Petroleum EngineerJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends
Oil-based fuels and chemical compounds are vital to the world economy. A petroleum engineer designs the equipment and systems used to extract oil and gas used in the creation of these products. Petroleum engineers design drill equipment for onshore and offshore activities and recommend plans based on the cost, the effort involved, and the potential return on investment of time and resources. Petroleum engineers also evaluate the production of oil and gas wells through surveys and testing.
Petroleum engineers work with geoscientists and other specialists to understand the rock formations surrounding oil and gas deposits. For this reason, petroleum engineers must possess interpersonal communication and teamwork skills. A petroleum engineer must also have advanced research skills, as they are often required to find new ways to extract as much oil and gas as possible from underground reserves.
Sample job description
Do you love designing and supervising hands-on projects? Do you like creating machines that do their jobs with maximum efficiency while protecting the surrounding environment? If so, you might be the perfect fit for our company. Petroleum engineers use their mastery of mathematics, engineering, and geology to design and implement extraction methods for petroleum. They locate and devise methods of extraction and develop cost-efficient, effective methods of recovery while developing new ways to do so. They generally have strong mathematical, analytical, and creative problem-solving skills. Additionally, they’ll be well versed in the best practices of extraction techniques and understand how to analyze, interpret, and monitor geological formations to assess risks and methods.
Typical duties and responsibilities
Design equipment for extracting oil and gas from onshore and offshore reserves deep underground
Create plans for drilling in oil and gas fields, and then recovering the oil and gas
Develop ways to inject water, chemicals, gases, or steam into an oil reserve to force out more oil or gas
Ensure oilfield equipment is installed, operated, and maintained properly
Evaluate the production of wells through surveys, testing, and analysis
Education and experience
This position requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering, preferably with a major in petroleum engineering. Also acceptable are job candidates with mechanical, civil, or chemical engineering degrees. Some employers prefer applicants with a master’s degree or Ph.D. for certain positions.
Required skills and qualifications
Analytical, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
Advanced mathematics skills
Teamwork and interpersonal communication skills
Strong technical writing ability
Experience with database and spreadsheet software
Demonstrated expertise in solving highly technical problems
Working knowledge of geology or thermodynamics
Master’s degree in engineering, mathematics, or related field
Strong written communication skills
3+ years of experience working in the petroleum space
Average salary and compensation
The average salary for a petroleum engineer is $124,000 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.
Los Angeles, California
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
New York City, New York
Typical work environment
These engineers will spend a significant amount of time seated at a computer working with software. You should anticipate many hours seated and working, or in an office setting for meetings.
They may be required to visit and test sites for extraction potential, as well as monitor and supervise current extraction sites. These are often loud and caustic locations with potentially dangerous equipment. Long hours of commuting and meetings at various locations can be expected as well.
The typical work hours for a petroleum engineer are from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many petroleum engineers work longer hours to hit project deadlines or troubleshoot production issues.
As petroleum engineers work in a variety of industries, there are many institutions that offer certifications, including:
Registered Landman. The American Association of Professional Landmen is a basic certification demonstrating an understanding of the fundamentals of the land industry, as well as a commitment to continuing the holder’s education. This will show your desire in the chosen career, as well as teach basic underlying skills necessary to perform the job.
Petroleum Engineer. The Society of Petroleum Engineers offers this certification program to drive recognition and establish high personal standards. You’ll need 2 or more years of experience in the field, as well as at least 2 years of education in order to be qualified to take the exam. Additionally, you’ll need to renew this certification every year.
Certified Energy Procurement Professional. The Association of Energy Engineers offers the CEP as a special designation to petroleum professionals who have demonstrated a high aptitude for learning, and a firm understanding of the knowledge, experience, and ethics needed for all activities related to the purchase, sale, and marketing of electricity and natural gas.
This position requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering, preferably with a major in petroleum engineering. Also acceptable are job candidates with mechanical, civil, or chemical engineering degrees. Some employers prefer applicants with a master’s degree or Ph.D. for certain positions. Many companies also require a Professional Engineer (PE) license, which requires a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, on-the-job experience, and a passing score on the Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination. Successful petroleum engineers can advance to overseeing larger-scale drilling and extraction projects and receive greater independence to design and evaluate projects and processes.
US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook
SOC Code: 17-2171
Projected Employment in 2030
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift
According to the professional services firm Deloitte, one key trend in the petroleum engineering field is the decreasing global demand for oil. One reason for that is the push in some countries to move away from dependence on fossil fuels. Another is that petroleum production has increased in several countries, leading to a more secure supply of oil.
Another trend in the industry is the expectation of increased efficiency from oil and gas investors. Despite the global economic slowdown and another slowdown in production from oil and gas wells, investors are looking to petroleum companies to find new ways to save costs. They say investors could be hesitant to spend more money in the oil and gas industry until they see it.
Sample interview questions
Can you describe the methods used to test analyses?
What’s the main advantage of using a pressure drawdown test?
Can you describe well logging?
What is pseudo pressure?
Can you describe bull heading?
What do you use to increase the density and weight of drilling mud?
What’s the significance of drilling mud?
Can you describe drill-stem testing?
What is hydraulic fracturing?
Can you describe proppant and its use?
What is perforation in the context of oil well drilling?
Can you describe desanding and desilting?
What are the advantages of gas injection down the drill pipe?
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