Petroleum Engineering Careers

Read on to learn about typical courses, resources, and careers in this field.

Staff Writer

2022-11-1515 min read

Are you considering a petroleum engineer career? So you want to understand the job opportunities, pay scale, and more.

Petroleum engineering involves extraction, refinement, transportation, storage, and managing oil and gas reserves. This career choice requires a mix of experience, degrees, certifications, and skills.

Petroleum engineers generally work in drilling and offshore oil rigs or in offices. They are a vital part of almost all parts of the global economy and are always in high demand.

Why Choose Petroleum Engineering?

Here are reasons to choose a Petroleum engineering career.

  • According to a BLS report in May 2021, petroleum engineers' median annual wage is $130,850.
  • The employment rate for petroleum engineers is above average.
  • Petroleum engineering offers a wide selection of workplaces.
  • Petroleum engineering offers diverse collaborations.

How to Start your Petroleum Engineering Journey

You can start your journey as a petroleum engineer by applying for the right degrees.

You can get these degrees in an ABET-accredited engineering program.

Obtaining an associate’s degree sets you up for entry-level jobs. In contrast, masters degree and engineering license holders take leadership positions.

Education Requirements

Associate Degree

An associate degree in this field takes two years to complete. This program qualifies you as a technician or transfers you to a four-year program.

Your training will involve learning job-specific skills like drilling plans and equipment design. You also work alongside geoscientists and other professionals in the field.

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in this field takes four years to complete. The first two years give you a comprehensive foundation for your field of study.

The last two years have provided higher-level work covering most geological courses. After completing this program, you earn the Engineer in Training (EIT) title.

Master's Degree

A master's degree in this field takes 12 months to complete. Areas of study include oil recovery, production operations, and natural gas engineering.

This degree qualifies you for leadership and teaching roles. It opens up more career opportunities, which increases your earning potential.

Doctorate in Petroleum Engineering

A doctorate in this field takes four to five years to complete. This degree presents you as an expert petroleum engineer.

Areas of study include reservoir modeling, oil and gas development, drilling operations, and more.

This degree provides job opportunities in the government and academic sectors.

Employment Prospects

The occupation outlook of petroleum engineers has stayed positive since 2004.

The BLS report cited earlier in this article states that the employment rate for petroleum engineers will grow 8% from 2021 to 2031.

In addition, there will be over 1700 job openings available each year over the decade.

Petroleum Engineering Career Forecast

Petroleum engineers work in diverse industries around the world. The projected employment growth by 2031, according to the BLS report above, is 24,600.

However, a decrease in petroleum production investments may limit job growth over the decade.

Lucrative Petroleum Engineering Career Paths

A petroleum engineering career allows you to explore numerous job opportunities globally. Below are some of the most rewarding career paths in this field.

Drilling Engineer

Drilling engineers plan and supervise oil and gas drilling operations. They conduct extensive research and evaluate the quality of a drilling site.

Average Salary

The average annual base pay salary is $94,057. However, the salary range depends on factors like education, experience, and certification. The salary ranges between $25,000 to $45,000. It also offers additional pay and bonuses of $27,433 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Coordinate and monitor drilling equipment.
  • Monitor operations of the drilling team.
  • Engineers design and coordinate plans for oil and gas wells.
  • Develop drilling programs to extract oil from onshore and offshore reserves.

Industries Employing

  • Oil and gas companies
  • Mining industry
  • The military - US army corps

Production Engineer

Production engineers figure out the quality of oilfield equipment. They improve fossil fuel production at plants in the oil and gas industry.

Average Salary

The average salary is $73,228. However, salary ranges vary depending on education, skill set, and certification. The salary ranges between $67,218 and $80,142. An entry-level production engineer's salary starts at $70,000 annually. An experienced engineer earns about $126,050 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Plan and coordinate engineering production procedures.
  • Establish safety measures for employees in drilling and well sites.
  • Train and guide manufacturers on production processes
  • Develop production processes that cover machinery and raw materials.

Industries Employing

  • Manufacturing companies
  • Energy and utilities
  • Transportation companies


Geophysicists develop methods to study the physical aspects of the Earth. They collect data on seismic waves to determine what is below the Earth. Then, they create maps of hydrocarbon buildup.

Average Salary

The average salary is $110,075 annually. Entry-level positions offer a starting salary of $84,647 annually. Experienced geophysicists earn up to $131,916.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Develop suitable seismic measurements.
  • Map and interpret 3D and 2D seismic data.
  • Measure and report reservoir volumes.
  • Assess oil reserves and their potential yield.

Industries Employing

  • Energy and utilities
  • National agencies
  • Mining and metals

Process Engineer

A process engineer tests equipment by conducting risk assessments. They design systems to transform raw materials into valuable products.

