Study Petroleum Engineering: Degrees at a Glance
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), petroleum engineers develop efficient methods to extract oil and gas from the earth (www.bls.gov). Most petroleum engineers are required to earn at least a bachelor's degree, although graduate programs are available. You may also consider becoming professionally licensed as a petroleum engineer. The path to licensure varies by state, but typically includes graduating from an accredited school, passing two exams and earning four years of work experience.
Similar to other engineering disciplines, petroleum engineers are expected to see an increase in employment. The BLS projected that petroleum engineers would see employment opportunities rise 17% from 2010-2020. The prospects are not as good for engineering managers, who are expected to see a nine percent increase in employment over the same time period. An engineering manager position typically requires experience in addition to a degree.
|Who is this degree for?||Individuals with an undergraduate degree in engineering who are looking to advance their studies|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary)|| - Petroleum engineer ($122,000)*|
- Engineering manager ($122,000)*
|Time to Completion||2 years, full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - Around 30 semester hours|
- Thesis, report or comprehensive exam
|Prerequisites|| - Bachelor's degree, often in an engineering field|
- GRE scores
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)
Master's Degree Programs
Master of Science and Master of Engineering degree programs in petroleum engineering can typically be completed in two years of full-time study. You may complete these programs with a thesis option or take a few additional courses and pass a comprehensive exam. Some programs may offer specific areas for you to specialize in, such as drilling or reservoir production. It is often required or recommended that you have an undergraduate degree in an engineering-related field prior to applying. While enrolled, you may need to meet minimum grade-point average requirements. Unlike undergraduate degree programs, master's degrees in petroleum engineering are not accredited by ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
Pros and Cons
- Petroleum engineers make a higher-than-average median annual salary
- Specialized courses may cover areas like rock mechanics and drilling
- Thesis or non-thesis options are available
- May allow for concentration within certain areas of petroleum engineering
- May have to complete prerequisite coursework if your undergraduate degree isn't in an engineering discipline
- Graduate degree programs in petroleum engineering are not accredited by ABET, Inc.
- Experience may still be required for a management position
Coursework and Requirements
Master's programs in petroleum engineering typically include around five core courses with the other credits being devoted to electives. Additionally, you may need to complete seminar requirements. Some of the courses you may take include:
- Advanced drilling
- Reservoir engineering
- Advanced petroleum production operations
- Surface production operations
- Enhanced oil recovery process
A few petroleum engineering master's programs are available entirely online. Similar to their onsite counterparts, these programs may require you to have an undergraduate degree in an area related to engineering. Online programs often have the same admissions standards and curricula. In addition to the coursework, you may also be required to complete a professional study course that could include a significant report. While many programs are not available entirely online, you may investigate whether or not you can complete some of the required courses through distance learning.
How to Get Ahead with This Degree
You may consider earning a certification offered through a professional organization devoted to petroleum engineering, such as the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). These certifications often require a certain amount of experience and a passing score on a qualifying exam. You may need to earn continuing education to remain certified. Technically, you may need to be experienced with visualization software or cash flow analysis.
You may also consider additional training programs, many of which are offered online. In addition to professional organizations like the SPE, these training programs may be offered through private training companies. These programs can focus on specific topics and they may count toward continuing education credits for your engineering license.