Beneath the Earth’s surface, there are valuable deposits of minerals, metals, oil, natural gas and other resources. Mining engineers, geological engineers and mining safety engineers all play a part in finding and extracting those resources. In the highest paying mining and geological engineering jobs, wages can top $160,000, while salaries for the least lucrative positions hover around the mid-$50,000 mark. If you want to land a high paying job in this occupation, you will need a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering or geological engineering, with a focus on subjects like geological science, mine design, mineral identification and geological and engineering field methods.
A Large Wage Gap in a Small Engineering Occupation
The answer to the question of how much mining and geological engineers earn is complicated. On the surface, it may seem simple. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median wage of $94,240 for the occupation. That’s a modest increase from the $92,220 median wage for all engineers and more than two and a half times the $37,690 median salary for all occupations.
However, the median wage tells only a small part of the story. The median is the number in the middle of the salary range for all workers – and in this particular occupation, that’s a very wide range. The lowest paid mining and geological engineers earn less than $54,700 per year, according to the BLS. The highest paid enjoyed salaries above $160,320. That leaves a massive “wage gap,” or difference between the best and worst paid jobs in the same occupation, of $106,230.
What’s especially surprising about this six-figure wage is that the occupation is small to begin with, since there are only 8,200 mining and geological engineers working in the United States.
Top Paying Industries for Mining and Geological Engineers
One big factor in how much money mining and geological engineers can make is their industry of employment. Among the industries employing the most engineers in this occupation, the field of oil and gas extraction was the most lucrative, with a median wage of $122,030. The BLS reported a $97,090 median salary for the eight percent of mining and geological engineers working for the government. The engineering services industry, which employs more than one-quarter of workers in the occupation, has a median salary of $92,460. Jobs in mining industries tend to be less lucrative roles, with median wages of $91,900 for metal ore mining and $83,820 for coal mining.
The industries that hire fewer mining and geological engineers often pay the best wages. Mining and geological engineers represent just 0.43 percent of the oil and gas extraction industry, which is usually more closely related with petroleum engineering, but these 580 workers enjoy a mean wage of 142,470, the BLS reported. The 160 mining and geological engineers working in scientific research and development services represent just 0.03 percent of the industry but take home a mean salary of $121,280. Only 0.02 percent of employees working in management of companies and enterprises are mining and geological engineers, but these 440 workers earn a mean wage of $118,270. A $112,600 mean salary is in store for the 400 mining and geological engineers who make up just 0.15 percent of employees in the support activities for mining industry. A total of just 40 mining and geological engineers work in employment services, earning a six-figure mean salary of $107,470.
Metal ore mining and oil and gas extraction both account for 12 percent of employment of mining and geological engineers, while coal mining claims nine percent of these workers and the government employs eight percent.
Preparing for a Mining and Geological Engineering Career
If you are interested in the occupation of mining engineer or geological engineer, earning your bachelor’s degree is just one part of preparing for your career, especially if you aspire to one of the highest paying roles. You also need a great deal of experience. To attain senior-level roles, you may also need to take two professional examinations so that you can attain your Professional Engineering (PE) license.
While the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) does accredit mining and geological engineering programs, relatively few schools of engineering offer these programs, the BLS reported.