Career spotlight: Petroleum engineer

  • Career spotlight: Petroleum engineer

    If you are strong in the areas of math and science and are passionate about developing innovative ideas on existing and cutting-edge practices, you might be interested in pursuing a career as a petroleum engineer. We’ll break down some of the basics of this role, including job duties, average wages and steps on how to become a petroleum engineer.

    Typical duties and responsibilities

    Petroleum engineers play a significant role in a number of industries, including the automotive, transportation and energy sectors. These professionals work hard to recover oil and gas from underground deposits by means of drilling wells and oil rigs. Petroleum engineers work alongside other professionals in this process, including geoscientists – who help engineers understand the formation of rocks that make up the deposits they’ve created – and oil and gas field workers, who help petroleum engineers in drilling and recovering these materials.

    On a day-to-day basis, these professionals have the following duties:

    • Generate plans for drilling, then follow through with these plans to retrieve oil and gas from fields.
    • Utilize high-power equipment to drill gas and oil from underground reserves.
    • Ensure all equipment and materials are being used as intended, following proper measures for safety and maintenance.
    • Report on the processes and results of oil and gas projects using quantitative and qualitative units of evaluation.

    Salary projections

    If this career intrigues you, you might be curious to know exactly how much you can expect to make as a petroleum engineer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for petroleum engineers in May 2018 was $137,170, with the top 10% of earners making over $208,000. The BLS also breaks down the median wages for petroleum engineers in the following specializations:

    • Management of companies and enterprises: $172,570
    • Oil and gas extraction: $141,170
    • Petroleum and coal products manufacturing: $127,280
    • Engineering services: $126,910
    • Support activities for mining: $113,350

    How to become a petroleum engineer

    If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a petroleum engineer, you might be wondering exactly what it takes. Generally, when employers are looking to hire engineers for their companies, they look at two major qualities: experience and education level.

    Typically, petroleum engineers are required to have a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Many professionals earn their undergraduate degree in the specific field of petroleum engineering, but a BA in mechanical, chemical or civil engineering will suffice in the eyes of most employers. While a bachelor’s degree is paramount in securing an entry-level job, employers value work experience when hiring professionals in mid-level positions in petroleum engineering.

    Although they are not required to earn an advanced degree, many petroleum engineers decide to pursue a master’s degree in Engineering to make themselves more desirable to employers. A master’s degree in petroleum engineering can help professionals gain further knowledge in the craft, particularly in new and evolving practices in the field.

    Additionally, engineers that have earned a graduate degree in the field can go on to become higher ed professors in the subject at a full-time basis or part-time, while also working in the field as a petroleum engineer.

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