Diving Into The Right Steps To Take For Becoming A Petroleum Engineer

Posted March 17, 2020 by in Career
petroleum engineer

By 2023, the U.S. will be exporting around 5 million oil barrels daily around the world. We rely heavily on petroleum for many products including bicycle tires, lipstick, and even aspirin to heal our headaches. If you’re a science-lover who’s thinking about getting an engineering degree, and  becoming a petroleum engineer, stick around.

Here’s everything you need to know about starting your career as a petroleum engineer:

What Is a Petroleum Engineer?

A petroleum engineer, or gas engineer, deals with the exploration, extraction, and production of oil and sometimes natural gas.

Petroleum engineers must evaluate oil and gas reservoirs to figure out their profitability and the safest, most efficient ways to drill and recover oil. 

There are three types of petroleum engineers, including:

Completions Engineer

This type of petroleum engineer decides on the best way to finish wells to oil and gas can flow up easily underground. These projects involve using tubing, hydraulic fracturing, or pressure-control techniques.

Drilling Engineer

As a drilling engineer, your duty is to figure out a method for drilling oil and gas wells while considering the cost. You must also ensure the drilling is safe, efficient, and doesn’t destroy the nearby environment.

Production Engineer

Once the drilling is finished, a production engineer takes over. They monitor the well’s oil and gas production and if there isn’t enough, they must find ways to extract more.

Reservoir Engineer

This type of petroleum engineer predicts how much oil and gas can be recovered from reservoirs. They study their characteristics to see which methods are most effective at extracting oil out from the ground. 

What Is the Job Demand For Petroleum Engineers?

Jobs in this sector are predicted to grow 26% from 2012 to 2022, much quicker than average. Because of this, it’s a good idea to consider a career in petroleum engineering.

What Is the Average Petroleum Engineer Salary?

As of February 2020, the average entry-level Petroleum Engineer salary is $94,985. But as a whole, the salary range falls between $86,764 and $105,007.

Where Do Petroleum Engineers Work?

As a petroleum engineer, you’ll spend most of your time between offices and laboratories. Although, you will visit drilling sites for certain periods, often 84-hour rotations, and even go overseas.

It’s important to note that you may work extra hours when traveling.

Steps to Becoming a Petroleum Engineer

To obtain your petroleum engineering degree, you must have a strong foundation in science and math, starting in high school. Studying a foreign language is a major plus as you may be expected to visit other countries.

Bachelor’s Degree

To become a petroleum engineer, you must possess a Bachelor’s degree in either mechanical engineering, petroleum engineering, or chemical engineering. 

Find engineering degree courses that are approved by the Accreditation Board of Engineering (ABET). 

A Bachelor’s degree involves a mix between classroom laboratory, and field studies about engineering principles, geology, and thermodynamics. Overall, it will take four years to complete your Bachelor’s degree and become an entry-level petroleum engineer. 

Even though it’s not necessary, you can also pursue a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in the related field. Doing so means you’ll be considered for management roles, university faculty appointments, or advanced research positions.

Necessary Licenses

After taking online engineering classes, you must work towards getting an engineer license. This means you’ll need at least four years of relevant work experience.

To get the Engineer in Training designation, you must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Then you’ll take the second exam, Principles, and Practice of Engineering, so you can receive the Professional Engineer license.

It’s important to note that this varies state-by-state, as some ask engineers to continue education to achieve their license. If you’re a self-employed engineer, you must also have this license.  

Valuable Soft Skills For Petroleum Engineers 

Apart from certifications, you must also have the relevant skillset. For example, petroleum engineers have:

Analytical Skills

Petroleum engineers are expected to assess complex plans for drilling and foresee any potential flaws before a company pours money and staff into the project.


Drill sites are different from one another so they present unique challenges. Because of this, you must ask questions to figure out how to extract oil and gas.

Interpersonal Skills

On a daily basis, petroleum engineers collaborate with scientists, gas workers, and drillers on each reservoir. You must be able to work alongside others to protect and preserve the company’s huge investments.

Problem-Solving Skills

Spotting problems in drilling plans is a major part of the petroleum engineer’s role. If you overlook an issue, it could put the project in danger and increase the high cost of drilling.  

Computer Skills

Petroleum engineers often work with computers. They must analyze data collected in the field and build models on different drilling methods. 


Once you figure out how to become a petroleum engineer, you’ll start as by being supervised by experienced engineers. Entry-levels engineers will receive formal training and work on increasingly difficult projects with more independence.

Eventually, you’ll become a supervisor to a team of engineers and technicians and potentially be promoted to a managerial position.  

If you’re dedicated to becoming a petroleum engineer, you must go to college to receive a Bachelor’s degree. It’s important you are passionate about science and mathematics as you’ll be expected to make forecasts on drilling reservoirs and work heavily with data.

Hoping to advance further? Get a Master’s or Ph.D. and ensure you have the right engineering licenses. Good luck!

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