How to Become a Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum Engineer Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $106,970
Avg. Pay / hour $51.43
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 3%

Petroleum Engineers are essential in easing consumers’ need for oil and petroleum.

Without their work, miners would be unable to extract oil and petroleum in an efficient and safe manner.

Consumers would have to go without popular energy sources such as gas for transportation and heating homes.

Petroleum Engineers develop plans geared to enhance oil and gas extraction as well as production methods.

Part of the developing process includes the reassessing of current extraction techniques and determining whether new tool designs or modifications are necessary for a petroleum mining job.

If you want to become a Petroleum Engineer and want to learn more about this profession a good source for information is the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Visit them at SPE to start a membership and begin connecting with other professionals and potential students like you!

Education Requirements to Become a Petroleum Engineer

The creation of an efficient process for oil and petroleum extraction requires a lot of experience and knowledge of mathematics and scientific principles.

The necessary skills in order to become a Petroleum Engineer can only be gained through participation in an Engineering program at the Bachelor’s level.

They typical Bachelor’s degree takes an average of four years to complete in which a student will learn a lot of information regarding Engineering principles and practices.

Petroleum Engineering is considered a specific branch of Engineering.

There are only approximately 20 schools and universities with a Petroleum Engineering program including schools such as Stanford University, the Colorado School of Mines and Texas A & M.

A student will need to enter a program where they are able to complete the Petroleum Engineering specialty or a track that is closely related to it.

Along with specializing in a track to become a Petroleum Engineer, students will also take general courses geared to enhancing their overall knowledge regarding engineering and scientific applications.

While in an Engineering program, students will take courses in general engineering, mathematics, physical and life sciences in order to meet the programs requirements.

Students might also be expected to complete courses in the social sciences and humanities to gain a wide range of knowledge.

Petroleum Engineer Job Description

Petroleum Engineers brainstorm and design techniques to extract oil and petroleum from below the earth.

They determine whether new extraction designs and techniques should be sought and are also responsible for managing the drilling and extraction process.

A Petroleum Engineer will need to determine the costs and estimate the amount of oil production that will result from an extraction project.

These professionals also need to determine whether a potential site has the capability to produce enough monetary compensation after drilling.

After analyzing these components, a Petroleum Engineer will suggest the location of a well that will cause ultimate results and make any recommendations to enhance production.

A Petroleum Engineer will also monitor the extraction of oil, assist in solving any problems and administer the installation, maintenance and management of oil field equipment.

Petroleum Engineer Salary and Career Path

Engineers are some of the highest paid professionals with at least a Bachelor’s degree.

According to, the average starting salary for those with this type of degree is approximately $83,100 per year.

The salary range for this people in this profession begins at approximately $57,800 to $166,400 per year.

This specialty in Engineering is expected to grow at a rate of 18% through the year 2018 which is considered higher than average.

This growth is attributed to the fact that this sector needs to develop new resources and extraction methods from the existing sources of petroleum.

In addition, the number of openings in this sector will exceed the number of students graduating from this type of program.

Students interested in working abroad can also rely on the fact that there are plenty of opportunities in this industry outside of the United States and can comfortably make a living with their educational background in Petroleum Engineering.

There are many other specialties within Engineering a student can choose from.

Below is a list of some of the specialties you may also be interested in if math and science is your cup of tea.

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Agricultural Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Electronics Engineering
  • Mining Engineer
  • Nuclear Engineering
  • Acoustics Engineering

As the previous list shows, you can use your knack of science and math to use in many specialties in the Engineering field.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Mississippi- NA -
New Jersey$208,440
New Mexico$127,990
North Dakota$107,280
West Virginia$100,300

The top earning state in the field is New Jersey, where the average salary is $208,440.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New Jersey - $208,440
Alaska - $170,080
California - $160,000
Texas - $151,420
Florida - $147,420
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Petroleum Engineers, OCC Code 17-2171, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do petroleum engineers do?

Petroleum engineers design and develop methods of extracting oil and gas found in deposits below the Earth’s surface.

Their work consists of designing the equipment used for extracting oil and gas, developing plans to drill, and finding ways to inject water, chemicals, steam or gases into a reserve to force out more oil and gas.

Petroleum engineers are also responsible for making sure that the equipment is installed and operated properly and perform surveys, tests, and analyses to evaluate the production of wells.

They work with geoscientists and other specialists to understand geological formations that are discovered.

How much does a petroleum engineer make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for petroleum engineers was $137,170 in May 2018.

How much a petroleum engineer makes depends on several factors, including the industry where they work and their level of experience.

According to, the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000 while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $74,270.

The best-paid petroleum engineers work in management positions; they earned a median annual wage of over $172,000 in May 2018.

How much does it cost to become a petroleum engineer?

Petroleum engineers need a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or a related field, such as mechanical engineering or chemical engineering.

Total tuition costs for a four-year bachelor’s degree program in petroleum engineering are, on average, around $150,000 but the exact tuition costs vary depending on the college and the program you choose.

Once you earn your bachelor’s degree you are ready for employment on an entry-level petroleum engineering position.

Some employers may also require a graduate degree.

The average cost for a master’s degree in engineering is somewhere between $30,000-$40,000 but tuition costs vary widely depending on the school you choose and the program itself.

What is the demand for petroleum engineers?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, employment for petroleum engineers is expected to grow 3 percent from 2018 to 2028; this growth will result in 900 new jobs.

Changes in oil prices are expected to affect employment levels; higher prices encourage companies to invest in new facilities and to expand their production operations, resulting in new jobs for petroleum engineers.

How long does it take to become a petroleum engineer?

In order to become a petroleum engineer, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree, which typically can be obtained in four years.

A master’s degree may also give you an advantage in the job market.

Master’s degree programs last around 2 years.

Entry-level engineers usually work under the supervision of an experienced engineer and, as they gain experience and knowledge, they move to more complex projects which give them more responsibility.

Although licensure is not required for entry-level positions, getting a Professional Engineer license later in your career can help you gain more independence and demonstrate your skills to a potential employer.

Exact licensing requirements vary by state but in order to become a licensed engineer you must pass two exams.

You will need at least four years of work experience before taking the second and final licensing exam.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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