Mining Engineers, Including Mine Safety Engineers
Mining engineers find, extract, and prepare coal, metals, and minerals for use by manufacturing industries and utilities. They design open pit and underground mines, supervise the construction of mine shafts and tunnels in underground operations, and devise methods for transporting minerals to processing plants. Mining engineers are responsible for the safe, economical, and environmentally sound operation of mines. Some mining engineers work with geologists and metallurgical engineers to locate and appraise new ore deposits. Others develop new mining equipment or direct mineral processing operations to separate minerals from the dirt, rock, and other materials with which they are mixed. Mining engineers frequently specialize in the mining of one mineral or metal, such as coal or gold. With increased emphasis on protecting the environment, many mining engineers work to solve problems related to land reclamation and water and air pollution.
Mining engineers held about 4,400 jobs in 1998. While one-half worked in the mining industry, other mining engineers worked in government agencies, manufacturing industries, or engineering consulting firms.
Mining engineers are usually employed at the location of natural deposits, often near small communities, and sometimes outside the United States. About one-third of mining engineers employed in the U.S. work in Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Those in research and development, management, consulting, or sales, however, are often located in metropolitan areas.
Employment of mining engineers is expected to decline through 2008. Most of the industries in which mining engineers are concentratedsuch as coal, metal, and mineral mining, as well as stone, clay, and glass products manufacturingare expected to experience declines in employment.
Although there are no job openings expected to result from employment growth, there should be openings resulting from the need to replace mining engineers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. A large number of mining engineers currently employed are approaching retirement age. In addition, there are a relatively small number of schools offering mining engineering programs, and the small number of graduates is not expected to increase.
Mining operations around the world recruit graduates of U.S. mining engineering programs. Consequently, job opportunities may be better worldwide than within the United States. As a result, graduates should be prepared for the possibility of frequent travel or even living abroad.
Median annual earnings of mining engineers were $56,090 in 1998. The middle 50 percent earned between $43,350 and $75,650. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,930 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,380. In the Federal Government, mining engineers in supervisory, nonsupervisory, and management positions averaged $62,300 a year in early 1999.
According to a 1999 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelors degree candidates in mining engineering received starting offers averaging about $39,600 a year.
(See introduction to the section on engineers for information on working conditions, training requirements, and sources of additional information.)