How to Become a Petroleum Engineer

What is a Petroleum Engineer?

A Petroleum Engineer is responsible for many key areas within the oil & gas industry. Primarily, they are employed within the E&P sector– Exploration & Production. Petroleum Engineers help identify new reservoirs for future drilling as well as investigate and develop new strategies to extract oil or gas from existing or aging wells. They are also involved in equipment design and implementation both in the drawing room and on-site.

Here are 4 main types of Petroleum Engineers:

  1. Well-Completion: Responsible for the final build of a well-site, making sure it is optimized for oil and gas to begin flowing. This can include the implementation of fracking and other techniques.
  2. Reservoir: Investigate possible reservoirs and determine the viability for oil & gas drilling. They estimate a well’s potential output.
  3. Drilling: In charge of establishing the specific drilling protocols and oversight on drilling equipment and implementation on-site, taking into account cost-benefit ratios and environmental impact.
  4. Production: Oversee the ongoing production of wells to determine best practices in keeping oil & gas flowing, and troubleshooting possible issues if production is falling below estimates or expectations.


What are the Education Requirements for a Petroleum Engineer?

First, you need a high school diploma or comparable GED. It is helpful to take advanced math and science courses in high school if they are available, as both subjects will be at the core of your future career and will help prepare you for courses at the university level.

A four-year Bachelor’s degree is required for any Petroleum Engineering career. Some universities offer a specific degree in Petroleum Engineering. Those schools should be strongly considered as they sometimes include hands-on and industry specific courses of study such as well-design, petrol-science, and drilling labs.

Within a bachelor’s degree there may be opportunities for a focus, such as: Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Geology, etc. All are pertinent and can be utilized as a Petroleum Engineer in the oil & gas industry. Sometimes, a Master’s degree is a good idea if one desires to be very specialized and this will only help in finding a career. However, a graduate degree is not necessary.

License & Certification

For someone who wishes to offer their engineering expertise to the general public, a Professional Engineering license is required in your particular state. The National Society of Professional Engineers offers guides, assistance and is a popular community for engineers in the public sector.


Petroleum Engineering Schools

These are some of the most well-known and respected schools that offer a Petroleum Engineering degree.

  1. University of Texas, Austin
  2. Texas Tech
  3. Penn State University
  4. University of Oklahoma, Norman
  5. Texas A&M
  6. University of Houston
  7. Louisiana State Agricultural & Mechanical College
  8. Colorado School of Mines
  9. Standford University
  10. University of Tulsa 


Petroleum Engineer Work Schedule/Hours

It depends on what type of engineer you are, but broadly speaking most engineers spend the majority of their time either in laboratories or offices, and sometimes in classrooms as instructors or teachers. There are times when any type of engineer will need to be on-site and assess operations and diagnose solutions with their own eyes. Certain types of engineers will need to be out in the field quite often, especially those involved with well-completion or drilling.

Regardless of which type of engineer, there can be a lot of traveling and at times, on short notice. Indeed, with oil and gas operations taking place in nearly every corner of the globe, being able to travel is a must for most Petroleum Engineers.

Hours are usually typical and fall within standard professional hours of other careers. However, because of remote locations of well sites and the inherent exploration that is required in the industry, the hours can be well in excess of 40 hours per week during the initial phases of a new project or in times where travel is necessary. Sometimes, engineers who are working at a drilling site will be on a rotating shift schedule with long hours on and then long hours off.

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