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How to Become a Petroleum Engineer

If you are serious about becoming a petroleum engineer then it’s time to consider what the career actually entails. This is a career that requires a sharp mind as well as a knack for mechanics. There is a specific path you must follow if you wish to find a steady job as an engineer, and an expert in the field that companies want to hire.

The First Step is in Petroleum Engineering Colleges

The priority at this stage in your career is becoming educated and qualifying for an entry-level position. While it might be possible to aim higher than entry-level, unless you come from a related field with work experience, you are expected to start a the bottom and work your way up through real world experience. High school classes in algebra, calculus and science are certainly recommended if possible, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal.

Students can also prepare for the career field by earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field. This might include subjects like engineering principles, geology, or thermodynamics. There is also a degree course in engineering and even petroleum engineering, serving as further proof that this is a career you can count on for the long future.

The best schools will give you textbook smarts as well as in-person benefits, such as field trips, lab visits, or correspondence with teachers and other students. Even if you are taking an online petroleum engineering degree course you should still strive to learn all you can from a school with an excellent reputation. You also have the option of going for a graduate or master’s degree, which might qualify you to aim for a higher position or even a teaching position.

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to choose an accredited school, as the ABET credits programs in the subject of petroleum engineering. Other organizations include The Society of Petroleum Evaluation Engineers, which provides free resources, extended information, and membership benefits. These include industry contacts, of vital importance to a new student, as well as forums, work referrals and the distinction of being a member—great incentive in the eyes of an employer.

The best petroleum engineer schools also prepare you for licensing and certification, as these are required by law in all 50 states, at least if you offer your assistance to the general public. Professional engineers with licensing must have an ABET-degree, as well as a minimum of four years of working experience. In addition, you must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. The final exam is called the Principles and Practice of Engineering. You may also have to submit to requirements for continuing education and licensing in certain states.

The Society of Petroleum Engineers is the organization that offers national certification, which is preferred by most employers. Becoming a member and passing an exam will qualify you for certification, an industry honor apart from state licensing.

Requirements for Pursuing a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree

Before you pursue any of the top petroleum engineering schools in the USA, it’s important to ensure you meet the qualifications required by practically every college in the country. Even if you have the means to pay, falling short of basic educational prerequisites will halt your studies.

If you are still in high school or have just graduated one priority will be studying math and science, while also looking for extracurricular assignments and outreach programs in engineering-related events, summer or afterschool programs, or even competitions. Visiting a college you would like to attend is also recommended, and talking to enrolled students and admissions officers. Start “building bridges” now by reaching out to your teachers so that you may be able to get a strong recommendation letter from them. Look into scholarships for engineering through the college of your choice or even government grants such as the Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the Academic Competitiveness Grant, and the National SMART Grant. Lastly, you must write a personal essay that draws attention to your strengths and writing ability, to set you apart from the competition.

When you do enroll in college, requirements continue. For instance, all students must complete a cumulative grade-point average of at least 2.0 in related fields through the junior year before advancing to the senior year. According to the University of Kansas, these related courses might be computer engineering, modern energy theory, thermodynamics, reservoir engineering, momentum transfer, economic appraisal, statics, strength of materials and chemistry.

In addition to a 2.0 or higher GPA, a student must put in a given amount of hours, set by the state and the school. For example, 131 hours would be the requirement and they might be made up of a certain number of hours in science engineering, with other credits in design and integrating, basic sciences, mathematics, and general education including advanced English and critical reading and writing. Rounding out the total hours would be elective subjects, such as electric circuits, a foreign language, or mechanics.

In order to qualify for a master’s degree, you must pass the general requirements of the petroleum engineering school you’ve chosen. The subjects and credits will differ according to the master’s you are pursuing. For instance, a Master of Science in petroleum engineering might have a focus in geosciences technology, as with the University of South California. This degree emphasizes recent developments in unconventional oil gas resources, and requires not only a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering but also 34 units. It differs from school to school, and in particular, according to the review of the department adviser, who will decide if the subjects are relevant to the degree. If you lack a BS degree, you will have to complete one before beginning the new MS program. This is why it is important to consult with the department advisor and determine what prerequisite courses are best suited for the degree.

Your First Job

Your first job will probably be entry-level, unless you opt for a graduate degree, but earning work experience early on is very important. This gives you the opportunity to work under direct supervision of experienced petroleum engineers. Many petroleum engineer colleges, as well as online petroleum engineering schools will help you with your first job by war of referrals, or internships, or contact information of employers that can hire new graduates. The benefit of larger companies is definitely in advanced formal training. Independent contractors might not offer as much in the way of formal education, but may still prove to be valuable because of their real world experience.

As you gain work experience and licensing and certification you may eventually become a supervisor. In addition to a petroleum engineering degree program, managerial training or an MBA can help. Paid training or elective training may be required for supervisory advancement.

Some of the top petroleum engineering schools in the USA include:

  • Colorado School of Mines, Petroleum Engineering Department
  • Louisiana State University, Craft and Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering
  • Marietta College, Edwy R. Brown Department of Petroleum Engineering
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology, Petroleum Engineering Program
  • Montana Tech, Petroleum Engineering Program
  • New Mexico Tech, Department of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering
  • Pennsylvania State University, Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering Program Texas A&M University, Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering Texas Tech University – Lubbock, Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks, Department of Petroleum Engineering

As you can see there is a clear path to success in this career and you can all but eliminate risk factors, as you align yourself with an industry, and the societies that make that industry possible. The best petroleum engineering schools can help you get started. All that’s left is for you to make a choice!