Petroleum Engineer Vs. Reservoir Engineer

May 30, 2020

Comparing Petroleum Engineers to Reservoir Engineers

Reservoir engineers are petroleum engineers who specialize in extracting resources from underground reservoirs. Since these careers are so closely related the training requirements are very similar. While some of their duties are comparable there are some distinctions and reservoir engineers may earn noticeably higher salaries.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2020)* Job Outlook (2018-2028)**
Petroleum Engineers Bachelor's degree $101,421 3%
Reservoir Engineers Bachelor's degree $114,830 3% (for petroleum engineers)

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

Responsibilities of Petroleum Engineers vs. Reservoir Engineers

On a superficial level the work that petroleum and reservoir engineers do is very similar because they share the same primary objective of determining how to remove oil and gas from the earth. Petroleum engineers may concentrate more on developing equipment that can perform this task and oversee its installation and maintenance. They may also work with old wells to determine if they can use new technology to remove resources that haven't been extracted yet and some focus on researching new extraction methods to make drilling more efficient. Reservoir engineers must study the reservoir to determine the potential yield from extraction, develop strategies to effectively remove the oil or gas and oversee the extraction process.

Petroleum Engineers

Four years of postsecondary study are required to become a petroleum engineer. These professionals must have a bachelor's degree and typically study petroleum engineering or a related field, such as chemical engineering. Employers may prefer graduates who have practical work experience so programs that include internships or cooperative-education programs are ideal for preparing for this career. Petroleum engineers primarily focus on providing oil and gas for public consumption. Some petroleum engineers also work in the mining industry. It's common for petroleum engineers to spend a lot of time out of their office visiting locations where wells are being dug or natural resources are being extracted.

Job responsibilities of a petroleum engineer include:

  • Creating equipment that can access oil and gas reserves
  • Developing strategies for effectively and safely accessing oil and gas
  • Overseeing the installation of equipment
  • Monitoring production levels
  • Supervising the construction of wells
  • Conferring with geoscientists and other professionals to learn about drill sites

Reservoir Engineers

Reservoir engineers are petroleum engineers who specifically focus on accessing natural resources that are in reservoirs. They must earn a bachelor's degree and usually study petroleum engineering or a similar discipline, such as mechanical engineering. Reservoir engineers working in the public sector must be licensed and a Professional Engineer (PE) license may be necessary to pursue advancement opportunities. Overtime is common and reservoir engineers typically travel to reservoir sites to perform their duties.

Job responsibilities of a reservoir engineer include:

  • Conducting studies of underground oil and gas reservoirs
  • Working with geoscientists and other professionals to determine reservoir's characteristics
  • Devising a strategy to effectively extract oil or gas
  • Determining how much oil or gas can be removed
  • Overseeing extraction of oil or gas from the reservoir

Related Careers

Some petroleum engineers work in the mining industry and those considering this occupation may want to use the link provided below to learn more about what mining engineers do. Since both petroleum and reservoir engineers work with geoscientists those interested in either profession may be interested in learning more about what a career as a geoscientist entails.

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