Petroleum Engineer Vs. Drilling Engineer

Although petroleum and drilling engineers work in the same field, the scope and focus of their work differs and they also have different salary expectations. Read on to compare these occupations in greater detail.

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Comparing Petroleum Engineers to Drilling Engineers

Drilling engineers are petroleum engineers that specialize in drilling wells. While petroleum engineers may design equipment and have a wider range of responsibilities, drilling engineers are specifically responsible for producing drilling plans. They typically earn a higher income than petroleum engineers although they have the same educational requirements and job outlook.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)**
Petroleum Engineers Bachelor's degree $100,591 15%
Drilling Engineers Bachelor's degree $111,697 15% (for petroleum engineers)

Sources: *PayScale; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Petroleum Engineers vs. Drilling Engineers

Petroleum engineers can be involved with all aspects of accessing natural resources. They may create equipment that can be used to help extract resources and are typically responsible for overseeing the installation and maintenance of that equipment. They also monitor production levels and conduct research to determine if there are ways to improve production. Drilling engineers specifically focus on the drilling process. They assess drilling sites and determine all of the relevant geological, environmental and safety factors when developing a drilling strategy. They also consider costs so that they produce the safest and most cost-efficient plan for drilling at each site.

Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers typically work in extraction, mining and manufacturing. Their primary objectives involve removing natural resources from the earth. Petroleum engineers are required to have a bachelor's degree in their field and may be expected to earn a Professional Engineer (PE) license to pursue management opportunities. Petroleum engineers travel regularly as part of their duties. Overtime is common for those working in this field.

Job responsibilities of a petroleum engineer include:

  • Creating equipment designs
  • Researching extraction methods
  • Exploring ways to improve well production
  • Overseeing equipment installation
  • Ensuring drilling equipment is properly maintained

Drilling Engineers

Drilling engineers are petroleum engineers that specialize in the drilling process. They concentrate on drilling wells to access oil and gas. Their work requires them to regularly be on location at potential well sites, so travel is normal for these professionals. To prepare to become a drilling engineer it's common to study petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering or another comparable engineering discipline. Drilling engineers need good analytical skills in order to evaluate potential drilling sites effectively and develop budgets for their projects.

Job responsibilities of a drilling engineer include:

  • Evaluating potential well sites
  • Reviewing environmental factors and other safety considerations
  • Studying the geological factors of the site
  • Performing a cost-benefit analysis of drilling options
  • Providing a drilling plan to access oil and gas

Related Careers

Petroleum engineers are involved with designing equipment, so those considering this career may also be interested in becoming a mechanical engineer; both petroleum and drilling engineers confer with geoscientists, so they may also be interested in geological engineering. More information about these careers is available through the links below.

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