The median salary for petroleum engineers is higher than every other engineering discipline. As of May 2008, 2010 the median salary for a petroleum engineer was $108,020. Other than nuclear engineers, they earned higher salaries in every salary category, from the lowest 10% to the highest 10% of earning level. According to a survey of the National Associations of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for petroleum engineering graduates with a bachelor’s degree was $83,121. This was more than $18,000 higher than the second highest average starting engineer’s salary, represented by Chemical engineers.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Petroleum engineers design processes for removing gas and oil reservoirs from deep below the earth. They coordinate with other earth scientists such as geologists to evaluate deep earth properties and formations which surround the deposits of oil and gas. From these evaluations, they design the best methods and equipment for extracting maximum quantities of oil and gas. Many petroleum engineers travel to various parts of the world to discover and recover these valuable sources of energy beneath the earth’s surface. They are constantly researching the latest in technology and finding the most efficient processes for recovery of these resources. Petroleum engineers work on a wide scope of projects and activities. Many of these engineers focus on production challenges and testing, identifying, and executing methods to improve gas and oil production. Another area of focus may also include economics through assisting teams to determine the optimum number of wells necessary for a given operation. A petroleum engineer may concentrate on safety issues, or maintenance support, identifying and planning upgrades of equipment or systems. Some petroleum engineers also choose to teach, or serve as consultants to financial investors, institutions, or other services companies.
The career prospects and overall outlook within this industry is good. These engineers are in high demand all around the world. Because of ever increasing demand and the limited number of petroleum engineering graduates, opportunities are expected keep rising over the next decade. Even though much of the potential petroleum production locations in the world have been discovered, petroleum engineers will be needed to come up with new solutions for extracting additional resources from already explored reservoirs.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Almost all entry-level engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree in engineering. A background in mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus) and science (biology, chemistry, and physics) is required. Other course requirements for entering undergraduate engineering programs include English, social studies, humanities, and computer and information technology.
Many colleges provide internship programs for students studying the different engineering disciplines including Petroleum Engineering. Internships and Coops give students a great opportunity to gain extensive job experience while still enrolled in classes. First-hand experience in the industry and the chance to contribute to working on actual engineering projects are the reasons for participating in engineering internship programs.
Bachelor’s degree programs in engineering are usually designated as 4 years degrees. For many students it takes between 4 to 5 years to complete their curriculum. A standard 4-year college curriculum for petroleum engineering students consists of the first 2 years studying mathematics, basic sciences, introduction to engineering, humanities, and social sciences. The option for Petroleum engineering students to take courses such as Reservoir Petrophysics, Petroleum Engineering Systems, and Physical Geology exists during these introductory years. In the final 2 years, a the course list may include Drilling and Production Systems, Geostatistics, Well Performance, Reservoir Fluids, Petroleum Project Evaluation, Engineering Ethics, and Well Completion and Stimulation.
Those interested in petroleum engineering should consider engineering programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET). ABET accreditation is based on an assessment of an engineering program’s student achievement, faculty, program improvement, curricular content, facilities, and commitment. Here is a list of universities that provide accredited degree programs
in field of petroleum engineering.
- University of Alaska Fairbanks
- Colorado School of Mines
- The University of Kansas
- University of Louisiana at Lafayette
- Louisiana State University and A&M College
- Marietta College
- Missouri University of Science and
- Montana Tech of the University of Montana
- New Mexico Institute of Mining and
- The University of Oklahoma
- Pennsylvania State University
- Texas A & M University
- University of Texas at Austin
- Texas Tech University
- The University of Tulsa
- West Virginia University
Membership into the Society of Petroleum Engineers-International (SPE) is the entry way for petroleum engineers to gain certification. Members of this professional society can qualify to become certified upon meeting certain criteria, which can include an examination. This is a voluntary career move, but the SPEC designation is meant to reflect a person’s level of education and commitment as a petroleum engineer.
Professional associations and organization provide a petroleum engineer the resources to chart a successful long term career. Education, networking and job referral are a few of the benefits obtained from joining one or more of these organizations. A list of professional organizations that petroleum engineers use is as follows:
- American Association of Petroleum Geologists (www.aapg.org)
- American Gas Association (www.aga.org)
- American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers
- American Petroleum Institute (www.api.org)
- Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (www.opec.org)
- Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (www.smenet.org)
- Society of Petroleum Engineers (www.spe.org)