Petroleum engineers essential career information:
- 2011 median pay: $122,280
- 2011, number of jobs: 30,880
- Employment growth forecast, 2010-2020: 17 percent
- Entry-level education requirements: Bachelor’s degree
Petroleum engineers; what they do:
Like it or not, we live in a country dependent on gas; therefore, we also live in a country dependent on petroleum engineers. Petroleum engineers are responsible for developing oil and gas extraction methods from the earth via existing and new wells.
Petroleum engineers play a major part in the oil extraction process from start to finish. They design the equipment used for extraction, test the equipment and assure it is properly maintained, and develop or improve upon methods to extract the maximum amount of oil using ideas such as injecting water, chemicals, gases or steam into an oil reserve. A petroleum engineer career may include designing and conducting tests, surveys, and evaluations for the wells.
A petroleum engineering career includes working with computers, geologists, and other specialists to study geological rock formations surrounding oil reserves on land or under water, in order to develop the most effective, safe, and cost efficient method of extraction. Petroleum engineers are also always working toward new, more efficient, extraction methods.
Petroleum engineers job titles:
- Reservoir Engineer
- Petroleum Production Engineer
- Production Engineer
- Drilling Engineer
- Operations Engineer
- Drilling Engineer
- Completion Engineer
Petroleum Engineers Education, Certification and License Requirements
Petroleum engineers need a bachelors degree in engineering, preferably a bachelor of petroleum engineering degree, from an ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accredited program upon entering the workforce.
Many colleges offer a four-year bachelor’s program combining class work, laboratory work, and fieldwork. Cooperative programs, often available through universities, allow students the opportunity to gain vital work experience prior to graduation.
Some colleges offer a five-year program where students can concurrently earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. There are also universities offering five and six-year cooperative plans providing students engineering work experience through classroom study and practical work cooperative plans.
Petroleum engineers programs cover subjects such as:
- Engineering principles
Every state requires a professional engineer (PE) license for petroleum engineers offering services to the public. Individuals obtain the license through taking the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam upon college graduation from an ABET accredited university then, after obtaining some experience, engineers must take the Professional Engineer (PE) exam.
Many states also require continued education to keep the PE license. Many states will recognize a license obtained from a different state, so long as the requirements for the obtained license meets or exceeds the requirements for the current state’s license.
Petroleum Engineers may obtain certification from The Society of Petroleum Engineers. Qualifications for certification include a membership in the society and passing an exam, among other more specific qualifications.
Career Advancement Opportunities
After working under a more experienced engineer for some time or receiving training though company seminars and classes, a petroleum engineer may advance by gradually earning more independence to develop designs, problem solve, and make decisions.
Petroleum engineers can also advance by becoming a supervisor or manager of a group of technicians or engineers, or by conducting sales work.
Petroleum Engineers Job Outlook
Forecast: 17 percent employment growth from 2010 to 2020 for petroleum engineers, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
The demand for petroleum engineers is primarily affected by oil prices and demand. As prices increase, companies opt for more complex drilling procedures, increasing the number of petroleum engineers needed per drilling operation.
Due to the high salary of petroleum engineers, some companies prefer to hire them on a contract basis rather than pay an annual salary. An increasing number of experienced petroleum engineers will likely create their own businesses and contract themselves out.
Additionally, as the baby boomers retire, jobs in the petroleum engineering field will open.
Petroleum Engineers Salary
- 2011 median annual wage: $122,280
- 2011, workers at the 75th percentile annual wage: $172,040
- 2011, workers at the 25% percentile annual wage: $92,170
Petroleum Engineers Major Employers
- Oil and gas extraction
- Support activities for mining
- Petroleum and coal products for manufacturing