Mining, Energy & Resources

If you’re fascinated by the process of extracting minerals, mathematically-minded, love a challenge, and working with your hands, then the mining, energy, and resources sector could be for you!

The U.S. mining and energy industry consists of searching for, extracting, beneficiation, and processing naturally occurring solid minerals from the earth.

These mined minerals include:

  • Coal
  • Metals such as iron, copper, or zinc
  • Industrial minerals such as limestone and other rocks.

Oil and natural gas extraction is a different part of the energy and resources industry overall but are considered separate from mined materials.

Metals and other minerals are an essential source of raw materials for the U.S. building and chemical industries. They also form part of the production of everyday electronics and products – did you know that over 65 different minerals are required to produce a modern computer! And these all come from mining.

Organizations in this sector usually own, manage and maintain mines, quarries, or oil and gas wells. Some organizations also provide support services to help develop, improve and innovate core mining processes and build a stable industry.

Leading activities that take place across the sector include:

  • Oil and gas extraction and mining
  • Metal ore mining
  • Coal mining
  • Non-metallic mineral ore mining
  • Other mineral mining and quarrying
  • Services to mining
  • Mining exploration services
  • Contract and mining support services

The renewable energy segment of the industry primarily focuses on:

  • Solar
  • Hydro
  • Wind

Because of the extensive range of the industry, there’s a wide variety of job roles available. Mining operations are often the leading employers in the communities where they operate.

More than 500,000 people work directly in the mining industry nationally across the US. There are also 1.8 million jobs in manufacturing, engineering, and environmental and geological consulting directly or indirectly supported through the mining and energy sector.

The industry is buoyed by a robust support infrastructure covering construction, engineering, trade, business and finance, transport, logistics, and export – to name a few!

The work can be highly demanding, and many workers in the sector operate on a fly-in fly-out basis to work on rural and remote sites. This means you may work for a set period in a rural location before having a set period of downtime. It does not suit everyone’s particular lifestyle, but the compensation for working in such a way can be pretty high.

Depending on the segment of the industry you want to work in, there are entry-level right through to highly specialized and professional roles.

What You Could Do

Roles across the industry are highly varied and include a mix of low-skilled, entry-level positions, highly-skilled roles, and professional roles requiring specialized knowledge.

Here’s a look at some of the top jobs you could pursue:

  • Drillers, Miners, and Shot Firers: Drillers, miners, and shot firers assemble, position, and operate drilling rigs and detonate explosives to extract materials from the earth. It’s a very hands-on role that requires a lot of teamwork, accuracy, and attention to detail. You can work as a driller, miner, or shot firer without formal qualifications through on-the-job training, but it is a demanding area of work, so definitely be sure it’s right for you!
  • Mining Engineer: Mining engineers evaluate, plan and oversee the construction of mines. They provide specifications on the processes, labor, and equipment required to achieve the goals of the mining project. Mining engineers typically have a strong background in math and science, excellent organizational and project management skills, alongside strong problem-solving abilities. To become a mining engineer, you’ll need a degree in mining and postgraduate studies tailored to working in this part of the sector.
  • Machinist: A machinist operates computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools, such as lathes and milling machines, to cut and produce precision parts for machines, instruments, and tools. Machinists typically support the maintenance of drills and other specialist equipment required for achieving mining objectives in the mining industry. Machinists repair or produce parts using both manual and automated equipment with precise measurements. It’s a very technical role that requires lots of problem-solving and analytical capacity, alongside patience and perseverance!
  • Importers, Exporters, and Wholesalers: Importers, exporters, and wholesalers plan, organize, direct, control, and coordinate importing, exporting, and wholesaling establishments. The role usually requires some formal qualifications and specialist knowledge, especially regarding customs and international export.
  • Geophysicist: Geophysicists apply the principles and concepts of physics, mathematics, geology, and engineering to the study of the physical characteristics of the earth. Geophysicistsplay a decisive role in evaluating and providing guidance on where to mine and how viable it is in an industry that involves souring resources and drilling into different environmental areas. Geophysicists are exceptionally specialized in their knowledge, and a degree is a vital starting point for this role.

These job roles are only just scratching the surface!

The best way to learn more and help form decisions about the roles available and what you might be suited for is to conduct as much research as possible and build a profile from there.

