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Become A Petroleum Engineer

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Working As A Petroleum 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

  • $127,721

    Average Salary

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.

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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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Petroleum Engineer Demographics

Gender

Male

81.1%

Female

13.7%

Unknown

5.2%
Ethnicity

White

51.4%

Asian

14.7%

Hispanic or Latino

13.7%

Unknown

10.1%

Black or African American

10.1%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

35.5%

Arabic

19.4%

French

12.9%

Hindi

6.5%

Portuguese

3.2%

Norwegian

3.2%

Dakota

3.2%

Japanese

3.2%

Mandarin

3.2%

Russian

3.2%

Urdu

3.2%

Bengali

3.2%
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Petroleum Engineer Education

Schools

Texas A&M University

10.7%

Colorado School of Mines

8.5%

University of Oklahoma

8.5%

University of Texas at Austin

8.5%

Missouri University of Science and Technology

7.3%

Texas Tech University

6.2%

Louisiana State University and A&M College

5.6%

Montana Tech of the University of Montana

5.1%

West Virginia University

5.1%

Louisiana Tech University

4.5%

University of Wyoming

4.5%

University of Tulsa

4.0%

University of Houston

4.0%

University of Southern California

3.4%

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

3.4%

University of Kansas

2.8%

Pennsylvania State University

2.3%

University of Texas of the Permian Basin

2.3%

University of Texas at Tyler

1.7%

University of California - San Diego

1.7%
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Majors

Petroleum Engineering

56.8%

Chemical Engineering

9.7%

Business

6.1%

Mechanical Engineering

5.5%

Engineering

3.2%

Finance

2.9%

Geology

1.9%

Management

1.6%

Environmental Science

1.6%

Civil Engineering

1.6%

Electrical Engineering

1.6%

Geological Engineering

1.3%

Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

1.0%

Petroleum Technology

1.0%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

1.0%

Engineering And Industrial Management

1.0%

Mathematics

0.6%

Mining Engineering

0.6%

Environmental Engineering

0.6%

Systems Engineering

0.3%
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Degrees

Bachelors

47.6%

Masters

31.4%

Other

11.0%

Doctorate

6.1%

Certificate

1.7%

Associate

1.4%

Diploma

0.9%
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Real Petroleum Engineer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Senior Petroleum Engineer Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Denver, CO Mar 04, 2015 $244,800
Petroleum Engineer Netherland, Sewell & Associates, Inc. Dallas, TX Feb 10, 2015 $220,000
Senior Petroleum Engineering Advisor Chevron Corporation Houston, TX Jan 08, 2016 $217,909
Petroleum Engineer Netherland, Sewell & Associates, Inc. Dallas, TX Jul 10, 2015 $215,800
Petroleum Engineer Netherland, Sewell & Associates, Inc. Dallas, TX Jul 26, 2016 $215,800
Petroleum Engineer W.D. Von Gonten & Co. Houston, TX Feb 10, 2016 $200,803 -
$265,938
Petroleum Engineer Cudd Pressure Control, Inc. The Woodlands, TX Oct 01, 2015 $192,000
Senior Petroleum Engineer Lekoil Management Corporation Princeton, NJ Aug 18, 2016 $187,000 -
$200,000
Petroleum Engineer Tanami Energy LLC Houston, TX Apr 13, 2016 $180,000
Petroleum Engineer Tanami Energy LLC Houston, TX Feb 05, 2016 $179,000
Petroleum Engineer Tanami Energy LLC Houston, TX Dec 07, 2016 $179,000
Petroleum Engineer Tanami Energy LLC Houston, TX Apr 25, 2016 $179,000
Petroleum Engineer Chevron Corporation Houston, TX May 18, 2015 $126,800
Petroleum Engineer Chevron Corporation Houston, TX May 15, 2015 $126,300
Petroleum Engineer Chevron Corporation Houston, TX Sep 12, 2015 $125,600
Petroleum Engineer Chevron Corporation Bakersfield, CA Feb 27, 2015 $125,500
Petroleum Engineer Chevron Corporation Houston, TX Aug 12, 2015 $125,000
Petroleum Engineer Chevron Corporation Houston, TX Apr 08, 2016 $125,000
Petroleum Engineer Chevron Corporation Houston, TX Aug 17, 2016 $125,000
Petroleum Engineer III Aramco Services Company Cambridge, MA Aug 31, 2015 $110,400
Petroleum Engineer Mc Offshore Petroleum, LLC Sugar Land, TX Sep 12, 2015 $108,160
Petroleum Engineer Degolyer and MacNaughton Corporation Dallas, TX Sep 30, 2015 $105,518
Petroleum Engineer Pearlsoft Solutions, Inc. Houston, TX Oct 15, 2016 $104,000
Petroleum Engineer The Information Store, Inc. Houston, TX Jan 09, 2016 $103,953
Petroleum ENG Consultant III Baker Hughes Incorporated Houston, TX Aug 08, 2015 $102,900

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Top Skills for A Petroleum Engineer

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  1. Reservoir
  2. AFE
  3. Artificial Lift Systems
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Tracked injection trends of 25 water injectors to identify reservoir improvement opportunities.
  • Coordinated compliance with industry standards and applicable governmental controls relative to environmental protection, safety practices and operational regulations.
  • Design and implement artificial lift systems and optimize production.
  • Position is responsible for performance monitoring and improvement, coordination of surveillance and data acquisition, flow assurance and production optimization.
  • Reorganized stalled project on well log digitization and data management for BP.

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Top Petroleum Engineer Employers

Jobs From Top Petroleum Engineer Employers

Petroleum Engineer Videos

Occupational Video - Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum Engineers Job Description

CareerBuilder Top Jobs of 2014: Petroleum Engineer

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