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Reservoir Engineer: Job Description and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a reservoir engineer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Reservoir engineers commonly use technology and expertise to pinpoint and efficiently allocate usable fossil fuel reservoirs underground for oil and gas companies. Employers generally require a bachelor's degree in engineering from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Required EducationBachelor's degree
Additional Requirements Professional engineer (PE) license required for engineers working in the public sector; national certification may be required by some employers
Projected Job Growth* (2012-2022) 26% for petroleum engineers
Median Salary* (2013) $132,320 for petroleum engineers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Job Description

Reservoir engineers use their knowledge of geology and fluid mechanics to determine the location and amount of fuel in underground reservoirs. Often, engineers work with advanced equipment, such as computer modeling and imaging programs, to locate reserves of oil and natural gas. As companies drill and tap these reserves, changes occur in the physical structure of the reservoir. In response to this, engineers need to make adjustments throughout the entire drilling process.

Another major duty of engineers involves the analysis of the amount of fuel in reserve and the duration of reserve viability for investment purposes. This information frequently involves combining several mitigating factors, such as extraction costs and profit comparisons, into these forecasts. Oil and gas companies often use this type of analysis in making decisions about whether or not to go ahead with drilling ventures. In some instances, engineers may have to adjust their analysis for outside factors, such as machine efficiency or fluctuations in the price of oil.

Educational Requirements

The petroleum engineering industry often has high monetary risks associated with drilling projects. As a consequence, employers tend to desire candidates with an accredited educational background in engineering and professional licensing. While advanced degrees are available, most entry-level positions in reservoir engineering only require a bachelor's degree.

A bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering typically consists of courses in drilling engineering, geology and fluid mechanics. Specialized industry coursework can include petroleum economics, reservoir rock properties, drilling mechanics, reservoir flooding and reservoir rock characteristics. Programs usually offer various simulations in a variety of areas, such as well drilling, petroleum reserves and well completion, where students can solve potential problems using computer programs.

Licensing

A state license is required for all engineers who work in the public sector, including petroleum companies. Professional organizations, such as the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), also offer licensing for engineers working in the petroleum industry. The requirements for taking the professional engineer (PE) exam involve completing the fundamentals of engineering (FE) exam, passing of a state licensing exam and four years of work-related experience. The petroleum engineering exam consists of general topics ranging from drilling, reservoir and production engineering problems.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment opportunities for petroleum engineers would grow from 2012 until 2022 by 26%. In 2013, the median salary for petroleum engineers was $132,320, according to the BLS.

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