Graduate Outcomes & Gender Split

While a degree isn’t crucial for every role or career pathway into the industry, it can help to know what employment from this route looks like.

Here’s a look at some graduate outcomes for related degree programs:

  • Natural Resources Graduates in Full-Time Employment: 44.7%
  • Engineering Technologies Graduates in Full-Time Employment: 75%
  • Transportation and Materials Moving Graduates in Employment Overall: 54%

*Data from National Association of Colleges and Employers Report 2021

Keep in mind that this doesn’t account for graduates working part-time and/or who may have continued to higher studies; these are promising percentages!

Gender Split

The gender split across the industry depends on the segment of the sector you work within.

The mining, energy, and resources industry has typically been very male-dominated, and this seems to be a continuing trend.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the split of the workforce in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industries in 2019 was:

  • 85% Male
  • 15% Female

Average Salary

Current surveys in the sector indicate the median salaries for full-time roles in this industry as:

  • Mining Roles (Driller, Miner, Short Firer): $78,000-$97,500
  • Mining Manager Roles: $110,000-$187,000
  • Entry Level Mining Engineer Roles: $73,000-$103,000
  • Experienced Mining Engineer Roles: $112, 000-$148,500
  • Geophysicis Rolest: $91,000-$111,000
  • Machinist Roles: $41,000-$58,800

Overall, the mining, energy, and resource sectors pay above-average salaries due to the work’s nature and commitment to unusual work patterns.

Salaries are also determined by several factors, including:

  • The segment of the industry you work within.
  • Your job title and seniority.
  • The amount of experience you have.
  • Location, some rural areas may pay less than roles in main cities.
  • High-risk roles may demand a higher salary.

Industry Growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 41.8k people were employed in the energy and mining industry in 2019 and this has been growing at a rate of 16.6%.

Mining machine operators represent the largest share of positions held in the sector at 14%, followed by heavy vehicle & mobile equipment service technicians & mechanics with 6.11% and construction equipment operators with 5.57%.

Across the US, there has been a huge increase in the pursuit and development of renewable energies across the sector.

Renewable energy growth is expected in 2021 as the new administration rejoins the Paris Climate Accord, investing $2 trillion in clean energy, and committing to decarbonizing the power sector by 2035 in order to achieve a larger goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

As these new technologies move forward within the economy, it’s anticipated that there will be increased job growth and creation with the need for specialized workers in this segment of the industry.

Qualifications and Entry Pathways

Entry pathways are varied and will depend heavily on the type of role you want to get into.

For some professional roles, a bachelor’s degree can set you up well with the foundation of theory and knowledge to help you build a successful career in the industry.

Degree pathways you could pursue include:

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Mining)
  • Bachelor of Science (Geology)
  • Bachelor of Science (Physics)
  • Bachelor of Renewable Energy Engineering
  • Bachelor of Environment and Sustainability
  • Bachelor of Mineral and Mining Economics

For engineering and many senior/management roles, a bachelor’s will be a must, usually alongside postgraduate qualifications such as a Master’s in a relevant field and hands-on work experience.

For some pathways, you may only need your high school diploma or GED to get started and begin on-the-job training. This will typically be within entry-level or lower-skilled roles.

Within these roles, health and safety certificates can be highly beneficial including:

Relevant qualifications you could pursue include:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Certificate: This certification is hosted by the national safety organization OSHA and assesses a candidate’s knowledge of nationally mandated safety protocols.
  • National Association of Safety Professionals Certifications: This resource provides more in-depth policies that keep labor professionals safe on the job. There is a variety of safety courses workers can take depending on their career goals.

Requirements will depend on the type of role you want and the company – so make sure you do some research.

Whatever your circumstances, grades, or preferred way forward – there’s a qualification pathway that will work for you

Best Places to Study

Where you choose to study will be dependent on a range of factors, but some universities are rated higher than others for specific subjects.

Some of the best-rated universities for mining and energy studies include:

  • Colorado School of Mines
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • The University of Arizona
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • University of Colorado Boulder
  • University of Utah
  • University of Illinois
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology

Where to Learn More

You can find out more about different pathways through professional bodies and organizations advocating for careers in the sector.

Some good places to start include:

And many more!

Each state will also have several professional organizations that can help you learn more about the industry, network, and develop your career.