Petroleum Engineering Bachelor’s Degree

What is the Main Focus of Petroleum Engineering?

Petroleum engineering deals with the production of hydrocarbons—the products of crude oil and natural gas. This above-ground field focuses on recovering fossil fuels from below ground in the most economical and environmentally friendly ways.

Trained to understand the physical behavior of oil, water, and gas deep in porous rock and under high pressure, these skilled engineers make reliable estimations of the volume of a resource’s reservoir.

They form teams with geologists to determine the best methods for depleting reservoirs. Related disciplines include drilling, reservoir simulation, well engineering, petroleum geology, and geophysics.

Since the beginning of petroleum engineering, in the early 20th century, many easily accessed deposits have been depleted. Fuel harvesting has become more dependent on fresh technologies incorporating horizontal drilling and computer modeling.

Drilling in deserts and in deep waters requires today’s engineers to have expertise in intelligent systems, geomechanics, and hydraulics, naming only a few things on their growing list of knowledge bases.

What are the Prerequisites for a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering?

This curriculum combines college-level mathematics with basic sciences, developing a working knowledge of thermodynamics, material properties, fluid mechanics, material strengths, transport situations, and phase behavior (what to expect from resources when working with them).

Students develop competence in well design and analysis, drilling procedures, and evaluation of subsurface geology. They design and analyze systems that produce, inject, and handle fluids, optimizing resource development and management, using reservoir engineering principles and practices. They are proficient with project economics and resource valuation practices for decision-making under risky and uncertain conditions.

Topping off this degree is a design experience, preparing students for engineering practice, using the knowledge and skills acquired in their coursework.

What Kinds of Classes Do I Take for a B.S.?

Here is a sample list of classes you can expect to take according to Texas A&M University


  • Composition and Rhetoric
  • Foundations in Engineering
  • Engineering Mathematics
  • Mechanics
  • Core Curriculum elective
  • Health and Fitness
  • Gen. Chem. for Eng. Students/Lab
  • Electricity and Optics
  • Req. Phys. Activity


  • Comm. for Tech. Professions
  • Physical Geology
  • Engineering Mathematics
  • Statics and Particle Dynamics
  • Petroleum Drilling Systems
  • Core Curriculum elective
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Differential Equations
  • Principles of Thermodynamics
  • Reservoir Petrophysics


  • Geology of Petroleum
  • Petr. Engr. Numerical Methods
  • Reservoir Fluids
  • Transport Proc. in Petr. Prod.
  • Technical Presentations
  • Formation Evaluation
  • Reservoir Models
  • Well Performance
  • Petroleum Production Systems
  • Petroleum Project Evaluation


  • Summer Practice


  • Principles of Electrical Eng.
  • Reservoir Simulation
  • Drilling Engineering
  • Production Engineering
  • Technical Presentations
  • Core Curriculum elective
  • Ethics and Engineering
  • Geostatistics
  • Reservoir Description
  • Technical elective

How Long Does it Take to Earn a Degree?

The four-year curriculum prepares graduates to begin careers in the industry. They have the skills to apply the engineering principles to the problems (and solution methods) analogous to the industry.

A 6-week internship of approved experience in oilfield operation can be required for registration in senior-year courses.

Can I Get a Degree through Online Study?

Schools with online services typically offer only advanced master’s degree programs for students specializing in oil and gas engineering. Texas A&M offers the full coursework for a master’s degree online, but not for B.S. or Ph.D. degrees.

Can I Get A Master’s Degree?

Universities specializing in petroleum engineering offer the full range of degrees. After receiving a B.S., full-time students can usually achieve a master’s in less than 2 years, depending on their specialty.

This degree is practice-oriented. Most courses are in the engineering or scientific disciplines. Texas A&M’s Petroleum Engineering Department offers four types of master’s degree programs.

Day in the Life of a Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers typically design equipment to extract oil and gas, and develop ways to force oil out of wells through injection of water, chemicals, gases, or steam.

They develop drilling plans, survey, evaluate, and test wells. They use computer-controlled drilling to connect separated deposits to a single well. They ensure proper installation, maintenance, and operation of oil field equipment.

Reservoir engineers optimize production with proper well placement and enhanced recovery techniques. Drilling engineers oversee the technical aspects of drilling exploration, production, and injection wells. Production and subsurface engineers direct connections between reservoirs and wells, overseeing downhole monitoring equipment and flow control, sand control, and perforations.

They select surface equipment to separate fluids (oil, natural gas, and water), and they evaluate artificial lift methods.

Emerging career choices involve pollution cleanup, hydrology, and underground waste disposal (the subsurface injection of carbon dioxide to reduce greenhouse gases). Petroleum engineers are also educated in geothermal energy production, in situ uranium leaching, and coal gasification.

The known worldwide oil and gas reserves are larger than ever. Found in diverse areas, these resources provide opportunities for assignments in the Middle East, Asia, South America, Australia, and beyond.

How Much Does a Petroleum Engineer Earn?

Are There Professional Associations for Petroleum Engineers?

The largest group is with the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). This organization publishes substantial amounts of information on the industry. Additionally, there is the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers that represents over 150,000 engineers worldwide.

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