Petroleum Engineer

Job Description

A Petroleum Engineer is responsible for the designing and developing of methods for extracting both natural gas and crude oil from the earth. They are also involved with creating ways to extract these resources from wells that were previously considered dry.

Petroleum engineers are intimately involved in the following processes; determining the best way to build wells, finding the best way to implement the drilling process, using calculations to determine how much resource a well is likely to produce and over what time period, and the monitoring and oversight of the actual extraction process. They may also offer ideas on modern tools and machines that could be developed to assist with the extraction process.

Petroleum Engineers divide their work time between office and the oil fields. The individuals they work most closely with are oil rig personnel and geologists

  • Design equipment and piping systems that will provide the optimal way to extract oil or natural gas
  • Develop methods to use water and chemical injection processes to optimize the ability of wells to produce
  • Evaluate geological reports to devise drilling plans for an oil or natural gas field
  • Oversee the building of wells
  • Determine ways to connect multiple reserves into one well system
  • Monitor the drilling and extraction process and equipment performance
Alternate job titles:

While Petroleum Engineer is the primary occupational title, they can be divided into "specialties" with titles such as Production Engineer, Completion Engineer, Reservoir Engineer, Drilling Engineer and Petroleum Production Engineer.

Petroleum Engineer Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average Petroleum Engineer salary as of 2012 was $130,280 per year with a general salary range of $75,000-$200,000. In the engineering field, this wage rate is above the average for other types of engineers.

While working in the office environment, the Petroleum Engineering salary is earned over the standard 40 hour work week with a little overtime. When working in the field, they will typically work on rotations of several days on duty and then several days off. Their salary is directly affected by experience as EITs are paid at the low end of the scale.

The pay is also affected by industry as those in the oil/gas industry make a higher salary than those in the mining or other industries.

Median Annual Salary for Petroleum Engineer

How to become a petroleum engineer

It is important to note that some employers prefer advanced degrees in the Engineering field for this occupation. At a minimum, Petroleum Engineers are required to obtain an Bachelor's Engineering degree from an accredited college or university. The degree should be in Petroleum Engineering, but a degree in Mechanical or Chemical Engineering will most likely be accepted. All 50 states require a license in order to work as a Petroleum Engineer, at least in the public sector. The prospective Petroleum Engineer will be required to test at two different levels. After the initial test, they will be required to work as Engineers in Training for a period of four years prior to getting their license following the final board exam.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Petroleum Engineer:

The process of becoming a Petroleum Engineer takes a little over eight years. This number includes four years to complete college, four years working as an Engineer in Training, and a few months waiting period for board exam processing.

Educational Requirements:

Prior to entering college, an individual must have a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. A prospective Petroleum Engineer is required to earn a Bachelor's degree in Petroleum, Chemical or Mechanical Engineering. The course study should include Geology, Chemistry, Advanced Mathematics, Thermodynamics, Engineering Principles, Business Management and Physics.


In this particular occupational field, an individual is required to be licensed as opposed to receiving any type of certification.


All 50 states require a Petroleum Engineer be licensed if they intend on applying their trade within the public sector.

The licensing process for a Petroleum Engineer in a two tiered process. After receiving a Bachelor's or Master's degree in the appropriate engineering field, the prospect is required to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and receive a passing score. That entitles the individual to work in the field as a Engineer in Training (EIT). They must work in that capacity for a four year period. After completing their "apprenticeship", they must take and pass the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. After obtaining their license, some states have a continuing education requirement.

Job Outlook