Average Salary

The average salary is $73,415. Salary ranges depend on education, certification, and experience. The salary ranges between $68,865 and $79,119. Entry-level positions provide a start-up salary of $73,915 annually. Experienced workers, however, earn up to $115,000 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Monitor operations during production performance processes.
  • Construct new and more effective manufacturing processes.
  • Plan and design equipment layout.
  • Estimate production expenditures.

Industries Employing

  • Electronics manufacturing
  • Aerospace and defense
  • Transportation equipment manufacturing

Reservoir Engineer

Reservoir engineers estimate how much oil and gas can be recovered from underground deposits. After which, they design and construct methods to extract these resources.

Average Salary

The average annual salary for these professional engineers is $124,170. The salary range varies depending on education, skills, and experience. The salary ranges between $110,047 and $142,315.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Examine the structural integrity of reservoirs
  • Develop computer models to monitor the water supply
  • Conduct safety tests on new designs
  • Inspect water quality in reservoirs

Industries Employing

  • Energy and utilities
  • Mining and metals
  • Federal, State, or Local Government


Geologists study the Earth's activities and properties. They discover minerals, metals, oil, and natural gas. After which, they design methods to extract these resources.

Average Salary

The average salary of a geologist is $83,680 annually. Entry-level geologists earn up to $48,880. Experienced geologists, however, earn $93,288 to $172,490 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Plan geology projects, like water pipe construction and oil extraction in an oil reserve.
  • Measure and conduct tests on fossils, ores, rocks, and soil.
  • Analyze sites for hazards, development, and composition.
  • Coordinate research programs and analyze geological data

Industries Employing

  • Architectural and engineering companies
  • Energy and utilities
  • Mining and metals

Engineering Laboratory Technician

Engineering laboratory technicians collect data and perform result analysis. They work with scientists to ensure all engineering projects proceed smoothly.

Average Salary

The average salary is $52,500, which is $25.24 per hour. Salary ranges vary depending on factors like experience, company size, and education. The salary ranges between $75,141 and $101,164.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Document data from experiments to use in proposals, and reports
  • Operate laboratory machinery and equipment
  • Conduct quality control tests on equipment and materials
  • Monitor equipment and repair malfunctioning tools.

Industries Employing

  • Biotech and pharmaceuticals
  • Chemical manufacturing
  • Consumer product manufacturing

Support Engineer

Support engineers provide solutions to customers' needs. They assist customers with tech concerns. They also develop training manuals, help guides, and other support materials.

Average Salary

The average salary of a Support engineer is $64,416 annually. Salary ranges are between $50,500 to $91,500 per year.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Provide quick and accurate feedback to customers.
  • Research, diagnose, and provide solutions to customer problems.
  • Contact customers to determine the nature of their IT issues.
  • Install new network systems, hardware, and software.

Industries Employing

  • Enterprise software and network solutions
  • Information technology support services
  • Aerospace and defense


Metallurgists study the properties of metals. After which, they develop and implement methods to transform source ores into valuable metals.

Average Salary

The average salary is $83,962. Metallurgists on the lower end of the spectrum earn $61,000 annually. Engineers in the top 10% earn $115,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Apply chemical and physical methods to extract metals and minerals from their ores
  • Test metals and record data to enhance performance.
  • Study radiation effects on metals exposed to nuclear environments
  • Perform microscopic and X-ray diffraction on metals and alloys.

Industries Employing

  • Metal and mineral manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Energy and utilities

Plant Engineer

Plant engineers oversee all operations in the industrial plant. They coordinate the design and maintenance of technologies in the plant.

Average Salary

The average salary of Plant engineers is $93,949 annually or $45.17 per hour. Engineers on the lower end of the spectrum earn roughly $67,000 annually. In contrast, engineers at the top earn about $130,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Manage all facility layout designs using an AutoCAD
  • Create corporate Wiki pages for water systems, API 620 tanks, and API 610 cryogenic pumps.
  • Develop enhancement strategies for the facility's HVAC.
  • Establish drawing system format and oversee the CAD system.

Industries Employing

  • Biotech and pharmaceuticals
  • Chemical manufacturing
  • Consumer product manufacturing

Consulting Engineer

Consulting engineers advise clients on proper project planning. They analyze various project engineering processes and their issues.

Average Salary

The average salary is $144,180. The salary range can vary depending on factors like skill set, education, and certification. The salary ranges between $132,007 and $158,912.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Define customer needs and transform them into designs for new systems and facilities
  • Manage project logistics, including purchase and supply chains
  • Conduct fact-finding surveys, project inception, and formation
  • Work with architects, manufacturers, and local authorities

Industries Employing

  • Enterprise software and network solutions
  • Information technology support services
  • Aerospace and defense

Oil Well Engineer

Oil well engineers design and construct different oil and gas wells. They make sure facilities operate safely for all workers. They also test drilling down to oil reservoirs to ensure all reserves are extracted.

