If you’re passionate about reliable, sustainable energy, seeking a career as a petroleum engineer may interest you. Using geology, mathematics, and physics, petroleum engineers can solve complex problems that support greater energy security. Since energy is a vital component of everyday life, petroleum engineers are in high demand.
Whether you are considering a career as a petroleum engineer or already have some work-related experience, earning a master’s in petroleum engineering will open many doors to job opportunities and competitive salaries. The outlook for this job is excellent, so earning a degree is an investment in your future. Once you are a qualified petroleum engineer, you can work in many environments and often have the opportunity to travel.
This guide covers everything you need to know about getting your education and building a successful career as a petroleum engineer. There are even options to earn your Petroleum Engineering degree online.
What Is Petroleum Engineering?
A petroleum engineer designs and develops methods for extracting oil and gas. Depending on your role and the problem you aim to solve, you will work in an office or at active drilling sites. Travel is often a significant component of this job, which many engineers enjoy, especially when accessing remote places they wouldn’t have an opportunity to see otherwise.
Petroleum engineering overlaps with other engineering disciplines, including civil, chemical, and mechanical engineering. These disciplines play a role in the many unique tasks petroleum engineers are responsible for, such as designing equipment to extract oil and gas from onshore and offshore reserves. Once oil and gas are discovered, you may work with geoscientists to better understand the rock formations that contain the reservoir.
Although oil and gas are the primary focus among petroleum engineers, this field also covers developing petroleum-based products, including the plastics used in consumer products and medical devices. As a petroleum engineer, you will apply scientific understanding and technology in extracting and managing hydrocarbon resources while also aiming to preserve the environment.
Why Get a Master’s in Petroleum Engineering Degree?
Once you earn a master’s in petroleum engineering, you can oversee drilling activities, evaluate potential gas and oil reservoirs, implement recovery schemes, design treatment facilities, and more. Your future will be full of exciting opportunities and challenges. For example, you may be given assignments worldwide since most petroleum companies operate globally. During these assignments, you may need to solve political, technological, and economic problems, making your contribution both exciting and rewarding.
Once you become a petroleum engineer, you can work towards a more specific area of expertise. For example, a completion engineer will mainly focus on the best way to finish wells concerning the flow of oil and gas. In contrast, a drilling engineer will determine the best way to drill wells, focusing on cost and environmental impact. There are also production engineers who oversee oil and gas production and reservoir engineers responsible for all things related to underground deposits.
Regardless of the avenue you choose, a master’s in petroleum engineering degree will prepare you for the next steps in your career. When earning your degree, you’ll gain access to the education and training you need to develop the skills and experience required to succeed as a petroleum engineer. When you get a degree, you’ll also gain more opportunities related to salary and flexible work environments.
Bottom line: Some employers prefer hiring candidates with master’s degrees. Earning your master’s in petroleum engineering degree could mean you are already one step ahead of others based solely on your education. You can go far in this field when your degree is paired with the right analytical, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills. There are always opportunities for advancement down the road. However, coming into this occupation with a master’s gives you the best chance of landing a fulfilling position — which may evolve from there.
How Much Does a Petroleum Engineering Degree Cost?
The cost of a Petroleum Engineering degree will depend on several variables, including the school you attend, the length of study, and whether you opt to earn your degree online.
Many programs across the United States are dedicated to engineering, allowing students to earn their master’s in software engineering or master’s in petroleum engineering. There is some overlap between these two fields of study because petroleum engineers use supercomputers and specialized software to simulate reservoir behavior and analyze exploration data successfully. Most schools will require a set number of credit hours, which is considered when calculating fees.
For example, a master’s degree in petroleum engineering requires thirty credit hours at the University of Houston. Tuition is calculated based on the number of hours, residency status, career level, etc. Earning your degree online will cost around $10,000 for ten credit hours. This cost includes a mandatory online education and student service fee.
Depending on the school you attend, several variables are considered when calculating your tuition. For example, whether you’re from out-of-state or have a military background. Online programs are often cheaper because you’re not paying for the use of on-campus facilities. The online avenue is much cheaper if you need to move away from home to attend school. The cost of accommodations, transportation, and food accumulate quickly, adding tens of thousands of additional costs each year.
If you need financial support, most schools offer some aid in addition to scholarships.
Petroleum Engineering Degree Salary and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the future for petroleum engineers looks bright. From 2020 to 2030, the employment of petroleum engineers is anticipated to grow by 8%. This growth is similar to the average rate for all occupations. Each year, approximately 2,100 openings are expected. These openings will likely become available because of people transferring to other occupations or leaving the industry for retirement. In 2020, there were around 28,500 petroleum engineering jobs.
Oil prices will be one of the most significant variables concerning further employment and anticipated growth. Since petroleum engineers work in oil and gas extraction, prices will likely influence employment. For example, higher prices may lead to increased investments in new production operations or facilities. Exploration for further reserves may also result.
According to the University of North Dakota, more than 90% of its petroleum engineering graduates find jobs in the oil industry. Whether you’re interested in environmental efforts, refining, computer simulation, exploration, or geologic formations, there are many unique niches to discover. All of these begin with your degree and passion for petroleum engineering.
Based on BLS data from 2021, petroleum engineers make a good living. The average pay rate is $62.91 per hour or $130,850 per year. The lowest 10% of petroleum engineers earned less than $78,390, and the highest 10% earned more than $208,000. How much you make as a petroleum engineer will also depend on the industry. For example, the average annual salary in 2021 for those in oil and gas extraction was $141,570, whereas those who provided engineering services made an average of $127,240.
Common Courses in Petroleum Engineering Degree Programs
Many courses are available depending on the school you attend and your area of interest. Some are required to get a degree, and others are classified as electives based on your desired specialization.
Here is a sample of required courses and advanced elective courses:
- Introduction to Petroleum Engineering
- Reservoir Engineering
- Origin/Development of Oil & Gas Reservoirs
- Well Logging: Evaluation of Petroleum Formations
- Well Drilling & Completion
- Petroleum Production Operations
- Advanced Petroleum Production Operations
- Enhanced Oil Recovery
- Horizontal Drilling
- Fundamentals of Hydraulic Fracturing
- Natural Gas Engineering
- Applied Math Methods in Petroleum Engineering
- Petroleum Energy Markets
Other FAQs About Petroleum Engineering Degrees and Programs
What can you do with a Petroleum Engineering degree?
Once you earn your master’s in petroleum engineering, you can begin working toward various specializations. Some sample careers include drilling, natural gas, oil exploration, and oil well engineers. Once you earn your degree and gain workplace experience, you can advance your career, working toward an architectural and engineering manager position. These positions are often the highest-paying jobs.
How long does earning a Master’s in Petroleum Engineering degree take?
There are several factors to consider concerning the time it takes to earn a degree. For example, the online master’s program at the University of North Dakota can be earned either online or on campus. To graduate with a master’s in petroleum engineering degree, you’ll need to commit 1.5 to 2 years of study.
Is the job outlook the same when earning an online master’s degree in Petroleum Engineering?
When you earn your degree, whether online or in-person, most graduates leave with qualifications that are not specific to one or the other. This means that your degree will not say you earned your education online. You will still graduate with a master’s in petroleum engineering and have access to the same opportunities. When someone plans to hire you, they will consider several factors, including your skills and experience. So, your education is crucial, but it is not the only variable.