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What They Do

Mining and Geological Engineers, including Mining Safety Engineers Career Video

Insider Info

Geological engineers conduct studies for civil engineering, mining, and oil and gas projects. They collect and analyze geological data and write reports based on what they discover.

Engineering companies, electrical utilities, mining and petroleum companies, government, research institutes and educational institutions all make use of the expertise of these "green engineers."

A geological engineer can work in a number of different professional environments. These include petroleum engineering, civil engineering, mining engineering, groundwater geology, waste management and natural resource exploration.

Geological engineering is one of the oldest of the engineering professions, having roots in mining and civil engineering as well as geology.

This isn't an office job. "Expect to work outside an office, and you may end up traveling all over the world," says Emery Z. Lajtai. He is a professor of engineering. "If you want to work in the petroleum, mining or geotechnical areas, geological engineering will give you a good start."

These professionals may work specifically in the areas of mine planning, site investigation, facility location, transportation routes, groundwater resource exploration and management, slope stability, rock mechanics, foundations design, remote sensing, disposal of wastes, tailings impoundment design, structural geology, or contaminant migration.

Geological engineers log long hours -- as many as 60 a week. Administrative duties, teaching, research and consulting eat up hours. Lajtai spends at least 30 hours a week doing engineering and research, and another 25 or so teaching and dealing with students.

Expect to put in lots of hours on special assignments. While at sea on expeditions for an ocean drilling program, Gene Pollard works 14-hour days. This usually continues seven days a week for two months at a time. That's 98 hours a week for about eight weeks.

Women are a minority in geological engineering, but they are making inroads. "Don't get hung up on gender issues," says Eileen Poeter, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines.

"Just be a human," she says. "Join organizations that include both genders with equal weight. Avoid separating yourself in women's engineering societies. What would you think if there was a society of male engineers?"

At a Glance

Analyze geological and geotechnical conditions for civil engineering and mining projects

  • Women are a minority in this field, but they are making inroads
  • Engineers must register with a state or federal association
  • You'll need a degree in geological engineering and some experience in order to qualify for professional status


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