The petroleum industry offers many oil and gas careers for chemists. For aspiring chemists who like to see their ideas in action and reap the benefits, there are many opportunities available in this industry. A chemist works with crude oil to create products we use in our everyday lives. These oil and gas careers have varying duties. Some petroleum chemists may analyze oil spills to create process improvements or create new catalysts or polymers. They may be working with lab instruments in extreme conditions. For example, at some locations, high temperatures or vibrations may be complicating factors. Difficult locations are not uncommon. A chemistry education can be applied in numerous ways in oil and gas careers. A career as a chemist can be exciting, but there are high amounts of responsibility and pressure.
Chemists in many oil and gas careers focus on exploration and production. The downstream areas of the petroleum industry, which include marketing and refining, employ many people in the chemistry field. Biochemistry plays a huge part in oil production because any bacteria that form in the oil can change its quality. This can interfere with production, causing toxic waste and corrosion. For chemists interested in exploration, production, and research, there are many oil and gas careers available. These positions rely on strong computer skills to aid in locating new spots for oil extraction and controlling activities regarding transportation and field operations. In addition, computer technology aids in making decisions regarding operations and functions within the petroleum industry. Polymer chemists have a place in the petroleum industry because crude oil is often the material used to produce polymers. This type of chemist performs very little research, working instead on large real-world projects that have use in the petroleum industry.
Chemists in oil and gas careers must work in a team environment. Collaboration and cooperation is vital to ensure projects are completed by deadline. Being mindful of environmental regulations is of extreme importance. When chemists develop new processes or products, they have to determine how these products or processes will affect the environment. Refinery processes are becoming safer and cleaner, thus helping the environment and creating more oil and gas careers in the process.
Although many oil and gas careers are located out in the oil fields, chemists work primarily in labs. If they do work out in the field, it is usually only for a short period of time while they collect samples. Chemists may often work with chemical engineers, so good communication and teamwork skills are important. Although chemists in oil and gas careers usually work for oil companies, some also work for chemical supply companies or independent companies that work with the petroleum industry. Chemists are often described as practical people who are problem solvers. They enjoy working with others. Although not required, a background or interest in sales or business is helpful.
Oil and gas careers in the chemistry field require a minimum of a bachelor's degree. A master's degree may be required for some advanced positions. For those interested in research positions, a Ph.D. is required. A career as a chemist requires a solid background in several types of chemistry, including physical, organic, and petroleum chemistry. Strong analytical and technical skills are necessary in this field.
The current job market for petroleum chemists is highly competitive. There are not that many oil and gas careers as chemists because of downsizing and a decrease in profits. There is also a lack of research projects available with companies focusing more on solving short-term problems within the petroleum industry. The average entry-level salary for petroleum chemists is around $40,000. The average annual salary for a petroleum chemist with several years of experience is around $81,000, depending on the level of education and experience, company and location. Those working for the government may earn upwards of $100,000.
Last Updated: 08/20/2013
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