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Average Salary
$109,026
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
3%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
6,850
Job Openings

Petroleum Engineer Careers

Petroleum engineers help find oil and gas for the country's energy needs. They design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the Earth's surface. They also find new ways, as opposed to old ones, in the extraction process. Most of the petroleum engineers work for oil companies, while others work at universities or research facilities.

Their key responsibilities include prospecting sites and making recommendations based on cost, effort, and feasibility of retrieving the product from where it was discovered. Another task is to design the drilling, pumping, prospecting, and storage equipment that gets the job done.

These people often work in research and development facilities or colleges, universities, and trade schools. Educational requirements include a bachelor's degree in engineering, preferably petroleum engineering. However, a degree in mechanical or chemical engineering may suffice as well.

The average annual salary for holding this position is $106,452 a year. The career is likely to grow 3% in the years to come.

What Does a Petroleum 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.

How To Become a Petroleum 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 Salary
$109,026
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
3%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
6,850
Job Openings

Petroleum Engineer Career Paths

Top Careers Before Petroleum Engineer

Top Careers After Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum Engineer Jobs You Might Like

What is the right job for my career path?

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Average Salary for a Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum Engineers in America make an average salary of $109,026 per year or $52 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $163,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $72,000 per year.
Average Salary
$109,026
Find Your Salary Estimate
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Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
Las Vegas, NV
Salary Range94k - 168k$126k$126,032
Anchorage, AK
Salary Range95k - 152k$121k$120,900
Richmond, CA
Salary Range87k - 151k$115k$115,228
Midland, TX
Salary Range81k - 142k$108k$108,120
Cambridge, MA
Salary Range77k - 135k$103k$102,526
Wallingford, CT
Salary Range76k - 134k$102k$101,687
$52k
$168k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Senior Petroleum Engineer
Senior Petroleum Engineer
Bok Financial
Bok Financial
03/26/2021
03/26/2021
$103,91703/26/2021
$103,917
Petroleum Engineer
Petroleum Engineer
Ryder Scott Company, LP
Ryder Scott Company, LP
03/17/2021
03/17/2021
$114,50003/17/2021
$114,500
Petroleum Engineer
Petroleum Engineer
Battelle Memorial Institute
Battelle Memorial Institute
11/19/2020
11/19/2020
$80,00011/19/2020
$80,000
Petroleum Engineer
Petroleum Engineer
XXX
XXX
08/31/2020
08/31/2020
$106,28808/31/2020
$106,288
Petroleum Engineer
Petroleum Engineer
Turbo Drill Industries Inc.
Turbo Drill Industries Inc.
08/31/2020
08/31/2020
$120,00008/31/2020
$120,000
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Petroleum Engineer Demographics

Gender

male

79.4 %

female

12.7 %

unknown

7.9 %

Ethnicity

White

68.9 %

Asian

14.6 %

Hispanic or Latino

9.9 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

38.3 %

Arabic

12.8 %

French

10.6 %
See More Demographics

Petroleum Engineer Education

Degrees

Bachelors

75.3 %

Masters

14.5 %

Certificate

4.6 %

Top Colleges for Petroleum Engineers

1. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

2. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

3. University of Texas at Austin

Austin, TX • Private

In-State Tuition
$10,610
Enrollment
40,329

4. Colorado School of Mines

Golden, CO • Private

In-State Tuition
$18,964
Enrollment
4,906

5. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Socorro, NM • Private

In-State Tuition
$7,770
Enrollment
1,333

6. Texas A&M University

College Station, TX • Private

In-State Tuition
$11,870
Enrollment
53,194

7. University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$19,080
Enrollment
19,127

8. University of Houston

Houston, TX • Private

In-State Tuition
$8,913
Enrollment
37,291

9. Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$18,454
Enrollment
40,108

10. University of Utah

Salt Lake City, UT • Private

In-State Tuition
$9,222
Enrollment
23,396
See More Education Info

Online Courses For Petroleum Engineer That You May Like

Introduction to Petroleum Engineering
coursera

In this course, you will learn such concepts as oil and gas production, reservoir energy and forces, petroleum deposit drainage, development systems, well operation techniques and much more. Each participant in the course will develop an understanding of field life cycle and interdisciplinary approach to petroleum field development and operation. Throughout the course, we will address the following topical areas: History of oil and gas application, international petroleum reserves. Fundamentals...

Product Development & Systems Engineering
udemy
4.5
(572)

The complete Product Development & Systems Engineering course! Earn 25 contact hours AND prepare to take the INCOSE Exam...

Petroleum Refining - Complete Guide to Products & Processes
udemy
4.5
(412)

Learn the most relevant Petroleum Refining Operations such as Crackers, Reformers, Alkylation for Oil & Gas...

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Top Skills For a Petroleum Engineer

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 15.4% of petroleum engineers listed reservoir characterization on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and creativity are important as well.

Best States For a Petroleum Engineer

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a petroleum engineer. The best states for people in this position are Oregon, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Petroleum engineers make the most in Oregon with an average salary of $130,423. Whereas in Rhode Island and New Hampshire, they would average $128,743 and $127,079, respectively. While petroleum engineers would only make an average of $125,441 in Nevada, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Oregon

Total Petroleum Engineer Jobs:
223
Highest 10% Earn:
$205,000
Location Quotient:
1.56
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Delaware

Total Petroleum Engineer Jobs:
76
Highest 10% Earn:
$197,000
Location Quotient:
1.75
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Alaska

Total Petroleum Engineer Jobs:
34
Highest 10% Earn:
$186,000
Location Quotient:
1.18
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Petroleum Engineer Employers

1. Chevron
5.0
Avg. Salary: 
$129,927
Petroleum Engineers Hired: 
225+
2. Occidental Petroleum
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$128,726
Petroleum Engineers Hired: 
61+
3. ConocoPhillips
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$128,913
Petroleum Engineers Hired: 
54+
4. Shell Energy North America
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$151,947
Petroleum Engineers Hired: 
49+
5. Schlumberger
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$100,391
Petroleum Engineers Hired: 
40+
6. Baker Hughes, a GE company
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$109,651
Petroleum Engineers Hired: 
38+

Petroleum Engineer Videos

Updated October 2, 2020