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Petroleum Engineering Career

Career Description

Petroleum Engineers devise methods to improve oil and gas well production and determine the need for new or modified tool designs. Oversee drilling and offer technical advice to achieve economical and satisfactory progress.

Common Work Tasks

  • Work with geologists and other specialists to understand the geologic formation and properties of the rock containing the reservoir, determine the drilling methods to be used, and monitor drilling and production operations
  • Design equipment and processes to achieve the maximum profitable recovery of oil and gas
  • Develop and use various enhanced recovery methods including injecting water, chemicals, gases, or steam into an oil reservoir to force out more of the oil and doing computer-controlled drilling or fracturing to connect a larger area of a reservoir to a single well
  • Research and develop technology and methods to increase recovery and lower the cost of drilling and production operations
  • Assess costs and estimate the production capabilities and economic value of oil and gas wells, to evaluate the economic viability of potential drilling sites
  • Monitor production rates, and plan rework processes to improve production
  • Analyze data to recommend placement of wells and supplementary processes to enhance production
  • Specify and supervise well modification and stimulation programs to maximize oil and gas recovery
  • Direct and monitor the completion and evaluation of wells, well testing, or well surveys

Other Job Titles

Petroleum Engineers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Materials Engineers
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Environmental Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
A bachelor’s degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level engineering jobs. College graduates with a degree in a natural science or mathematics occasionally may qualify for some engineering jobs, especially in specialties in high demand.

Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in both mathematics and the physical and life sciences. Many programs also include courses in general engineering. A design course, sometimes accompanied by a computer or laboratory class or both, is part of the curriculum of most programs. General courses not directly related to engineering, such as those in the social sciences or humanities, are also often required.

Graduate training is essential for engineering faculty positions and many research and development programs, but is not required for the majority of entry-level engineering jobs. Many experienced engineers obtain graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology and broaden their education. Many high-level executives in government and industry began their careers as engineers.

Certification and Licensure
All 50 States and the District of Columbia require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public. Engineers who are licensed are called professional engineers (PE). This licensure generally requires a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, 4 years of relevant work experience, and successful completion of a State examination. Recent graduates can start the licensing process by taking the examination in two stages. The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination can be taken upon graduation. Engineers who pass this examination commonly are called engineers in training (EIT) or engineer interns (EI). After acquiring suitable work experience, EITs can take the second examination, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Several States have imposed mandatory continuing education requirements for re-licensure. Most States recognize licensure from other States, provided that the manner in which the initial license was obtained meets or exceeds their own licensure requirements. Many petroleum, petroleum, petroleum, and petroleum engineers are licensed PEs. Independent of licensure, various certification programs are offered by professional organizations to demonstrate competency in specific fields of engineering.

Experience
  Engineers should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and detail oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team and to communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are becoming increasingly important as engineers frequently interact with specialists in a wide range of fields outside engineering.

Salary

The median annual salary for a petroleum engineer is $103,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $145,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $59,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of petroleum engineers are:

  • Oil and Gas Extraction - $120,950
  • Support Activities for Mining - $98,510
  • Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing - $113,200
  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services - $134,210
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises - $109,360

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  5%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 900
  • Employment 2006 : 17,000
  • Employment 2016:  18,000
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