Petroleum engineers are responsible for exploring and drilling for oil and gas and for efficient production. Some concentrate on research and development into methods to increase the proportion of oil recovered from each oil reservoir.
Most petroleum engineers are employed by the major oil companies and by the hundreds of small, independent oil exploration and production companies. Drilling equipment manufacturers and suppliers also employ petroleum engineers. Engineering consulting firms and independent consulting engineers use their services, and federal and state agencies employ petroleum engineers on regulatory boards and as inspectors.
Banks and other financial institutions sometimes employ petroleum engineers to provide information on the economic value of oil and gas properties.
Places of Employment and Working Conditions
Most petroleum engineers work in California, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. Many work overseas for U.S companies and foreign governments.
This can be dirty work and is sometimes dangerous. Assignments to off-shore oil rigs or remote foreign locations can make family life difficult.
Qualifications, Education, and Training
The ability to think analytically, a capacity for detail, and the ability to work as part of a team are all necessary. Good communication skills are important.
Mathematics and the sciences must be emphasized in high school.
A bachelor's degree in engineering is the minimum requirement in this field. In a typical curriculum, the first two years are spent in the study of basic sciences such as physics and chemistry and mathematics, introductory engineering, and some liberal arts courses. The remaining years are usually devoted to specialized engineering courses. Engineering programs can last from four to six years. Those requiring five or six years to complete may award a master's degree or may provide a cooperative plan of study plus practical work experience with a nearby industry.
Because of rapid changes in technology, many engineers continue their education throughout their careers. A graduate degree is necessary for most teaching and research positions and for many management jobs.
Engineering graduates usually work under the supervision of an experienced engineer or in a company training program until they become acquainted with the requirements of a particular company or industry.
All states require licensing of engineers whose work may affect life, health, or property or who offer their services to the public. Those who are licensed, about one-third of all engineers, are called registered engineers. Requirements include graduation from an accredited engineering school, four years of experience, and a written examination.
Potential and Advancement
There is some employment growth is expected in this field. Demand for increased domestic oil and gas resources means increased exploration and production, which will provide job openings for petroleum engineers.
Additional Sources of Information
- Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology 111 Market Place, Ste. 1050, Baltimore, MD 21202-4012
- American Society for Engineering Education 1818 N Street, N.W., Suite 600 Washington, DC 20036-2479
- National Society of Professional Engineers 1420 King Street Alexandria, VA 22314
- Society of Petroleum Engineers 222 Palisades Creek Drive Richardson, Texas 75080
- Society of Women Engineers 203 N La Salle Street, Suite 1675 Chicago, IL 60601