Here is a record of an email discussion I have just completed with a fellow about to go to university. I repeat it here in the hopes that it may guide others.
I have read many of your pieces on engineering, it has opened my eyes greatly but also given me more to think about.
I have just completed my final year of school in South Africa, this year (2013) I will be studying at WITS. I got accepted for a BSc in Mining, Civil and Mechanical Engineering.
In the future I would like to work on mines, I have done a little research and many “Mining Engineering” jobs require a degree in an engineering field other than Mining.
If it isn’t too much trouble could you please recommend which degree I should accept in order to have the best opportunity to work on/with mines in the future.
Yours Faithfully, RS
My reply to him.
Thanks for the comments re the blog.
As you have no doubt seen from the blog, I studied at Wits—eleven years in all. First a bachelor’s degree in civil and then a masters in geotechnical engineering, and then a law degree (LLB). I lectured in the civil department for five years.
So you are on the right track at great university. Whatever course you choose you will do well—as I have and as all those who studied with me did
I cannot help you choose between civil, mining, and mechanical. That is a very personal choice dependent on your own interests and skills.
See this link for a comparative evaluation of what these types of engineers do in mining. http://technology.infomine.com/reviews/MiningJobs/welcome.asp?view=full
Given the choice again, I would still do civil. It is a challenging profession and applicable to many aspects of society besides mining.
Yet I must admit that those who did mining engineering have done great work and had a good career.
A good old friend did mechanical engineering and is now a happy, retired man.
My point is this: you can be successful and happy regardless of which engineering degree you do – especially if it is at Wits.
Look deep into yourself: if you prefer working with machines, do mechanical. If you like managing people and situations, do mining. If you prefer designing and building things, do civil.
Mining is an easy degree to get. Civil a bit more difficult. Mechanical is very difficult. So look at your intellect and brains. Chose depending on your intellectual skills. The point is that mining is easy but demanding. You have to be pushy and demanding to be a successful mining engineer. As a mechanical engineer you have to be more intellectual and analytical, As a civil engineer, you have to be analytical yet practical to get the big civil works into practice.
So let me know how you decide.