Petroleum Engineering Degree

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What is Petroleum Engineering?

Petroleum engineering is responsible for the production of machinery and systems for the extraction and refinement of petroleum for a variety of purposes. Individuals in this field may specialize in a number of areas related to petroleum, including location, extraction, processing, and utilization.  A petroleum engineer is one of the highest paid and most sought after engineers based on the value they create for private and public organizations in the petroleum industry.

Top Petroleum Engineering Degrees

Specialty degrees in petroleum engineering are available from a number of accredited colleges and universities.  Before selecting a program, students must first understand the degree options and the associated components of each degree.  Below we have summarized the degree programs in petroleum engineering (PE) to help you make a great decision for your career based on your unique priorities.  To learn more about each, simply request information from the accredited schools found on this resource page.  Undergraduate and graduate degree programs in PE include the following:

Bachelor Degree in Petroleum Engineering

Bachelor’s degrees in petroleum engineering are conferred as a Bachelor of Science or BS for short.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Bachelor of Science degree is chosen by 9 out of 10 PE’s in the field.  As the most popular degree track, a bachelor’s degree will take 4-years to complete for full-time students and longer for part-time students.  Bachelor degree programs blend liberal arts classes such as communication, philosophy, history, math, and sociology with core curricula.

Core classes found in a typical PE program include: foundations of engineering, engineering math, mechanics, general chemistry, electricity, optics, physical geology, statics and particle dynamics, drilling systems, differential equations, mechanics of materials, thermodynamics, reservoir petrophysics, geology of petroleum, reservoir fluids, petroleum processing and transport, well testing, reservoir engineering, drilling engineering, production systems, reservoir simulation, production engineering, and integrated reservoir modeling.

Master Degree in Petroleum Engineering

Master’s programs in PE can be conferred as a Master in Engineering (MEng) or Master of Science (MS).  The primary difference between the MS and MEng degree tracks in petroleum engineering is the emphasis on research.  Students in the MS track will have a greater emphasis on research, theory, and methodologies.  On the other hand, MEng students will be learning more about engineering principles to be applied in the field.  Courses in the master’s degree track will be selected by the student and advisory committee as a function of available resources and areas of interest.  Students in a master’s degree track will be required to complete and defend a thesis project intended to extend the learning in the PE field of study.

Classroom based degrees and online degrees in petroleum engineering are options for graduate students at many schools.  To determine which learning modality is best for you, simply request information about both types of programs.

Doctorate Degree in Petroleum Engineering

Doctorate degrees in petroleum engineering are found in a course catalog listed as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at most schools.  PhD programs are designed for qualifying students to perform deep, meaningful research in the PE field.  Students in the doctorate program will determine classes in conjunction with an academic advisor to customize each degree program.  Prior to graduation, students will be required to complete and defend a board-approved dissertation project as well as pass a final examination.  Graduates will be well prepared for careers in academia, research and development firms, or other industry jobs.

College Requirements for Petroleum Engineers

Individuals may pursue bachelor’s or master’s degrees in this area of study, requiring the individual to learn multiple disciplines with a specific focus on the unique properties of petroleum. An education will include a strong understanding of the sciences, mathematics, engineering, production methodologies, refining techniques, and more. An education may take between four and six years to complete, allowing students to become familiar with various tools and instruments related to the field.

A curriculum may include:

  • Extraction
  • Processing
  • Methods of Location
  • Engineering Principles
  • Physics

Schools that maintain active engineering departments should have facilities that allow for the modeling of various tools and machines used for the purposes of extraction and processing, as well as provide real or simulated practice for the location of fossil fuels and the manufacturing techniques for petroleum based products. Such programs are generally limited and specialized, and as such should be easy to identify as to whether they meet the needs of a given student.

Schools Other Students Requested Information From:

Employment Opportunities for Petroleum Engineers

A confluence of event over the next decade is believed to be responsible for the availability of positions within this field, including the fluctuation of oil prices and the large number of expectant retirees in the field.  As a result, individuals who wish to pursue petroleum engineering should find employment with relative ease, regardless of their area of specialization. Individuals will typically work in private firms responsible for one or more aspects of the petroleum processes listed above.  The median annual income for a PE is $147,030 which is nearly 300% above the national average.  The top 25% of PE's will make $179,450 on average and bottom twenty five percent average $97,430 a year.  Industry growth is estimated at 10% which translates to some 13,000 petroleum engineering jobs added over the coming decade.

Top Employers of Petroleum Engineers

  1. Oil and Gas Extraction Firms                12,090
  2. Mining Corporations                                 4,870
  3. Management Companies                          4,580
  4. Petroleum & Coal Manufacturers            3,360
  5. Architectural and Engineering Firms     1,940

States with the Highest Employment of Petroleum Engineers

  • Texas
  • Oklahoma
  • California
  • Louisiana
  • Colorado

Top Paying States for Petroleum Engineers

  1. Colorado           $161,200
  2. Texas                  $158,430
  3. Louisiana          $148,130
  4. Alaska                $147,930
  5. Washington      $143,840

The Society of Petroleum Engineers is an organization that promotes the field and works to update available technologies and information as needed to create more efficient and safe working standards for such workers.  Members receive a variety of resources and professional networking opportunities to help grow their respective careers in this field of study.

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Career Summary: Petroleum engineering Major




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