Employment of mining and geological engineers is expected to grow 10 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. This does not mean that the expected growth of the occupation will be large in terms of the number of new positions overall, because the occupation is relatively small.
Employment growth for mining and geological engineers will be driven by demand for mining operations. Some growth may come from recent changes in federal policy concerning access to coal deposits on federal lands in some western states. Because this coal is low in sulfur content, it is in demand globally. The feasibility studies and proposals needed to gain access to these and other mineral deposits will push demand for these engineers.
Additionally, other countries may restrict exports of certain minerals known as “rare earths,” which are used in the manufacture of many high-tech products. This should help spur exploration and further development of mines in the United States that yield these minerals.
Employment growth also will be driven by demand for engineering services. As companies look for ways to cut costs, they are expected to contract more engineering services rather than employ engineers directly.
Job prospects should be favorable for those entering the occupation, because many of these engineers will be reaching retirement age by 2020. In addition, the education and licensing required to enter this occupation will limit the supply of engineers competing for these positions. Lastly, mining and extraction companies are expected to seek the skills of mining safety engineers. Engineers who specialize in this area should enjoy favorable prospects.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition