Pipeline Engineer Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

About this article
An engineer who is involved in gas and oil extraction can earn an average salary of approximately $87,000 to $148,000. Is becoming a pipeline engineer worth the education, training and licensure requirements? Read real job descriptions and career prospects to see if this could be your career.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Pipeline Engineering

Pipeline engineers are responsible for the planning and designing of pipeline systems that carry natural gas and petroleum underground. Continue reading to learn about the pros and cons associated with this career to determine if it is right for you.

Pros
High salary potential ($87,130 average salary for civil engineers; $147,520 average annual salary for petroleum engineers)*
Job opportunities available worldwide**
Opportunity to build new things**
Get to work in teams and develop strong working relationships**

Cons
Field work can include hazardous conditions**
Years of field experience can be required**
Pipeline engineers must maintain current Professional Engineer (PE) licenses**
Need stamina to work in different weather conditions and climates**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Careersinoilandgas.com

Career Information

Job Description and Work Environment

Although many pipeline engineers spend time working inside an office, there may be times when onsite fieldwork is required. If the project is located in Alaska, the engineer may have to brave treacherous weather conditions if an emergency arises. Some pipeline engineers work on offshore drilling projects and may need extra training or credentials in order to personally view the progression of their own projects or troubleshoot a problem. It's also important that these professionals be able to work long hours to meet project demand.

Career Prospects and Salary Information

Because pipeline engineers come from a variety of disciplines, projections and wages will be examined separately. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 2012-2022, employment opportunities are projected to increase 4% for chemical engineers, 5% for mechanical engineers and 26% for petroleum engineers. The BLS also noted that as of May 2014, the annual mean wage for civil engineers was about $87,130, while petroleum engineers showed earnings of about $147,520.

Job Requirements

Education, Training and Licensure

Qualifying for a professional engineering license (PE) is a step-by-step path that begins with formal training. All states require engineers to be licensed and many require the engineer to have at least a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited college program. Licenses also require work experience, but an engineering student can test for a Fundamentals in Engineering (FE) license that will allow him or her to gain experience through on-the-job training co-op and internship work.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Larger corporations generally look for employees with actual experience in pipeline engineering. Most employers also require willingness to work as part of an engineering team and the ability to communicate technical knowledge to professionals of other disciplines. The following are job postings from April 2012:

  • A firm in Houston is looking for someone with a 4-year degree in any engineering discipline and 0-4 years of industry experience. Candidates must also be willing to work both on- and off-shore pipeline projects.
  • An energy firm in Dallas is seeking a team leader for pipeline projects and notes that the right candidate must have a minimum of three years of experience.
  • A Texas company needs a pipeline engineer with at least seven years of experience and the ability to travel internationally. The firm is willing to tailor the job to meet the engineer's experience level and ability.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Learn the Tools of the Trade

Although it isn't generally a requirement to work in the field, many employers consider it a bonus if a prospective pipeline engineer knows trade software. Before hitting the job market, learn how to work with programs such as OffPipe and AutoPipe. Other technical programs used in the field include MathCad and Abaqus.

Get Trade Specific Education

There are individual courses and certificate programs in pipeline engineering offered through accredited colleges. One certificate program is for graduates who want to specialize in subsea pipeline engineering. Another way to gain specific experience is through field internships that can be found through energy corporations, some of which also offer extended education opportunities and scholarship programs. Most internship programs are open to students who are enrolled in ABET-accredited programs and have an FE license.

Alternative Career Paths

If some, but not all, aspects of this career do not fit your goals, you may want to consider other employment opportunities. In some cases, you'll even be working side-by-side with pipeline engineers on project teams.

Environmental Engineer

As an environmental engineer, you can work to develop plans and codes to help keep the environment safe in areas surrounding pipelines. These professionals go through the same engineering education and licensing requirements as pipeline engineers. According to the BLS, environmental engineers were expected to see a 22% increase in job opportunities between 2010 and 2020. As of May 2011, the BLS showed environmental engineers earned an annual mean wage of about $83,000.

Geoscientist

Geoscientist is a broad category that includes an array of disciplines including engineering geologists and petroleum geologists. A geoscientist works both in office settings and in the field. Along with having excellence science skills, geoscientists should be physically fit and able to participate in all-terrain field work. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree in an applicable geoscience field; PE licensing may also be required. The BLS foresaw a 21% increase in job openings for geoscientists in the 2010-2020 decade. In May 2011, the annual mean wage of a geoscientist was nearly $98,000, according to the BLS.

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