Geological Engineering Degree

If you are interested in pursuing geological engineering as a career, there are certain qualifications you have to have. Depending on what jobs you are applying for, you may also need to get licensed. If you want to learn more about this profession and what you need to do in order to pursue a career in this field, read on.

What is geological engineering?

Geological engineering is a branch of engineering which incorporates numerous different fields including geology, geography, civil engineering, mining, and forestry. Essentially, it is the application of earth sciences in order to solve a variety of human problems.

Geological engineers spend a large amount of their time investigation projects which have a direct impact on the earth such as roads, mines, building projects, pipelines, dams, quarries, and forestry operations. They carry out environmental assessments and also mobilize clean-ups where pollutions or spillage occurs. They research material resources which can be used for building, survey drinking water for its mineral content, identify areas at risk for earthquakes and landslides, etc. In short, the scope of this profession is quite vast.

How to become a geological engineer

For most entry level positions in the field of geological engineering, you will need to hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Furthermore, licensure is required in order to work in this field, but licensure requirements vary from state to state. Typically, most states require you to pass two exams in order to obtain your license.

If you wish to hold advanced positions in the field or teach at a university, you will need to pursue a master’s degree in the field.

In general, here are the steps you need to take in order to pursue this career path:

Steps to becoming a geologic engineer:

1. Enroll in a bachelor’s degree program in engineering with a concentration in geologic engineering  

2. Enroll in a graduate degree program in engineering with a concentration in geologic engineering

3. Get relevant training and experience in the field of geologic engineering

4. Get your Professional Engineer (PE) license if you intend to work in high level positions in this field

Bachelor’s degree in geological engineering

At the undergraduate degree level, you will need to enroll in an engineering program with a concentration in geological engineering. These programs include class work, laboratory work, as well as field experiences in order for students to establish a firm foundation in engineering.

Be sure to look for program which are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Accreditation is conferred based on the programs faculty, facilities, curriculum, as well as a number of other factors. This accreditation is very important when looking for a job.

Degree

Duration

Some of the courses offered

Bachelor’s degree in engineering with a concentration in geologic engineering  

4 years

  • Geology
  • Mathematics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Physics
  • Structural geology
  • Paleoecology
  • Mineral ecology
  • Geomatics, Topography and Graphic Expression
  • Geomorphology
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Hydraulics and Hydrology

Master’s degree in geological engineering

Master’s degrees in geologic engineering are pursued by those individuals who are looking to take on higher, more advanced positions in the field. These programs provide students with specialized, in-depth knowledge in the facets of geological engineering. Some programs may require students to complete a written thesis in order to graduate.

Degree

Duration

Some of the courses offered

Master’s degree in engineering/ geologic engineering

2 years

  •  Engineering Mechanics of Materials
  • Physical Geology
  • Rock Mechanics
  • Advanced Topics in Geological Engineering
  • Geological Engineering Analysis and Design
  • Geostatistics
  • Excavation and Material Handling

Licensing

You do not need a license to apply for entry level positions in the field. However, if you’re looking to take on more advanced roles, a Professional Engineering (PE) license is required. This license will enable you to take on roles of leadership and work independently. Once you are licensed, you will be known as a professional engineer (PE) and will be able to oversee the work of other engineers, provide services to the public, and sign off on projects.

While requirements for licensure vary by state, they generally require applicants to:

  • Hold a degree in engineering recognized by ABET
  • Have at least 4 years of work experience in the field
  • Pass the Professional Engineering (PE) exam and the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam

Career prospects and salary

According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mining and geological engineering can be a very lucrative line of work. As of May 2015, these professionals earned an annual median salary of $94,040, which works out to roughly $45.21 per hour. From 2014 to 2024, these professions are expected to see an average growth rate of about 6%, which is roughly the same as the growth rate for most professions (7%). This figure translates to about 500 new jobs being created during that period.

Data from BLS also shows that there are five top industries in which these individuals work. The statistics for those industries is as follows:

Industry

Annual Median Wages (May 2015)

Oil and gas extraction

$132,660

 

Support activities for mining

$117,880

 

Metal ore mining

$88,380

 

Coal mining

$87,360

 

Engineering services

$80,450

 

Geological engineers generally work full-time jobs and may be required to work in remote locations.

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