Graduates feel squeeze with mining career opportunities

MINING engineers once able to command $150,000 a year fresh from university are now battling to even secure a job.

A taste for cost-cutting by Australia's resources industry facing a lacklustre market is delivering a rude shock to highly technical graduates once inundated with lucrative offers.

Survey data from the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy's 13,500 members showed unemployment among "minerals professionals" increased from 1.7% to 10.9% in the 12 months to July this year.

The statistics cover not just mining engineers but environmental scientists, geologists and those in head office or corporate roles.

AusIMM chief executive Michael Catchpole told APN that mining engineers could once walk from the university campus and earn more than $150,000 within two years - more than double the standard salary.

And while these better days may be far behind us, Mr Catchpole said he expected the market to improve within two years - little comfort to current students.

"Many final year students in geology, mining engineering had already secured their graduate placement before they completed graduation," Mr Catchpole said.

"Now that has changed - there are good job prospects but not for all graduates."

CQUniversity's head of engineering programs Dr Fae Martin said crumbling job prospects meant students could no longer pick and choose their first jobs.

Dr Martin said it he would have 60 students a year but receive 100 job offers at the Mackay campus during the height of the mining boom.

"Students were able to choose where they wanted to work based on pay, all those sorts of things," she said.

Now the campus would receive an estimated 30 offers a year.

"Most students are still finding work but they're having to go further afield," Dr Martin said.