Petroleum engineers may work in refineries, designing and testing methods for refining petroleum.
A petroleum engineer works in the oil and gas extraction industry. Petroleum engineers work with geologists to understand the best way to extract oil and gas, and design methods and materials for use in extraction. Petroleum engineers may also monitor drilling operations and develop new methods for improving extraction yields. Petroleum engineers may also conduct research in oil and gas supplies or work in refineries or on drilling rigs.
A bachelor’s degree in engineering or petroleum engineering is required for most entry-level jobs as a petroleum engineer. Some petroleum engineers have undergraduate degrees in mining, geology or geophysics, rather than petroleum engineering, but some coursework in petroleum engineering is usually required. Coursework for a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering generally includes work in mathematics and geology, as well as subjects such as petroleum drilling, reservoir fluids and well performance. Some practical experience, such as an internship, may also be required to complete the degree.
Some petroleum engineers also have a graduate degree in petroleum engineering. In some cases, graduate students obtained an undergraduate degree in geology or civil engineering before deciding to specialize in petroleum engineering. Some petroleum engineers may also decide to obtain an advanced degree in order to qualify for more advanced positions. Available masters degrees in this field include a master of engineering (M.Eng) and and master of science (M.S.). Doctorates in petroleum engineering are necessary for some teaching and research positions.
Many petroleum companies offer on-the-job training programs for entry-level engineers with a university degree in engineering. For example, Exxon Mobile recruits graduates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in petroleum engineering, or another engineering specialty, and employs them as part of a team which includes professional engineers who will assist and mentor the trainee. The trainee will be given a variety of assignments in order to learn a wide range of petroleum engineering skills. Exxon also provides exam preparation and advanced training toward a qualification as a professional engineer.
All petroleum engineers who work in the public sector, or who provide services to the public, must be licensed in order to work without direct supervision. In large companies, engineers who want to work in senior roles are also often licensed. Engineers who are licensed are called professional engineers. In order to be licensed, the petroleum engineer must have at least a bachelor’s degree from a university program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, four years of work experience as an engineer and a passing score on a state engineer licensing exam. The exam may be taken in two stages, with the first exam taken immediately after university graduation and the second exam taken after work experience. After passing the first exam, the engineer is called an engineer in training or an engineer intern.