Petroleum Engineering and Technology

Petroleum engineers work in the oil drilling and production industries, which have a high demand for engineers. Read on to learn more about this career field and the education required to work in petroleum engineering.

Is Petroleum Engineering and Technology for Me?

Career Description

Petroleum engineers evaluate potential oil and gas drilling sites and determine the best methods for extracting those resources. These engineers also develop and modify machinery used for drilling. Skills in math and chemistry are useful if you want to become a petroleum engineer. Petroleum engineers should also have good communication skills, because they often work with scientists and other specialists to analyze extraction sites and possible removal methods.

Employment Information

Petroleum engineers are expected to experience good job prospects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for petroleum engineers were projected to increase by 26% between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than the national average of all jobs ( Petroleum engineering workers made a median yearly salary of $132,320 in 2013. This category of engineers had some of the highest earning potential of all engineers.

How Can I Become a Petroleum Engineer?


You will generally need at least a bachelor's degree in engineering to work as a petroleum engineer. A master's degree program in engineering may be required by some employers and can also lead to better job opportunities for you. If you plan to work in a petroleum engineering research or teaching job, you will need a graduate degree. Since petroleum engineers were expected to be in high demand, obtaining a degree that specializes in petroleum engineering can give you an advantage over engineers who have an engineering degree in a different field but are otherwise qualified for the same positions. High school courses in math, physics and chemistry can be helpful for admission into a petroleum engineering program.

A bachelor's degree program offers petroleum engineering courses such as reservoir engineering, petrophysics, oil well drilling and petroleum regulations. Petroleum engineering programs also include high-level math courses in addition to the engineering courses. Some programs offer internship opportunities so you can get some hands-on experience with petroleum engineering. A master's degree in petroleum engineering usually gives you the opportunity to choose an area of specialization such as renewable energy, reservoir modeling or geothermal engineering, just to list a few of the possible options.

Licensing and Certification

While you are searching for petroleum engineering degree programs, keep an eye out for schools that are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Graduation from an ABET-accredited college may be required to become a licensed engineer. Professional designations, such as the Petroleum Engineering Certification, are not usually required but can help advance your career. Certification requirements vary, but you will usually need at least a bachelor's degree in engineering and related work experience to become certified.

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