Becoming an Offshore Piping Engineer: Salary & Job Description

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Get the truth about an offshore piping engineer's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming an offshore piping engineer.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Offshore Piping Engineer

Offshore piping engineers are responsible for designing and installing oil and gas lines in the sea. If you're interested in an engineering career in fuel extraction, check out the chart below for some pros and cons of becoming an offshore piping engineer.

Pros of Being an Offshore Piping Engineer
Petroleum engineers in the oil and gas industry made a median annual salary of about $191,000 as of July 2015; engineers in general working in the industry also earned higher-than-average wages**
Prospective offshore piping engineers can earn bachelor's degrees in various engineering disciplines (mechanical, ocean, civil, chemical, materials)*
Engineers can take a few post-bachelor's continuing education courses to learn pipeline engineering skills****
May have a variety of job duties (designing pipelines, completing calculations, purchasing materials, coordinating installation)*

Cons of Being an Offshore Piping Engineer
Employers commonly require at least seven years of experience*
Must become licensed to work on public projects***
Risk of pipeline failure and resulting emergency situations*
Lack of locale flexibility (jobs are commonly located in Houston, Texas)*

Sources: *Online job postings from September 2012, **Payscale.com, ***U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ****Universities with pipeline engineering training

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Offshore piping engineers design pipeline systems, evaluate piping materials, create materials purchasing plans and oversee construction of ocean pipelines. To fulfill these duties, you need strong knowledge of the oil and gas industry, piping and valve materials, ocean engineering principles and hydraulic engineering calculations. Additionally, you would need to follow offshore piping regulatory guidelines, create detailed work reports and facilitate communications among other engineers, technicians, materials vendors and clients. Jobs are limited in the U.S. due to restrictions on offshore fuel extraction, but positions are also available abroad.

Employment Outlook and Salary

As of March 2015, job growth statistics for offshore piping engineers in particular were not available. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did report 2012-2022 employment change projections for several relevant engineering fields. During that time period, jobs for petroleum engineers were expected to increase 26%, a faster-than-average rate; jobs for civil engineers were expected to increase 20%, which is also faster than average; and jobs for mechanical engineers were expected to increase 5%, a slower-than-average rate.

Payscale.com reported the median annual salaries for several engineering positions within the oil and gas industry. As of July 2015, mechanical engineers in this field made about $113,000, chemical engineers earned around $165,000 and petroleum engineers earned over $191,000.

Education and Career Requirements

The minimum requirement for this career is a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, but employers often prefer candidates with master's degrees. Possible engineering fields of study include mechanical engineering, civil engineering, marine engineering and chemical engineering. Engineering programs often include internships or cooperative work programs so that you can start accumulating practical work experience.

Courses in offshore piping engineering are fairly rare. You may be able to learn about ocean pipelines through courses in offshore structural engineering, marine dredging and coastal engineering. There are also some post-bachelor's professional development course sequences and certificate programs in subjects like pipeline technology, pipeline engineering hydraulics and subsea engineering. These classes can teach you about industry regulations, pipeline design codes, pipeline hydraulics calculations and accumulated strain calculations. You also study pipeline design and construction principles, corrosion of pipe materials, pipeline and valve maintenance and emergency situations.

Licensing

Petroleum and mechanical engineers who work on public projects must become licensed. To be eligible for licensure as a professional engineer (PE), you must complete a bachelor's degree program at a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), obtain at least four years of engineering work experience and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering and the Principles and Practice of Engineering credentialing examinations. Some states require you to complete continuing education courses periodically to maintain licensure.

If you have a degree in civil engineering and plan to work for the public, you also need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam - but your state determines the years of experience and other exams necessary for you to earn the civil engineer (CE) credential.

Necessary Skills

Offshore piping engineers must have hard scientific and math skills as well as soft skills, like people skills. You need to be familiar with codes and regulations regarding offshore piping systems, some of which are international rules. Meticulous attention to detail is necessary to calculate pipeline wall thickness and choose proper materials that can withstand factors like strain and corrosion. Additionally, you often must organize engineering needs into project plans; this process is commonly referred to as FEED (front end engineering design) in the engineering industry. You may need to decide final concept engineering plans, communicate with clients and vendors to arrange costs and coordinate work activities with team members.

What Employers Are Seeking

Online job postings in September 2012 revealed that nearly all offshore piping engineer jobs were located in Houston, Texas. A bachelor's degree and numerous years of experience working on relevant projects were necessary, though a master's degree was preferable. This is often a senior-level engineering job. Check out the job summaries below for an overview of employer requirements.

  • A private engineering and construction business located in the Houston region sought an offshore pipeline engineer to design and oversee upstream and midstream pipeline projects. An engineering bachelor's degree and 7-10 years of experience were required.
  • A major oil and gas offshore engineering company in Houston advertised for a senior piping materials engineer to supervise piping and valve materials purchasing, pipeline design projects and pipeline construction. Minimum requirements were a bachelor's degree, preferably in mechanical engineering, and seven years of work experience; a graduate degree was favored.
  • An energy company looked for a subsea flexible pipe engineer to fill a leadership engineering position in Houston. A bachelor's degree and a minimum of seven years of engineering work, five of which were in the oil industry, were required. A master's degree was preferred. The job involved opportunities to travel to several offshore oil locations across the globe, including South America, Indonesia and West Africa.

Stand Out

Since undergraduate-level engineering degree programs focusing on the offshore piping subfield of engineering are rare, you may want to search for an offshore piping engineering internship that is offered through a company not affiliated with your school; this may help you qualify for entry-level positions upon graduating. Completing independent research related to offshore piping engineering may also help you stand out in the job market as a recent graduate.

Specialized pipeline engineering training is more commonly available through graduate-level courses. And earning a graduate degree can make you more attractive to possible employers. If you don't want to complete a full master's degree program, consider a certificate program or even a few professional development courses. Obtaining your professional engineer (PE) license may help you beat the competition for jobs that don't strictly require a license.

Alternate Careers

Renewable Energy Engineer

If you'd rather apply your engineering talents to creating sustainable energy systems to benefit the planet, consider the field of renewable energy engineering. This is also a niche field, so education options are fairly rare. Degree programs in this field provide you with a foundation in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, energy principles and green building design. You can explore construction techniques for solar, wind, geothermal and biofuel energy systems.

Positions in the field include field engineer, design engineer, renewable system installment engineer or energy auditor. According to Payscale.com in September 2012, the middle 80% of renewable energy project engineers earned salaries between approximately $49,000 and $97,000.

Petroleum Geologist

If you do want to work in the oil and gas industry, but you'd rather be responsible for locating fuel than designing and installing the pipelines to pump it from the ground, you might be interested in a petroleum geologist career. Your job would involve examining geological features and testing samples of soil and water for indicators of below-ground or below-sea petroleum reserves. For the best opportunities in the job market, you may need a master's degree in geology with a petroleum geology specialization.

According to the BLS, geologists in general were expected to have a 21% increase in employment from 2010-2020. The BLS also stated that as long as prices for oil and gas remain high, there should be plenty of job opportunities for petroleum geologists. Most petroleum geologists earned wages between about $50,000 and $157,000 yearly as of September 2012, per Payscale.com.

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