Although the petroleum industry employs several types of engineers, most engineering jobs in the industry are for petroleum engineers. Most petroleum engineers work for oil companies, although some work as consultants or college professors. Engineers in oil and gas careers are often involved throughout the entire oil extraction process. They not only plan the oil extraction process, but work out in the field supervising workers and making sure the workers know how to properly use the equipment. Petroleum engineers must continually find ways to extract oil in safe and inexpensive ways. They work with other professionals in oil and gas careers, such as geologists, to determine the characteristics of the rocks containing the gas or oil. Petroleum engineers rely heavily on the use of computers to simulate drilling methods and recovery techniques. The duties of a petroleum engineer vary, depending on their specific role within the company. Some engineers focus on economics, maintenance, and safety. Some may work primarily in an office environment, while others may travel often to job sites.

Engineers working in oil and gas careers require at least a bachelor's degree. Depending on the school, a degree in petroleum engineering may be offered. If not, a degree in mechanical or civil engineering, geophysics, geology, or mining is also preferred. The job of engineer in oil and gas careers is complex and highly technical. A degree often takes 4-5 years to complete, due to the number and intensity of courses required. These courses may include math, science, physics, geostatistics, drilling and production, well performance and completion, engineering ethics, and reservoir fluids. Some positions, in addition to a degree, also require licensing and certification. Licensing and certification for these oil and gas careers require education, experience, and performance to a certain standard on exams. A test is often taken while still in school to become an intern. Internships in oil and gas careers provide students with real-world experience in engineering. Interns see the daily workings of a company and get to know basic rules and procedures. After several years of experience, a second test can be taken to become a full-fledged engineer. Some petroleum engineering courses are recommended. For those interested in teaching or research, a master's degree is required.

Oil and gas careers in the engineering field boast the highest salaries. Salaries can vary, depending on education, level of experience, and company. The average starting salary is around $60,000, the highest of any type of engineer. After several years of experience, petroleum engineers can expect to earn annual salaries in the $90,000 to $95,000 range while some engineers in oil and gas careers earn upwards of $130,000. Add bonuses, allowances, and other perks to that amount, and you're looking at salaries for these oil and gas careers nearing $170,000 annually. Consultants often earn the least, averaging $80,000 annually. However, this is still a very high wage for a job that requires only a bachelor's degree.

There are approximately 17,000 petroleum engineers in the United States. This is a fairly small number, considering the number of oil and gas careers available. Petroleum engineers work for oil companies and smaller companies that focus on oil production, exploration, research, and services. They may also work for research institutes, colleges, and the government. Most petroleum engineers work in states where most oil is found, such as Alaska, California, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. Because oil and gas careers are found worldwide, it is not uncommon for Americans to work in other areas of the world where oil is abundant, such as Asia, Europe, or the Middle East.

Oil and gas careers, including those for engineers, are expected to grow steadily in the next decade due to the need to extract more oil. Because there is not a large number of engineering graduates each year, opportunities are abundant with little competition. Although there will be many jobs created in the United States, the best opportunities may be found in other countries.

Oil and Gas Careers - Main

Last Updated: 05/15/2014