Oil & Gas Engineering Career Options and Requirements

Oil and gas engineering is generally an undergraduate program that prepares students for careers within the diverse field of engineering and possible licensure. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as job outlook and salary info for some career options for graduates.

There are a number of different engineering careers in the oil and gas industries, including options in drilling, production, reservoirs, and sales. As with most engineering occupations, these all typically require a 4-year degree and state licensure.

Essential Information

Oil and gas engineers research, develop and use equipment to safely drill into oil reservoirs and extract oil. Prospective oil and gas engineers enter the industry by graduating from an ABET-approved bachelor's degree program in petroleum engineering or a related field. Bachelor's programs include both general education, as well as courses in petrophysics, thermodynamics and geostatistics. Upon graduating, students might take the Fundamentals of Engineering portion of the licensing exam and become engineers in training (EITs). EITs with four years of documented work experience are qualified to take the second portion of the state licensing exam, Principles and Practice of Engineering. Those who successfully pass the exam become licensed Professional Engineers (PEs). Some states may require continuing education for PEs.

Career Drilling Engineer Production Engineer Reservoir Engineer Sales Engineer
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Additional Requirements PE license may be required by the state or employer PE license may be required by the state or employer PE license may be required by the state or employer N/A
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% for petroleum engineers 10% for petroleum engineers 10% for petroleum engineers 7%
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $156,990 for petroleum engineers in oil and gas extraction $156,990 for petroleum engineers in oil and gas extraction $149,590 for petroleum engineers $107,160

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Engineers may work in office buildings, labs, industrial plants or on site. Oil and gas engineers typically hold a bachelor's degree in an engineering field and a license. These engineers may work in the exploration and extraction process or for equipment manufacturers. Keep reading for an overview of four careers in this field: drilling engineers, production engineers, reservoir engineers, and sales engineers.

Drilling Engineers

Drilling engineers use aerial reconnaissance, magnetometers and seismic surveys to locate oil and gas reservoirs. These professionals specify the appropriate equipment and materials used in order to ensure safe, cost-efficient and environmentally conscious drilling. Duties include estimating potential costs and risks, designing schematics and reviewing performance. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted 10% job growth for petroleum engineers between 2014 and 2024. The mean annual wage for petroleum engineers in oil and gas extraction was $156,990 as of 2015, according to the BLS.

Production Engineers

Production engineers use their expertise to handle daily operations, specifically developing the best strategy to extract petroleum while maximizing profits and lowering operating expenses. Engineers take samples of reservoir rock, monitor production and ascertain the effect of production on the reservoir. These professionals might also be responsible for working with third parties, such as service companies and regulatory agencies. According to the BLS, employment for petroleum engineers is expected to increase by 10% between 2014 and 2024. In 2015, the average annual wage for petroleum engineers in oil and gas extraction was $156,990, per the BLS.

Reservoir Engineers

Reservoir engineers use advanced computer and mathematical models to predict future production. These professionals use geological data and reservoir simulation studies to forecast how much oil can be extracted. Other duties include analyzing pressure, predicting water flood and implementing petrophysical studies to maximize the value of exploration. According to the BLS, employment for petroleum engineers is expected to increase by 10% between 2014 and 2024. In 2015, the BLS reported that the mean annual wage for petroleum engineers was $149,590.

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers call on prospective clients to present new technology and equipment in exploration and extraction. These professionals work with area or regional managers to develop new accounts, as well as with existing customers to troubleshoot problems. Accordingly, engineers have strong knowledge in customer service, equipment repair and new products. The BLS predicted that sales engineers will experience a 7% job growth between 2014 and 2024. The average annual wage for sales engineers was $107,160 as of 2015, according to the BLS.

Due to steady growth, job prospects should be good for qualified engineers in the oil and gas industries. While production, drilling, and reservoir engineers need to rely on comprehensive technical knowledge, sales engineers also need to be able to communicate effectively with clients.


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