How to Begin a Professional Career as a Petroleum Engineer

How to Begin a Professional Career as a Petroleum Engineer
Petroleum Engineers: A Quick Look
Median Salary $130,280 per annum
Entry-level education Bachelor’s degree
On-the-job training No
Primary employers Oil and gas extraction
Number of positions (U.S.) 38,500
Job Growth (2010-2020) 26% (Much Faster Than the Average Job)
New positions (2010-2020) +9,800

How to Begin a Professional Career as a Petroleum EngineerWhat Is A Petroleum Engineer?

A petroleum engineer devises methods and strategies for extracting oil and gas extraction and production. They may oversee and implement the creation of new drilling operations. Read more.


A median annual salary for a petroleum engineer is $130,280. Read more.

Becoming A Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers must obtain a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in engineering, usually with a specialization in petroleum engineering. Find out how to begin a professional career as a Petroleum Engineer here. Read more.
Find a Local or Online Petroleum Engineer School That’s Right for You

Job Outlook

Job growth for petroleum engineers is projected at 26% from 2012-2022, which is far above the projected national job growth. Oil prices will have a significant impact on the employment opportunities available to new graduates in coming years. Read more.

Petroleum Engineer Salary

How much does a petroleum engineer make? The median petroleum engineer salary was $130,280 in 2012, according to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10% of petroleum engineers earned $187,200 or more, while the bottom 10% earned $75,030 or less. An average petroleum engineer’s salary of $130,280 was significantly higher than that of the average engineer, which was $86,200 in the 2012 study.

How To Become A Petroleum Engineer

A petroleum engineer must have at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering, usually with studies that focused on oil and gas drilling and production. Many petroleum engineering students also seek out co-op engineering programs in order to gain hands-on experience while still in school.

How Long Does It Take To Become Petroleum Engineer?

It usually takes around 4-5 years to become a petroleum engineer. A bachelor’s degree in Engineering typically takes 4 years, but may take 5 if the student participates in a co-operative program in order to gain work experience.

Educational Requirements

In order to become an entry-level petroleum engineer, individuals must possess a bachelor’s degree in engineering. A bachelor’s degree in engineering usually takes 4 years to complete, and the degree must be completed at an accredited university. Like in other engineering disciplines, petroleum engineering students also frequently take co-op programs, where they might work for a petroleum engineering firm during certain semesters in order to gain real world experience as well as course credit. These programs typically add another 1-2 years to a standard 4 year bachelor’s degree. Students who go through co-op programs generally have an easier time finding employment when they graduate, and it can also be an effective way to help finance their education. Some petroleum engineers also obtain a masters’ degree. A masters’ degree is not necessary to become a petroleum engineer, but it can open up employment and advancement opportunities.


Petroleum engineers can attain certification as an SPE Certified Petroleum Engineer under the Society of Petroleum Engineers. In order to become an SPE Certified Petroleum Engineer, applicants must:
  • Possess a bachelor’s degree in engineering
  • Pass an engineering fundamentals exam
  • Show a minimum of 4 years of experience and training in engineering
  • Be a member of the SPE
  • Take a minimum of 16 hours of continuing education each year
Individuals interested in applying for certification can find more information here.


Although licensing is not required in order to gain employment as an engineer, all engineers in the United States must be licensed if they’re offering their services to the public (i.e. as a consultant), or if they want to be recognized as a Professional Engineer. The licensing process includes the following requirements:
  • A bachelor’s degree from an ABET accredited engineering program
  • Passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam
  • Passing the Professional engineering exam
  • A minimum of 4 years of relevant work experience

Additional Information

Petroleum Engineer Job Description

What does a petroleum engineer do? Petroleum engineers are responsible for developing and supervising the implementation of strategies for extracting oil and gas from wells. The majority of petroleum engineers spend time travelling to different oil and gas drilling locations. Some of these assignments may be overseas, or even aboard an off-shore oil rig.


A petroleum engineer’s duties may include:
  • Assessing the production capabilities and economic value of existing oil and gas wells
  • Work with geologists and other specialists to analyze the economic viability and production capabilities of potential drilling sites.
  • Monitoring production rates and developing strategies to improve production
  • Coordinating the installation and maintenance of equipment
  • Research and develop new methods of extracting oil and gas
  • Work with and manage other personnel to ensure the smooth operation of drilling sites

Alternative Job Titles

  • Petroleum engineer
  • Reservoir engineer
  • Drilling engineer
  • Petroleum production engineer
  • Production engineer
  • Operations engineer
  • Completions engineer
  • Drilling manager

Job Outlook

In 2010, there were 38,500 individuals employed as petroleum engineers in the United States. Job growth for petroleum engineers is projected at 26% from 2012-2022, meaning that there will be an additional 9,800 job positions created during that time period. The job growth of 26% for petroleum engineers far exceeded or surpassed the average national job growth rate of 11%. However, these projections will be affected significantly be the rise and fall of oil prices in the coming years. Higher oil prices means oil companies will expand aggressively, leading to a greater push for innovation and new extraction methods, as well as further drilling operations. This means greater demand for petroleum engineers. In addition to traditional careers in oil and gas, there is an emerging demand for petroleum engineering graduates in the fields of underground waste disposal, geothermal energy production, coal gasification, and environmental clean up.

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