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PhD in Petroleum Geology Programs

Students interested in petroleum geology can earn a PhD in a couple related areas and customize their coursework to meet their interests. Find out about degree options and common course and admission requirements for these programs.

How to Earn a PhD Degree in Petroleum Geology

While there are not typically Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs available specifically in petroleum geology, students can pursue closely related PhD programs in petroleum engineering or geosciences with a focus on petroleum geology. Usually, these degree programs require students to complete a dissertation, they might range between 72 and 90 credits, and they may have additional requirements, such as giving a presentation or seminar prior to graduation. Coursework for these degree programs is typically flexible to allow students to focus their studies in their particular area(s) of interest. However, below you'll find a handful of examples of common course topics for these degree programs.

Reservoir Engineering

Students may take one or more courses, such as an introductory and an advanced course, in reservoir engineering that discuss producing and recovery drive mechanisms. These courses may examine primary and secondary mechanisms, as well as concepts with flow through porous materials. Other topics for these courses may include creating recovery performance prediction models, derivations and solutions for flows, and effects of heterogeneity.

Well Test Analysis

Courses in well test analysis may include a lecture and laboratory section to help students explore test analysis and simulations for wells. These courses typically include an overview of fluid properties and petrophysics before diving into analytical well tests and how to interpret these tests. Students may learn about different tests designed for types of wells, such as injection wells, fractured wells, or horizontal wells. Other topics that students may discuss in these courses include flow regimes, material balance, wellbore phenomena, and steady-state flow.


Students usually take more than one course that covers various topics in drilling, and some of these courses may include a laboratory section. These degree programs may provide courses that explore drilling optimization, directional drilling, or advanced drilling. In general, these courses explore the ins and outs of well planning and the actual drilling process. Courses in drilling optimization look at ways to optimize the drilling process through the selection of operational parameters, while other courses in drilling may cover concepts like hole problems, limiting factors, pressure losses, muds, and fracture gradients.

Improved Recovery

Courses in improved recovery techniques provide students with an overview of the different recovery methods used in the field. Some of these courses may include secondary and tertiary processes and/or the different diagnostic techniques used by professionals. Students in these courses also further develop their ability to analyze laboratory results and apply these results to real issues in the field. Other topics these courses may discuss include the primary energy mechanism, new wellbore techniques, enhanced oil recovery, and waterflooding.


Courses in advanced stimulation examine the theories and concepts related to hydraulic fracturing. These courses involve continuum mechanics and may give students the opportunity to use STIMPLAN software to experiment with real industry examples. Students in these courses study the planning, executing, and evaluation methods used for these hydraulic treatments, as well as other stimulation methods, like acid fracturing.

Admittance Requirements for Doctoral Programs in Petroleum Geology

Applicants to PhD programs in petroleum geology and related areas need to have at least a bachelor's degree, which usually is in petroleum geology or another area of engineering, such as geological engineering, chemical engineering, or mechanical engineering. Depending on a student's educational background, some petroleum engineering programs may require students to complete remedial coursework specifically in petroleum engineering and/or other areas of engineering, such as geophysics or geology. Some programs may require students to meet a minimum GPA requirement, like a 3.2 or higher, and most of these programs require applicants to take the GRE. Depending on the program, some students may be required to submit a portfolio, with information like GRE scores, a CV, and research work, to one or more potential PhD advisors and secure an advisor prior to applying in order to include their advisor's name in a statement of purpose. Other application materials for these degree programs might include transcripts and/or letters of recommendation.

Students wishing to study petroleum geology can pursue PhD programs in petroleum engineering or geosciences. These programs usually require a dissertation and include coursework in areas like drilling, well test analysis, and reservoir engineering.