Bachelor's degree programs in natural gas engineering last four years and teach students the fundamental principles of engineering design, structural geology and drilling. In addition to general education courses, students in these programs complete courses in chemistry and calculus. A high school diploma and standardized test scores are needed in order to begin study.
Master's degree programs are research-focused and can be completed in a little more than a year. Students may get to work with specialists in the field, and a teaching assistantship may be required in addition to fieldwork and a thesis. A bachelor's degree in a related field and GRE scores are needed to enter the program. Students with undergraduate degrees in areas other than petroleum and natural gas engineering may be required to take additional courses or have passed the FE exam.
Certificate programs are offered at various levels, with some programs aimed at high school graduates and others designed for people with experience. Courses may cover topics such as pipeline construction and safety practices. Some programs can lead to professional certification as a natural gas technician.
Licensure for engineers is required in all 50 states and requires completing at least a bachelor's degree program and obtaining experience as a trainee in the field.
Bachelor's Degree in Natural Gas Engineering
Students who enjoy mathematics and earth sciences can earn Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees in petroleum and natural gas engineering, which are available at various colleges and universities accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Certain schools may have English, math, science and foreign language education prerequisites for prospective students.
Students will participate in design projects and learn theoretical problem-solving, data collection and research techniques. They participate in various classroom and laboratory courses, which may include courses in:
- Engineering design
- Structural geology
Master's Degree in Natural Gas Engineering
Individuals who wish to further enhance their studies and increase employment opportunities may decide to obtain a master's degree. Certain colleges and universities offer Master of Science (M.S.) and Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) degrees in chemical engineering or in energy and mineral engineering with a concentration in petroleum and natural gas. Some of these programs may be completed in one academic year plus a summer semester, but programs requiring thesis research may require additional time.
In addition to fieldwork, thesis research and teaching assistantships, graduate students may have the opportunity to interact with companies, industry professionals and other specialists, including geophysicists, environmental safety experts and geologists. Engineering courses in the master's track include:
- Advanced thermodynamics
- Continuum mechanics
- Directional drilling
- Natural gas production and processing
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Training Programs for Natural Gas Engineering
Certain certificate programs in this field are given at community colleges and are designed for those with high school diplomas looking for entry-level positions as field technicians, while others are geared toward experienced professionals who wish to gain further knowledge of the industry. Training program lengths may vary, and some may be available online.
Students can gain knowledge in areas of natural gas engineering through courses such as:
- Pipeline operations and construction
- Measurement and storage
- Safety practices
- Facility optimization
- Natural gas dehydration
Once licensure and requisite experience are attained, graduates of bachelor's degree programs are presented with a variety of career options. Some positions include:
- Drilling engineer
- Reservoir engineer
- Production engineer
- Sales engineer
Individuals who complete certificate programs and attain recommended certification can find employment in various capacities, such as:
- Certified operations technicians
- Field supervisors
- Maintenance foremen
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for petroleum engineers were projected to increase by 10% over the 2014-2024 decade, which is faster than average for all other occupations (www.bls.gov). In addition, many employment opportunities may include working overseas. The BLS also stated that the median annual wage for petroleum engineers as of May 2015 was $129,990.
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying offers a professional engineering (PE) licensure examination for aspiring petroleum engineers who have completed a 4-year ABET-accredited bachelor's degree program, taken and passed the fundamentals of engineering (FE) exam, become engineers-in-training (EITs) and worked for four years (www.ncees.org). State licensing boards can offer further information.
In addition, the Society of Petroleum Engineers offers voluntary certification to engineers who wish to uphold certain professional standards. Certification is available to those with an ABET-accredited bachelor's degree, licensure or satisfactory FE exam scores, professional references and a minimum of four years' experience in the field.
Individuals who wish to find entry-level employment in the transmission and distribution segments of the natural gas engineering industry can attain Certified Operations Technician (COT) status. This certification is designed for prospective field workers and others who utilize additional knowledge to enhance their careers. Certificates are given at various levels prior to full certification, which is earned after a requisite number of class hours and courses are completed. Courses may be given at community colleges.
Students can earn a bachelor's or master's degree in natural gas engineering to prepare for licensure as petroleum engineers. Graduates of certificate programs can pursue employment as certified operations technicians or field supervisors and superintendents, depending on the type of program they complete.