineering. A master's or doctoral degree is usually necessary for those interested in doing research or teaching at the college level. Some schools offer work–study programs that enable students to get practical experience before graduation.
Engineers whose work affects public health and safety must be licensed in their state. Requirements for licensing generally include a degree in engineering, several years of experience in the engineering field, and a passing score on a test.
Getting the Job
College placement office may be able to help students find a job. Contacts made during a work–study program or summer job may also be helpful. Some mining firms send recruiters to campuses to find qualified engineers. Apply directly to companies, and check the want ads in professional journals and magazines.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Mining engineers can become directors of specific mining projects. Some head research projects. Other engineers advance to top management positions in their company.
Employment opportunities for mining engineers are expected to decline through 2014. New jobs in the field are dependent on the state of industries such as coal, copper, and metal mining, which are expected to experience decreased employment in the future. A significant number of mining engineers currently employed are approaching retirement age, which should create some job openings.
Mining engineers usually work with several other engineers and technicians or supervise small crews of workers and technicians. Most mining engineers divide their time between their offices and the mine shafts or pits. Engineers may be required to travel several times per year to study methods and inspect equipment that might be useful in their mines. Most engineers work forty hours a week. However, engineers whose mines operate around the clock can expect some shift work.
Where to Go for More Information
American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers
PO Box 270728
Littleton, CO 80127-0013
Mining and Metallurgical Society of America
476 Wilson Ave.
Novato, CA 94947-4236
Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration
P.O. Box 277002
Littleton, CO 80127
Earnings and Benefits
Mining engineers with a bachelor's degree earn an average starting salary of $48,643 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary is $64,690 per year.