The world needs energy and a large chunk of that energy comes from oil and gas. What use would our cars be without gasoline, or gas stoves without natural gas? Petroleum engineering is a field that will be needed more and more as demand for oil and gas grows. Oil and natural gas are made from ancient biological material that has been put under the pressure of the 1000’s of feet of earth above and it’s the petroleum engineer’s job to figure out how to get the oil or gas from deep underground.
What Do Petroleum Engineers Do?
There are many different Petroleum engineering jobs. A drilling engineer might be working in a lab developing a new drill bit to better cut through hard soil or making sure existing drills are functioning the right way. Both drilling and reservoir engineers work with geologists and drillers to create drilling plans for making new wells. Oil and gas companies will also hire reservoir engineers to design ways to pump the oil and gas out. It is the job of a completion engineer to make sure that wells are finished properly and that any hydraulic fracturing is done correctly. Finally, production engineers observe the wells to make sure they are producing effectively and efficiently and if not, come up with solutions to increase yields.
How Does a Person Become a Petroleum Engineer?
To be a petroleum engineer a person needs at least a Bachelor’s degree in either petroleum engineering, chemical engineering, or mechanical engineering. Programs that offer training while working in a related field are preferred by employers. You want to make sure that any program you go to has been accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology. Those looking into this field will want to seriously consider earning an engineer’s license which requires 4 years of working experience and passing two exams. Important skills for petroleum engineers to cultivate are an understanding of advanced mathematics, good problem solving skills, creativity, and the ability to explain ideas well.
Bear in mind that some schools have special five year programs in a subject directly related to the profession, such as chemical engineering or mechanical engineering, which earn a bachelor’s degree followed by the more prestigious master’s degree. Employers are more impressed with a master’s degree, as this not only demonstrates expertise but also instructor-level knowledge, qualifying you to work in research, education or development.
What is the Job Outlook for Petroleum Engineers and Where are the Jobs Located?
As of 2012, there were 38,500 petroleum engineer jobs and over the next ten years that number is supposed to increase by 26%, well above the national average and almost three times the rate of other engineering jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The need for more engineers is likely tied to the increased need for gasoline and the use of natural gas to produce electricity. As oil prices and natural gas prices rise, yield becomes more important so more engineers are brought on to make sure that the company gets every possible drop. The process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has opened up many new possible well sites and it is up to engineers to tackle the challenges of these new areas.
Jobs for this field would, of course, follow the oil and gas. The top states seems to be Texas with Alaska, California, Illinois, Louisiana, and Ohio also creating large demand. The Eagle Forge Shale Formation, an oil rich strip of land from Lerado Texas to Houston, seems to be powering Texas’s petroleum drilling industry. According to Forbes, “At the end of the first quarter of this year (2014), the company’s average daily net crude oil production from the Eagle Ford shale stood at 207,000 barrels, compared to just over 30,000 barrels in 2011.” Traveling to South America, the Middle East, and the Baltics may prove profitable as they are major areas of oil and gas production in the world. Within this field, you’ll have to be willing to travel to the jobs but the reward of high pay tends to make this reality much easier to swallow.
How Much Do Petroleum Engineers Make and What Special Concerns Does the Job Have?
The median wage for petroleum engineers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $130,280. Drilling engineers tend to make the most with a median wage of $212,123. Most of your time will spent in the office but you will be expected to visit the drilling sites often to gather data and make sure designs are implemented properly. When problems occur at the wells and drilling sites engineers might be called to the scene to remedy the issue. This occupation does have a union: the Society for Petroleum Engineers.
If you’re interested in math and science and are looking for a career where demand will only grow for the foreseeable future, petroleum engineering is a great field to get into. Petroleum contributes a large chunk to modern life in America. After all, how would you make the commute without gas? Consider becoming a petroleum engineer as this is a lucrative career field in an industry that needs much more help from young and ambitious graduates.