Students interested in studying petroleum engineering can choose from bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs. A bachelor's degree is the most common requirement for entry-level positions in petroleum engineering. Master's degree programs can lead to career advancement opportunities, while Ph.D. programs may allow candidates to pursue research or collegiate teaching positions. These programs might feature internships and seminars, as well as coursework in thermodynamics, geology and water production control. A high school diploma or GED and SAT mathematics score of 660 or above are common requirements for applying to a bachelor's degree program in petroleum engineering. Applicants to a master's degree program often need a bachelor's degree in engineering or with completed field-relevant coursework.
Graduates of a petroleum engineering degree program could also enroll in short continuing education training programs available through professional associations. These training programs may be offered online and can often be completed within one to two days.
Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering
This is the primary degree held for those entering the field. Summer internships are a component of some programs. Students may be encouraged to pursue a minor in geoscience or another complementary field. Since this degree program is designed to prepare a student for workforce entry, all facets of petroleum recovery and engineering are included. Some petroleum engineering course topics include:
- Thermodynamics in engineering
- Drilling and well design and analysis
- Secondary reservoir recovery
- Subsurface geology
- Fluid chemical properties and processes
Master's Degree in Petroleum Engineering
Master's degrees are available as both practice- and research-oriented programs. Practice-based programs are designed for students to expand their professional skills and undertake a specialization. Those who intend to progress toward a doctorate would pursue the research-based degree. Some schools focus on special environmental concerns directly related to the school's geographic area.
Most of the courses involve in-depth studies of subjects covered in the bachelor's programs. Other graduate-level petroleum engineering topics include:
- Technology of horizontal wells
- Advanced phase behavior studies
- Porous media fluid flow
- Engineering and natural gas
- Complex well arch drilling and completion
Training in Petroleum Engineering
An array of training courses and professional continuing education seminars are available through the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). The SPE also has an e-mentoring program that matches students or beginning professionals with trained professionals. This program isn't restricted by geographic location. Most topics are covered in seminars lasting 1-2 days. Continuing education credit is generally awarded for completion. Some of the topics cover subjects including:
- Pressure transient test analysis
- Production log and cased hole evaluation
- Water production control methods
- Enhanced recovery through chemicals
- Reservoir simulation fundamentals
Popular Careers Options
The field of petroleum engineering comprises several fields of specialization. Some of the specialist designations include:
- Drilling engineer
- Production engineer
- Environmental safety specialist
- Groundwater hydrologist
As petroleum engineers advance in their careers, they may move into a variety of career areas within the industry. These may include:
- Environmental specialist
- Safety engineer
- Groundwater hydrologist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected an employment opportunity increase for petroleum engineers of 10% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS reported in May 2015 a median annual salary for petroleum engineers of $129,990 (www.bls.gov).
Those who wish to go on to education or advanced research might consider pursuing a doctorate. Classes in these programs tend to have a more advantageous teacher-to-student ratio, which enables students to enjoy more individualized attention. This also allows students greater opportunities for classroom focus on a specific research goal. Other schools have industrial or intercollegiate connections that allow students to travel to other geographic areas to perform specialized research in a particular area of interest.
Petroleum engineering students can complete a bachelor's or master's degree to learn more about extracting oil and gas from below the Earth's surface. These programs focus on geology, drilling, and more, as well as provide internship opportunities for hands-on experience.