Average Salary

The average salary is $83,972 annually or $40.37 per hour. Engineers on the lower end of the spectrum earn about $47,000 annually. Engineers at the top, however, earn about $147,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Construct comprehensive reservoir development plans.
  • Design mechanisms that facilitate well flow.
  • Address well fluid behavior and production chemistry issues
  • Communicate with geoscientists and engineers to estimate production potential.

Industries Employing

  • Oil and gas extraction companies
  • Aerospace and defense
  • Petroleum products manufacturing

Investment Salary Strategist

An investment salary strategist evaluates financial and investment information. They perform research and analyze stocks, bonds, currencies, and assets.

Average Salary

The average base salary of an investment salary strategist is $95,782. The salary ranges between $104,278 and $132,368

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Analyze the investment market and advise clients on how to maximize their investments.
  • Work alongside institutional investors with large investments and hedge funds.
  • Provide market trading advice to sales agents and companies.
  • Provide clients with strategies to buy and sell securities and commodities.

Industries Employing

Most investment salary strategists work in financial services.

Oil Exploration Engineer

Oil exploration engineers design methods to improve oil and gas extraction from rock formations underground.

Average Salary

The average salary of an oil exploration engineer is $104,866 annually. The salary range differs depending on education, certification, and skills. The salary ranges between $96,757 and $155,188.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Create or modify mining and oil field equipment
  • Establish plans for drilling in oil and gas fields.
  • Perform engineering research tests to enhance industry equipment and processes.
  • Control the completion and assessment of wells, well tests, and surveys.

Industries Employing x

  • Mining companies
  • Manufacturing companies
  • Scientific research and development services

Natural Gas Engineer

Natural gas engineers extract petroleum resources from gas deposits. They determine the volume of gas present in a site. Then, they extract, process, store, and distribute the natural gas.

Average Salary

The average salary of a natural gas engineer is $135,188, and the median annual salary is $137,330 per year.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Conduct tests on the quality of gas produced by wells
  • Monitor operations on site to ensure the safety of gas field workers
  • Design new methods to extract natural gas from reserves
  • Determine the amount of natural gas to counter future shortages.

Industries Employing

  • Energy and utilities
  • National agencies like the US Army
  • Mining and metals

Project Engineer

Project engineers focus on the technical and engineering aspects of the project. They organize budget planning and management. They also ensure all processes meet technical standards.

Average Salary

The average annual salary is $73,967. Salary ranges vary depending on experience, education and certification. The salary ranges between $65,589 and $84,564.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Review project plans and develops accurate objectives
  • Collect and scrutinize project information to generate status reports.
  • Supervise oil and gas workers managing specific projects.
  • Design tests to monitor and determine the quality of a project.

Industries Employing

  • Aerospace and defense
  • Information technology support services
  • Electronics manufacturing

How to Boost your Petroleum Engineering Career

To boost your petroleum engineering career, you must earn the proper qualifications.

An associate's degree only provides entry-level roles. You should aim for a bachelor's and a master's degree. You can also advance a step ahead by gaining skills from recognized institutions.

Employers value work experience, so performing internships and training courses are essential.

Pros and Cons of Petroleum Engineering Careers

A petroleum engineering career is a very lucrative one. However, there are several challenges you should be aware of.

Here are some of the upsides and downsides of a petroleum engineering career.


  • Petroleum engineering is a high-paying profession.
  • Petroleum engineers are in high demand globally.
  • Petroleum engineers are essential members of the world's workforce.
  • Petroleum engineering is a great career choice if you love traveling.
  • Petroleum engineers benefit from diverse collaborations with other professionals in the field.


  • Petroleum engineers must have a bachelor's degree.
  • Petroleum engineers can't obtain a high-level position without a license.
  • A continuing education (CE) is required to maintain your engineering license.
  • Petroleum engineers work in highly specialized branches.
  • Work environment and demands may require you to relocate or travel long-term.

Skills You'll Develop While Studying Petroleum Engineering

Working as a petroleum engineer requires you to develop specific skill sets. Let's discuss them.

Critical Thinking and Analysis

Critical thinking and analysis mean understanding a problem enough to make informed decisions.

Petroleum engineers work in a stimulating environment. Developing critical thinking and analytical skills helps maneuver complicated tasks.

These skills help develop proper engineering principles. They also help engineers design safe methods to extract oil and gas deposits from the Earth.

