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Oil Field Engineering Degree and Training Program Information

Oil field and petroleum engineers design and oversee the drilling and extraction of oil and natural gas from the ground. Petroleum engineers typically must attain licensure after earning their degree; this involves passing an exam. Degrees in this field are available at the bachelor's and master's levels.

Essential Information

A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Petroleum Engineering program prepares students for entry into the field. A Master of Science (M.S.) equips graduates for roles such as oil and gas field supervisor and exploration director, while a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is required for candidates seeking senior research and/or teaching positions at the postsecondary level.

  • Program Levels: Bachelor's, master's, PhD.
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; undergraduate degree is required for admission to the graduate levels.
  • Online Availability: Commonly available online.
  • Program Length: Four years for bachelor's; two years for master's.

Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering

Students explore concepts in oil and gas drilling operations in a four-year petroleum engineering degree program. Areas of focus include well planning and completion, oil and gas production, and maximizing oil and gas recovery. A high school diploma or GED certificate is required to enroll.

This baccalaureate program comprises classes that emphasize the roles and responsibilities of oil field and petroleum engineers and their application in a variety of professional settings. Possible subjects covered in the curriculum include:

  • Physical geology
  • Fundamentals of petroleum
  • Reservoir rock properties
  • Drilling and completions
  • Fluid mechanics and hydraulics engineering

Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering

Master's degree candidates study advanced theoretical and practical concepts in the exploration, refinement, and delivery of oil and gas to end users. Topics of discussion include traditional and newer methods of exploiting natural resources, design, and analysis of production systems and technical problem solving. Students gain hands-on experience in a variety of technical roles ranging from wells testing, geostatistical analysis and transport processes.

Applicants typically must hold a bachelor's degree in oil field or petroleum engineering or a closely related field, such as geology or chemical engineering from an accredited college or university. Candidates generally are required to have completed undergraduate coursework in areas such as physics, chemistry, and mathematics.

Graduate degree programs generally contain classes that provide advanced knowledge in core petroleum engineering principles and their application in a variety of settings, including oil fields and offshore refineries. Students can choose to pursue a thesis or non-thesis option in this degree program. A field experience is often required to complete the curriculum. Following are some possible subjects covered in the program:

  • Enhanced oil recovery
  • Drilling optimization
  • Natural gas processing
  • Well completion, stimulation, and damage control
  • Water flooding

Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering

Doctoral degree programs provide the highest level of study and research in the petroleum engineering field. Program lengths vary; however, most require 90-135 hours of upper-tier coursework in addition to previously completed master's degree credits in the field. Most institutions require the completion and defense of a doctoral dissertation to fulfill the degree curriculum.

Candidates typically must hold a master's degree in petroleum or oil field engineering or a related discipline such as geology or chemical engineering. Some institutions may consider bachelor's degree holders if their undergraduate coursework meets department requirements in areas such as physics, chemistry, and the Earth sciences.

Classes are comprised of advanced studies and specialized research in areas including transition to sustainable energy systems, advanced production design, and petroleum economics. Course subjects include:

  • Drilling optimization
  • Theory of gas injection processes
  • Transient multiphase production design
  • Geothermal reservoir engineering
  • Property evaluation

Continuing Education and Certification Information

All engineers who provide engineering services must obtain a professional engineering (PE) license from the state in which they work. Licensure requires completing a bachelor's degree from a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and passing a licensure exam. To maintain certification PEs must complete continuing education courses.

Career Information for Graduates

Job applicants holding a Ph.D. are qualified to seek advanced positions in the petroleum engineering field as well as teaching positions at the postsecondary level. In April 2011, Salary.com reported that the median annual salary for an entry-level petroleum geologist was $80,915.

Popular Career Options

Graduates are equipped to seek advanced and senior-level positions in all phases of oil and gas production, refinement, and delivery. Some career options include:

  • Exploration director
  • Refinery manager
  • Drilling systems engineer

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reported that employment of petroleum engineers was expected to grow by approximately 26% from 2012-2022. During this time, growth may be driven by the increasing need for new energy resource development, as well as the discovery of new oil extraction techniques. Job prospects were reported to be the brightest for candidates holding at least a bachelor's degree. According to the BLS, petroleum engineers earned a median salary of $130,050 a year in May 2014.

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