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Working As an Oil Well Engineer

  • Getting Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Make Decisions

  • $85,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Oil Well Engineer Do

Petroleum engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the Earth’s surface. Petroleum engineers also find new ways to extract oil and gas from older wells.

Duties

Petroleum engineers typically do the following:

  • Design equipment to extract oil and gas in the most profitable way
  • Develop ways to inject water, chemicals, gases, or steam into an oil reserve to force out more oil
  • Develop plans to drill in oil and gas fields, and then to recover the oil and gas
  • Evaluate the production of wells through testing and surveys
  • Use computer-controlled drilling or fracturing to connect a larger area of an oil and gas deposit to a single well
  • Make sure that oil field equipment is installed, operated, and maintained properly

Oil and gas deposits, or reservoirs, are located deep in rock formations underground. These reservoirs can only be accessed by drilling wells, either on land or at sea from offshore oil rigs.

Once oil and gas are discovered, petroleum engineers work with geoscientists and other specialists to understand the geologic formation of the rock containing the reservoir. They then determine the drilling methods, design the drilling equipment, implement the drilling plan, and monitor operations.

The best techniques currently being used recover only a portion of the oil and gas in a reservoir, so petroleum engineers also research and develop new ways to recover more of the oil and gas. This helps to lower the cost of drilling and production.

The following are examples of types of petroleum engineers:

Completions engineers decide the best way to finish building wells so that oil or gas will flow up from underground. They oversee work to complete the building of wells, which might involve the use of tubing, hydraulic fracturing, or pressure-control techniques.

Drilling engineers determine the best way to drill oil or gas wells, taking into account a number of factors, including cost. They also ensure that the drilling process is safe, efficient, and minimally disruptive to the environment.

Production engineers take over wells after drilling is completed. They typically monitor wells’ oil and gas production. If wells are not producing as much as expected, production engineers figure out ways to increase the amount being extracted.

Reservoir engineers estimate how much oil or gas can be recovered from underground deposits, known as reservoirs. They study reservoirs’ characteristics and determine which methods will get the most oil or gas out of them. They also monitor operations to ensure that the optimal levels of these resources are being recovered.

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How To Become An Oil Well Engineer

Petroleum engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, preferably in petroleum engineering. However, a bachelor’s degree in mechanical or chemical engineering may also meet employer requirements. Employers also value work experience, so college cooperative-education programs, in which students earn academic credit and job experience, are valuable as well.

Education

Students interested in studying petroleum engineering will benefit from taking high school courses in math, such as algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; and in science, such as biology, chemistry, and physics.

Entry-level petroleum engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree programs include classes, laboratory work, and field studies in areas such as engineering principles, geology, and thermodynamics. Most colleges and universities offer cooperative programs in which students gain practical experience while completing their education.

Some colleges and universities offer 5-year programs in chemical or mechanical engineering that lead to both a bachelor’s degree and a master's degree. Some employers may prefer applicants who have earned a graduate degree. A graduate degree also allows an engineer to work as an instructor at some universities or in research and development.

ABET accredits programs in petroleum engineering.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Petroleum engineers must be able to assess complex plans for drilling and anticipate possible flaws or complications before the company commits money and people to a project.

Creativity. Petroleum engineers must come up with new ways to extract oil and gas because each new drill site presents challenges. They must know how to ask the necessary questions to find possible deposits of oil and gas.

Interpersonal skills. Petroleum engineers must work with others on projects that require highly expensive machinery, equipment, and infrastructure. Communicating and working well with others is crucial to protecting and preserving firms’ huge capital investments.

Math skills. Petroleum engineers use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Problem-solving skills. Identifying problems in drilling plans is critical for petroleum engineers because drilling operations can be costly. They must be careful not to overlook any potential issues and quickly address problems that do occur.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a petroleum engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Several states require engineers to take continuing education courses in order to keep their licenses. Most states recognize licensure from other states if the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements.

The Society of Petroleum Engineers offers certification. To be certified, petroleum engineers must be members of the Society, pass an exam, and meet other qualifications.

Advancement

Entry-level engineers usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. In large companies, new engineers also may receive formal training. As engineers gain knowledge and experience, they move to more difficult projects where they have greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions.

Eventually, petroleum engineers may advance to supervise a team of engineers and technicians. Some become engineering managers or move into other managerial positions. For more information, see the profile on architectural and engineering managers.

Petroleum engineers also may go into sales and use their engineering background to inform the discussion of a product's technical aspects with potential buyers and help in product planning, installation, and use. For more information, see the profile on sales engineers.

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Average Yearly Salary
$85,000
Show Salaries
$61,000
Min 10%
$85,000
Median 50%
$85,000
Median 50%
$85,000
Median 50%
$85,000
Median 50%
$85,000
Median 50%
$85,000
Median 50%
$85,000
Median 50%
$119,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
BP America
Highest Paying City
Houston, TX
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
2.7 years
How much does an Oil Well Engineer make at top companies?
The national average salary for an Oil Well Engineer in the United States is $85,807 per year or $41 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $61,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $119,000.

