Petroleum engineers specialize in extracting petroleum products, including oil and gas, from the earth. Their work focuses on design and development of equipment, methods, and techniques. They often work closely with geologists, industrial engineers, and other scientists to analyze the earth's formation and determine appropriate drilling methods and equipment implementation. Specializations within this field include completions engineers, drilling engineers, production engineers, and reservoir engineers. Typical tasks include:
Designing drilling equipment that maximizes profit
Developing equipment that extracts more raw materials
Ensuring safe and proper equipment installation, operation, and maintenance
Petroleum Engineering Job Education Requirements
Petroleum engineers need a bachelor's degree in engineering. While a degree in mechanical or chemical engineering may be sufficient, a degree in petroleum engineering is best. Employers also prefer that candidates complete cooperative engineering programs, which provide classroom study and hands-on experience. Some employers may require a master's degree as well. Petroleum engineers who offer services to the public are required to obtain a license, which requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited engineering program, four years of work experience, and passing scores on both the Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineering exams.
Petroleum Engineering Job Market
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 26 percent for petroleum engineers, which is much faster than average growth through 2022. The large number of engineers anticipated to retire over the next 10 years will lead to many job openings. The price of oil also contributes to growth in this field, as costs directly influence the complexity of oil extraction methods. Depleted resources and skyrocketing prices of raw materials drive the need for experienced petroleum engineers to develop methods for drilling in challenging environments and extracting more resources from existing wells.
Petroleum Engineering Job Salary Information
The average annual salary for petroleum engineers is about $130,000, according to the BLS, making this one of the highest paying engineering jobs. The highest 10 percent in this field earn over $187,000 per year. The most lucrative industries are oil and gas extraction, enterprise management, architectural services, and petroleum products manufacturing. Petroleum engineers tend to work longer hours, with typical weeks lasting 50 to 60 hours of work. Much of this extra time can be attributed to travel to and from work sites for regular or emergency visits. When working onsite, petroleum engineers often rotate, with 84 hours on duty followed by 84 hours off duty.