Energy and Oil Careers: Options and Requirements

Energy and oil degree programs typically cover all sorts of energy generation, transmission, and usage methods. Find out about the career options, job growth, and salary information for graduates of these programs.

The U.S. relies on a variety of natural resources to create energy, including petroleum, oil, nuclear energy, and wind. Learn about five different career paths that relate to energy production.

Essential Information

Energy and oil careers include everything from finding oil in the ground to using nuclear energy to generate electric power. Electric energy generation, transmission, natural gas pipeline operation and oil refinery operation all provide career options.

Career Titles Petroleum Engineer Geoscientist Power Plant Operator Wind Turbine Technician Oil Field Worker
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree, Master's preferred High School Diploma; Postsecondary degree preferred Postsecondary certificate High School Diploma
Other Requirements PE License: work experience, two exams State license: work experience, exam NRC or NERC certification: medical, practical exam and work experience ETAI certification available; extensive on-the-job training On-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 10%* 10%* -6%* 108%* 8%* (for oil and gas roustabouts)
Median Salary (2015) $129,990* $89,700* $71,940* $51,050* $36,510 (for oil and gas roustabouts)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Energy and Oil Careers Options

Energy careers are found in these industries: electric power generation and transmission, oil exploration and production and petroleum refining and transportation. Engineers and technicians build and operate electric power transmission grids and plants that produce electric power, such as hydroelectric, wind, nuclear, coal or natural gas. Geoscientists, engineers and rotary drilling rig crews search for and produce oil. Pipeline, refinery and natural gas plant operators transport oil products and break them into their components.

Energy Careers

Careers are available in non-oil energy industries, including nuclear and hydroelectric energy, and renewable energy technologies, such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy. Some common job titles in this field include renewable energy engineer, wind turbine technician, hydroelectric power dispatcher, nuclear power plant operator and energy analyst. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that research and development jobs in wind energy may include options for aerospace, civil, electrical and environmental engineers.

Careers in Oil and Other Fossil Fuels

Industries producing oil and energy derived from fossil fuels also offer several career options. Careers can be found in drilling for oil or natural gas on land and at sea, pipeline construction and maintenance and mining. Petroleum geologists and engineers, seismologists, geoscientists, oil or coal power plant operators and oilfield workers are all employed by oil and fossil fuel energy companies.

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Energy and Oil Careers Requirements

Education and training requirements for careers in oil and energy can vary widely depending on the job. Some jobs, such as rotary drilling crew or roughneck jobs, only require a high school diploma. Other jobs in this industry, including research and development jobs, may entail earning a bachelor's degree or a graduate degree in a related field.

Engineers and Geoscientists

Engineering careers in energy and oil require at least a bachelor's degree in engineering with a concentration in a specific field. Engineers who offer services directly to the public must be licensed by their state. The BLS reported that entry-level positions are available for geoscientists with a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree is generally preferred. Some states require geoscientists to be licensed.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The BLS expected petroleum engineers and geoscientists to see an increase in employment, by about 10%, from 2014 until 2024. The related field of geological and petroleum technicians, who often work in subordinate positions to geologists and petroleum engineers, were predicted to see a 12% employment growth rate. As of May 2015, petroleum engineers earned $129,990 in median wages, while geoscientists earned $89,700 and geological and petroleum technicians earned $55,610.

Power Plant Operators

A high school diploma is a minimum requirement for plant operators and dispatchers. According to the BLS, on-the-job training and practical experience is often a requirement. Some power plant operators may need to be licensed. Technical colleges offer programs in power plant technology that provide practical experience and may meet job requirements. Operators who work for nuclear power plants need a bachelor's degree in engineering or experience working with a licensed nuclear power plant operator.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The BLS expected power plant operators to see a 6% decline in employment from 2014 to 2024. The median salary, as of May 2015, was $71,940.

Technicians and Oilfield Workers

The wind power industry is still developing in the United States so required education and training are not uniform. The BLS reports that community colleges and technical schools now offer certificates and associate's degrees in wind turbine maintenance. Energy technicians in all fields need a minimum of an associate's degree or specialized training. Oilfield workers must be at least 18 years old and physically strong but they don't necessarily need a high school diploma.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The BLS predicts a 108% increase in employment for wind turbine service technicians; it reported their median salary as $51,050 in May 2015. Oil and gas roustabouts earned a median of $36,510 as of May 2015.

Students with a high school diploma can find entry-level work as power plant operators or oil field workers, but a bachelor's is required for geoscientists or petroleum engineers. Besides power plant operators, job growth is expected for all occupations in this field and especially high for wind turbine technicians.

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