Real Oil Well Engineer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Well Intervention Engineer BP America Inc. Houston, TX Mar 01, 2015 $208,100
Well Engineer Petrobras Americas Inc. Houston, TX Jan 01, 2012 $200,000
Well Engineer Petrobras America Inc. Houston, TX Sep 12, 2012 $200,000
Well Intervention Engineer BP America Inc. Houston, TX Aug 23, 2014 $189,238 -
$199,238
Well Intervention Engineer BP America Inc. Houston, TX Sep 15, 2015 $185,400
Wells Intervention Engineer BP America Inc. Houston, TX Mar 01, 2012 $175,000
Well Intervention Engineer BP America Inc. Houston, TX Apr 01, 2012 $150,000
Wells Engineer Shell International Exploration and Production Inc. Houston, TX Sep 06, 2015 $115,000
Well Engineer Shell Exploration and Production Company Houston, TX May 01, 2010 $114,132
Well Intervention Engineer BP America Inc. Houston, TX Dec 01, 2011 $112,400
Well Placement Engineer Schlumberger Technology Corporation Midland, TX Oct 01, 2012 $103,012
Well Placement Engineer Schlumberger Technology Corporation Midland, TX Aug 28, 2014 $96,950
Well Engineer II Weatherford International, Inc. Houston, TX Oct 01, 2012 $95,000 -
$105,000
Well Placement Engineer Schlumberger Technology Corporation Greenwood Village, CO Sep 21, 2010 $94,500
Well Placement Engineer Schlumberger Technology Corporation Denver, CO Jun 01, 2013 $87,520
Well Placement Engineer Schlumberger Technology Corporation Midland, TX Oct 01, 2012 $87,520
Well Placement Engineer Schlumberger Technology Corporation Midland, TX Nov 02, 2012 $87,520
Well Placement Engineer Schlumberger Technology Corporation Midland, TX May 01, 2010 $79,550
Well Placement Engineer Schlumberger Technology Corporation Midland, TX Nov 02, 2010 $79,550

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Top Skills for An Oil Well Engineer

  1. AFE
  2. Data Acquisition
  3. Engineering Support
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Performed Region-Wide Perforating Safety Assessment & Implemented Radio Safe Detonator Technology across all Well Intervention Operating Areas based on findings.
  • Perform stimulation job planning, which includes rigging up equipment, pre-job ultrasonic calibration/set-up, target zone correlation and data acquisition.
  • Served as office-based engineering support for well integrity.
  • Supervised the use of explosives to perforate holes for oil production.
  • Coordinated full range of services, directing personnel in field applications and HSE issues.

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Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Oil Well Engineers

  1. Alaska
  2. Texas
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Arkansas
  5. Nevada
  6. Indiana
  7. Washington
  8. New Mexico
  9. Michigan
  10. New Hampshire
  • (4 jobs)
  • (120 jobs)
  • (7 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)
  • (6 jobs)
  • (0 jobs)
  • (12 jobs)
  • (0 jobs)
  • (6 jobs)
  • (2 jobs)

Oil Well Engineer Demographics

Gender

Male

66.0%

Unknown

22.6%

Female

11.3%
Ethnicity

White

44.6%

Hispanic or Latino

25.1%

Asian

11.3%

Black or African American

10.9%

Unknown

8.0%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

75.0%

Japanese

25.0%

Oil Well Engineer Education

Schools

University of Houston

13.2%

Texas Tech University

13.2%

University of Texas at Austin

7.9%

Oklahoma State University

7.9%

Colorado School of Mines

5.3%

University of Louisiana at Lafayette

5.3%

Missouri University of Science and Technology

5.3%

Texas A&M University

5.3%

The Academy

5.3%

Fort Hays State University

5.3%

Louisiana State University and A&M College

2.6%

University of Colorado at Boulder

2.6%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2.6%

University of South Dakota

2.6%

Ohio State University

2.6%

University of Northern Colorado

2.6%

University of Houston - Clear Lake

2.6%

Vanderbilt University

2.6%

Webb Institute

2.6%

University of Illinois at Chicago

2.6%
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Majors

Petroleum Engineering

28.1%

Mechanical Engineering

23.4%

Business

9.4%

Electrical Engineering

7.8%

Geology

4.7%

Chemical Engineering

4.7%

Management

1.6%

Animal Science

1.6%

Computer Information Systems

1.6%

Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

1.6%

Petroleum Technology

1.6%

Industrial Technology

1.6%

Heating And Air Conditioning

1.6%

Economics

1.6%

English

1.6%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

1.6%

Chemistry

1.6%

Marine Engineering

1.6%

Engineering And Industrial Management

1.6%

Geological Engineering

1.6%
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Degrees

Bachelors

60.6%

Masters

24.2%

Other

12.1%

Doctorate

1.5%

Associate

1.5%
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