Petroleum Engineers Careers: Employment & Salary Trends for Aspiring Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum Engineers at a Glance

Petroleum engineers are responsible for creating ways to improve oil and gas well production. They manage drilling and offer technical expertise in order maximize economical outcome and continue to advance. Petroleum engineers monitor production rates, supervise well modification and stimulation programs, assist engineering personnel, and maintain records on drilling and product recovery and treatment.

Petroleum engineer’s work in more industries than on might think. In addition to oil and gas extraction, they work in petroleum and coal products manufacturing, heavy and civil engineering construction, pipeline transportation, utilities, securities and investments, and merchant wholesalers and nondurable goods. Petroleum engineers also work in a number of federal, state, and local government positions.

Petroleum engineers typically work more than 40 hours per week. Only 4.5% work part-time and 7.2% are self-employed.

Schools to consider:

Fortis Institute
  • Lawrence Township, NJ
Programs available:
Porter and Chester Institute
  • Worcester, MA
  • Canton, MA
  • Enfield, CT
Virginia College
  • Columbus, GA
Programs available:

Employment Trends

Job Outlook: Average increase
Annual Openings: 1,016
Percent Growth: 5.2%
Total Jobs Held: 17,000
Projected Employment: 11%
The Best 500 Jobs Overall Ranking: 420

Source: “Best Jobs for the 21st Century,” JIST Publishing 2009. Farr, Michael and Shatkin, Laurence, Ph.D.; “Salary Facts Handbook,” JIST Publishing 2008. Editors @ JIST.

Aspiring petroleum engineers can expect an average increase in job growth in this field as engineers retire, transfer to higher positions, or leave the field completely. In addition, advances in technology will create a demand for skilled petroleum engineers. It is important to note than petroleum engineers work all over the world, so opportunities will exist in the U.S. and overseas.

Salary Trends

In 2009, petroleum engineers earned an average salary of $103,960 per year. This figure represents a 2.2% increase over 2008 ($101,620). Petroleum engineers in the 90th percentile can expect to earn around $145,600+ per year, while 75th percentile petroleum engineers can expect to earn $123,130 per year. Entry-level petroleum engineers can expect to earn an impressive starting salary of around $57,960 per year.

Degrees and Training Programs

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for entry into this field. Most employers prefer a master’s degree or higher. 3.4% of all engineers have a doctoral degree, 22.4% have a master’s degree, and 39.5% have a bachelor’s degree.

Aspiring petroleum engineers should consider an undergraduate degree in engineering (mechanical, civil, electrical, or electronics) and a master’s in engineering or business administration. There are more than 1,830 accredited engineering programs at colleges and universities across the U.S. These programs have been accredited under guidelines established by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology or “ABET.” In addition, there are more than 700 ABET accredited programs in engineering technology.

Aspiring aerospace engineers may obtain a certificate, which may be helpful when advancement opportunities arise. Certification may be available through the Aerospace Industries Association or the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronauts, Inc.

Coursework Required

Aspiring petroleum engineers should have a solid background in math and science including calculus, algebra, trigonometry, and geometry as well as physics, biology, and chemistry. The course curriculum may include statistics and particle dynamics, petroleum drilling systems, mechanics of materials, differential equations, and reservoir petrophysics, principles of electrical engineering, production engineering, geostatistics, drilling engineering, and ethics and engineering.

Did you know that the economic crisis that resulted from abundant discoveries in about 1930, notably in the giant East Texas Field, caused petroleum engineering to focus on the entire oil–water–gas reservoir system rather than on the individual well? Studying the optimum spacing of wells in an entire field led to the concept of reservoir engineering. During this period the mechanics of drilling and production were not neglected. Drilling penetration rates increased approximately 100 percent from 1932 to 1937. -Encyclopedia Britannica