Software Skills

Software skills involve having advanced technology expertise.

Petroleum engineers need software skills to create computer-simulated models of drilling formations and oilfield equipment.

These skills help you make quality extraction tools and equipment. They also teach you troubleshooting solutions for technological systems.

Management Skills

Management skills involve developing and employing people and their skills.

As a petroleum engineer, you will be tasked with overseeing multiple teams. Developing management skills helps you govern your team and their projects effectively.

Learning this skill makes you hyper-aware of everyone on your team. It also teaches you to appreciate their contributions.

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills enable you to handle teams and clients with proper social skills.

Petroleum engineers constantly interact and collaborate with other professionals.

Interpersonal skills help you communicate professionally and effectively with others. This skill also makes it easy to understand and fulfil projects according to client demands.

Attention to Detail

Attention to detail involves focusing on all aspects of a project, big and small.

Since petroleum engineer jobs involve complicated equipment, lapses in concentration can be hazardous.

A petroleum engineer should learn to be attentive. This skill ensures all operations run smoothly and helps you avoid worksite mishaps.

How to Prepare for a Petroleum Engineering Career

1. Highschool Diploma

To become a petroleum engineer, you need to complete your higher secondary school.

Scoring high in subjects like chemistry, physics, and mathematics are a prerequisite.

Obtaining a high school diploma qualifies you for undergraduate levels in accredited universities.

2. Bachelor's Degree

A BSc is a basic qualification required to become a petroleum engineer. This degree provides access to high-paying jobs.

It provides you with a comprehensive knowledge of the field. It also helps you develop problem-solving skills to tackle real-world engineering problems.

3. Internships

Internships are an excellent way to increase your practical knowledge in the petroleum engineering field.

You learn essential engineering analytical skills and practical engineering knowledge.

In addition, companies accept talented interns after graduation. And this job offer gives engineers ample work experience.

4. Master's Degree

A master's degree increases your job prospects and earning potential. This degree gives you a deep knowledge of oil and gas production.

It builds your understanding of topics like reservoir engineering, and well analysis.

You also get access to courses like geology and petroleum production economy.

5. Work Experience

You can develop your knowledge and skills practically when you have proper work experience.

Work experience presents you as a competent professional in your field. It also increases your chances of acquiring a job.

In addition, employers value engineers who have had great working experiences in professional organizations.

6. Licensure

An engineering license validates your qualifications and expertise to employers.

You need a bachelor's degree before you can acquire an engineering license.

Most states issue a mandatory engineering license. You must pass the Principles of Practice of Engineering Examination before your license is completed.

Petroleum Engineering Resources to Help Your Career

You can improve your career by engaging in training programs and studying engineering publications.

Below are some petroleum engineering resources to help your career.

**Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Petroleum Engineering Certification: **This program certifies you as a globally recognized Petroleum Industry Professional.

**International Journal of Petroleum and Petrochemical Engineering (IJPPE): **This journal provides multiple publications on petroleum engineering courses and training.

**The Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam: **This exam tests your competence and skills in any engineering discipline.

How to Switch to a Petroleum Engineering Career

Switching to a petroleum engineering career varies depending on your education.

If you have undergone engineering-related courses, transferring to petroleum engineering is relatively straightforward.

However, if you have no degree, you can start by getting strong SAT scores. Then, you apply to accredited universities as a petroleum engineer to obtain a BSc.

A BSc sets you up for entry-level jobs where you can get proper work experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Petroleum Engineering?

Petroleum engineering involves extracting hydrocarbons from underneath the Earth.

It is a confluence of inventiveness, exploration, production, and expansion. This major lays the groundwork for all other professions to succeed.

What certification do I need for a Petroleum Engineering career?

You must hold a bachelor's degree to practice as a petroleum engineer. However, employers accept chemical or mechanical engineers. You also need a petroleum engineer license to practice as a public petroleum engineer.

Can I get a Petroleum Engineering degree online?

Definitely, numerous reputable universities offer online petroleum engineering courses and degrees. These online degrees are just as valid as physical degrees. But you have to ensure that the online programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

What fields can Petroleum Engineering professionals work in?

Petroleum engineering professionals can work as oil exploration engineers, geoscientists, and well engineers. In addition, there are other fields you can work in outside oil rigs, like national agencies and educational positions.

Is there a high demand for Petroleum Engineering majors?

Yes, the demand for petroleum engineers has increased significantly over the last decade. Petroleum engineers can work in public and private industries. It is a major that is highly sought by oil companies.

Final Thoughts

Petroleum engineering is a highly lucrative career. However, you shouldn't jump into this role without the proper qualifications and skill sets. Earning the right credentials will lead you to a successful career in this field.

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