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:
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.