Mining Engineer: Career Choice Options…Narrow or Broad?

Posted by on Mar 19, 2012 in Equipment, Favorites | 7 comments

Mining Engineer: Career Choice Options…Narrow or Broad?

When I was doing some research on whether I should study Mining Engineering or not, almost everyone who wasn’t in the industry told me that my career choices would be narrow and I would pigeon-hole myself into a career field that would limit my options after I graduate. Recently, I went to PDAC in Toronto and there was record-breaking numbers of just under 30,000 people from all over the world who came together under the umbrella of mining/exploration.  Both of these events got me thinking about career choices are available to those coming out of school with a Mine Engineering degree and this is what I’ve come up with:

  1. The Traditional Route – work at a mine as an Engineer in Training (EIT) in multiple departments, working your way up to a Senior Engineer, then Chief Engineer, then hopefully Tech Services Manager or Mine Manager and then continue moving up the ladder until you reach General Manager in which case there is a possibility of moving into the corporate world as a VP, Operations & Technical to an Executive Vice President (EVP) then maybe a COO or CEO. *Note: Other job titles/functions at a mine could include Project Engineering, Operations Engineering, Continuous Improvement Engineer, Reliability Engineer, Dispatch Engineer; the list goes on!
  2. The Finance Route – post graduation, obtain a MS in Mineral Econ or an MBA (or not and dive right in after your Bachelor’s) and venture into the financial world specializing in metals & minerals. The four main streams are: Analysts, Investment Bankers, Project Financers and Private Equity. Wikipedia/Investopedia can probably explain each of these streams better than I can.
  3. The Sell Side Route – there are Software companies, Original Equipment Manufactures (OEMs), Original Technology Manufacturers (OTMs), and Suppliers. You can either go into the “sell side” as a technical resource (ie. Application engineering), field or office support, project management, design team, solutions architect, or into the glorious life of sales (ha!).
  4. The Consulting Route – this one generally allows one to live in a big city and travel to multiple projects billing hours as you go. In general, you focus on feasibility studies (pre-operations) and a great chance to see the world. This experience provides a good basis for those who want to go work for a junior mining company or a securities company as an analyst; you know what to look for, you know what the red flags are.
  5. The Non-Mining Route – some people get a degree in mining and decide it’s not really their passion nor is it something they want a career in.
  6. The Contractor Route – work for a contractor going from project to project, mine to mine. Almost the same as working for a mining company except you may end up on a construction site. More project management than engineering.
  7. The Entrepreneur Route – See a need that you could fill in mining? Drum up enough contacts to start your own business? Have a business plan in play that matches up with the holes in the industry? I have seen a drilling business grow from 5 rigs to over 300 employees in less than 3 years! Remember: Apple started with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak working in a garage!
  8. The Non-Traditional Route – work for a startup/exploration company, wear more hats, slightly riskier if the startup runs out of money, can’t convert resource/reserves, etc… Get paid in stock options, ie. the original secretary of Yahoo! is now a millionaire. Some people love the thrill of working for a company bringing it from just a piece of property into the pre-feas then feasibility stage then funding –> construction –> operations. Then they leave and find another greenfields property.

I am sure I left out many career paths for a mine engineer but it goes to show how we are not limited in type of job & field, travel requirements, geographical region and work schedules.  I would love to hear if there are any big career paths that I missed out on! As senior students are nearing their graduation and may be entering college for an engineering degree, I urge everyone to do some research on a career in mining.

Note: To dive into the pros and cons of each may show my biases slightly and will also turn this into a very long post. I am open and always happy for discussion if you want to leave a comment or e-mail me directly.


  • Romar_elsherif

    Dear vivien,I Hope That You Are In Good Health and Every Thing Is Going O.K.
    As A mining Engineer Having The Same Feelings I W’d to Say That This Branch of Science Has not Got It’s Luck and We Suffer A Lot From This .I’m Without A Work Since One Year and I’m Looking Forward For A Good Chance

    • Vivien

      Hello Romar, have you tried LinkedIn? There are many many recruiters looking for mine engineers! 

  • Kyle

    There’s also the academic side of the equation, either continuing on to teach other engineers, or get into research and development. This can be with mining companies, schools, or the government. As well, as some people work the office side for awhile, and then decide they want some hands on experience so that they can see the application of what all their planning work creates, or vice versa. The benefits are huge to an individual having the experiences from both sides of the fence as it were, and gives a broader understanding of the challenges that each group faces, and allowing for the ability to make better, more informed decisions in the future.

    Another thing to keep in mind, is that the degree is really only a gateway to other things too. I’ve seen many people from a variety of backgrounds moving into areas they weren’t originally degree focused on, as a means of broadening horizons, and learning new roles as they progress. This is useful from an experience side because it gives the engineer a broader understanding of the operations in general, and gives them more tools, and better decision making skills as they move up in responsibility, or seek employment in broader areas. They also have the option to spread out to new areas so they don’t get burned out over time doing the same work.

    • Vivien

      @829423abc4df16af925ee4498057ac00:disqus  Thanks so much for pointing out the academic and government; I completely forgot about this career path! And absolutely – for government, there are regulatory agencies, research & development… and academic, there is teaching and also research. And then a lot of professors also consult for the private sector on the side if they have time.

  • Zoe

    Hi Vivien, 

    I think the addition of academic and government are important for this list. I also think there is an increasing number of people who are involved with the industry but come from a “soft science” perspective. Their roles, amongst many, are to help with the communication between mining engineers and communities impacted by mineral exploration and mining operations.  It is integral that these roles (community relations, CSR manager, etc…) can speak the language of mining companies and understand the education and training of mining engineers, but also understand the perspectives of those people housed in the areas of law, anthropology, sociology, etc…  Granted, this training is not required for mining engineers, but it can round out and education nicely – and it is likely that these skills and perspectives will be used at some point in one’s career. 

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  • shiva

    hai this is shivain which college i should study mining in hyderabad and i got 50000 in eamcet please suggest me

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  • Rick Howser

    Hey Viven I am thinking about majoring in Mining Engineering and would love to get your opinion on the idea? Is there a way to reach you?