How to Become a Petroleum Engineer

If you are good at mathematics, analyze plans well and devise creative solutions to problems, you might be wondering how to become a petroleum engineer. Petroleum refers to oil and gas used as fuel for transportation, heating and other important functions. Petroleum engineers are the professionals who research and conceptualize methods of retrieving these natural resources from beneath the earth’s crust as well as inventing new techniques for attaining fuel from existing wells. Nearly half of petroleum engineers in the United States work for the oil and gas extraction industry. Others find jobs in mining support or coal manufacturing.

Both companies and individuals use gas and oil to travel, heat buildings, cook and perform other necessary tasks. Securing the amount of petroleum necessary to perform these functions requires the skillful use of special equipment. Petroleum engineers devise the techniques and machines that workers use first to find oil and gas, then to create wells in the underground rock formations that house petroleum deposits and finally to mine oil and gas in the most cost-effective way possible. A petroleum engineer’s work includes developing the strategies that teams use to drill wells, increase access to petroleum deposits and extract oil and gas. Designing and monitoring equipment, such as computers that guide drilling and extraction, also falls under the responsibilities of a petroleum engineer. These professionals also oversee the installation, use and maintenance of equipment. Because they split their time between research laboratories and drilling sites, petroleum engineers may travel extensively and work unusual schedules.

Preparing for a career in petroleum engineering requires a formal education. Candidates should begin by earning a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. While a general background in mathematics and science is helpful, serious students should enroll in a program that is specifically petroleum engineering if possible in order to acquire the most in-depth knowledge in this specific discipline. Students may also choose to pursue an advanced degree to enhance their job opportunities, especially if they have an interest in seeking a management position later in their careers. Upon completing their educational careers and a few years of work experience, aspiring petroleum engineers should take the examination and fulfill the process of earning licensure as a professional engineer (PE). To improve their marketability, these professionals can also seek the petroleum engineer certification from the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Petroleum engineers earn a median salary of $114,080 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In the oil and gas extraction industry, these professionals may earn even more, with the median salary being $123,410 per year. Petroleum engineers also enjoy a positive job outlook, with the BLS anticipating a 17 percent growth in job opportunities over a ten-year period. If you enjoy working with numbers at an advanced level and have the critical-thinking skills to evaluate plans and processes, knowing how to become a petroleum engineer could be your first step toward a profitable new career.

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