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Petroleum Engineers
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Description: what do they do?
Devise methods to improve oil and gas extraction and production and determine the need for new or modified tool designs. Oversee drilling and offer technical advice.
Also known as:
Drilling Engineer, Completion Engineer, Drilling Manager, Production Engineer, Operations Engineer, Completions Engineer, Petroleum Production Engineer, Engineer, Reservoir Engineer, Petroleum Engineer

    What does this information tell me?

    This description is a quick overview of what workers in this career might do.

    "Also known as" shows other common names for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from an O*NET database. Learn more on the Help page.

Career video
00:00
00:00

    Transcript: Creativity is a quality more often associated with artists than engineers, but petroleum engineers need it— to develop new ways to extract oil and gas from below the Earth’s surface, and make old oil wells more productive. Oil and gas deposits reside deep in rock formations, accessible only by drilling wells on land or at sea. Petroleum engineers work with other scientists to map geological formations and determine drilling methods, design equipment, run the drilling plan, and monitor operations. These engineers analyze data to anticipate flaws or complications in a drilling plan before a project begins. They work hard to consider all potential issues, and to quickly address problems that do occur. Most petroleum engineers work in the oil industry… though some work in related manufacturing, or manage companies in the oil industry. They generally work in offices or research laboratories, as well as at drilling sites to monitor operations— often for extended periods. Petroleum engineers work around the world, and must work effectively with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Full-time hours are typical, and overtime is common. Hours are longer at drill sites. Employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering, although some accept a degree in mechanical or chemical engineering as well.
View transcript
Outlook: will there be jobs?
Image. Employment outlook for this occupation
New job opportunities are very likely in the future.

This occupation is:
  • Expected to grow much faster than average


    What does this information tell me?

    Outlook information can tell you whether a career is expected to be in demand in the future—that is, whether there are likely to be job openings if you choose this career. Careers can have one of three outlooks:

    • A Bright outlook means new job opportunities are very likely in the future
    • An Average outlook means that a small number of new job opportunities are likely in the future (less than an 8 percent increase)
    • A Below Average outlook means new job opportunities are less likely in the future

    You can also view local job listings in this field by clicking "Find job openings" above. This can help you see if local businesses are hiring—another way of looking at demand.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET’s Bright Outlook occupations. Note this information is only available at a national level, so even if you selected a state, you’ll only see this information for the whole country.

Projected employment
United States
33,700
2016 Employment
38,800
2026 Employment
15%
Percent change
2,800
Annual projected job openings

    What does this information tell me?

    Projected employment shows how much employment is expected to grow in this occupation over a 10-year period. This can help you decide if this career is a good choice for future job opportunities. You can look at projected employment in your state, or in other states where you might consider living.

    You can see the total number of people employed in this occupation in 2016, the number expected to be employed in 2026, and rate of growth over those years.

    The projections are based on assumptions of unemployment rates and labor productivity growth rates.  While the projected numbers may not be exact, they are helpful to compare one career to another, or one location to another.

    What is the source of this information?

    State-level data come from Projections Central and each state's Labor Market Information office.

    National-level data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections, 2016-26.

Typical wages

Annual wages for Petroleum Engineers in United States
This graph displays wage data.  Find details by selecting the table view.
This chart displays wage data.  Find details by selecting the table view.
LocationUnited States
10%$74,270
25%$103,610
Median$137,170
75%$191,780
90%$208,000+


    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you a range of how much most workers in this occupation earn per hour, in the location that you selected.

    You can select from three views of this data:

    • The Graph shows you wages at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th percentiles. Note that the lowest (10th %ile) wage shown is not necessarily a "starting wage." Instead it means that 10 percent of all workers in this career earn less that this amount, and 90 percent earn more. However, you can assume that you might earn close to the 10th or 25th %ile wages when you start out in most careers.
    • Select "Chart" to see a visual comparison between national wages and wages in the location you selected.
    • Select "Table" to see more wage data the national and local level.

    Please note that wage data are not available at the city or ZIP code level. If you selected a city or ZIP code, you will see wage data for the regional area.

    Also note that in this update, 21 detailed occupations found within the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) were replaced with 10 new aggregations of those occupations; read more about these OES changes.

    You can learn more about wages for this and other occupations by clicking “See more wages” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    The wage information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, 2018 data. For more detailed state wage data, please find the link to your state's wage data program in the Other Resources box.

Education and experience: to get started
People starting in this career usually have:
  • Bachelor's degree
  • No work experience
  • No on-the-job training

Programs that can prepare you:

    What does this information tell me?

    This shows you the typical level of education, work experience, and on-the-job training that most people have when they start in this career. Note that these are not requirements for entering this field, but the information can help you understand how qualified you might be.

    Interested in starting in this career? You can search for education programs in your local area by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Typical education
How much education do most people in this career have?
Chart. Percent of workers in this field by education level attained

    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you the range of education levels that people who currently work in this field have. You can use this to see if you fit in this range. Note that this includes ALL people who work in this field and not just those getting started.

    Interested in getting qualified for this career? You can search for programs that lead to the education needed, in your local area, by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Certifications: show your skills
Let employers know you have the skills to do well at this job.
Earning a certification can help you:
  • Get a job
  • Get a promotion

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find certifications" you'll see a list of national certifications that are related to this career. From there, you can learn how to achieve one of these certifications to help you enter or get ahead in this field.

    What is the source of this information?

    This collection of occupational certifications is collected and regularly updated by CareerOneStop. Learn more at Certification Finder Help.

Licenses: do you need one?
Some states require an occupational license to work in this career.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find license details in your state" you'll see the license name and contact information for the agency in your state that oversees licensing for this field. If you have not selected a location, you'll see a list of all state licenses for this occupation.

    What is the source of this information?

    Information on licensed occupations is gathered in each state by Labor Market Information units under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Learn more at License Finder Help.

Apprenticeships: learn on the job
Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job-training with classroom lessons.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find apprenticeship sponsors" you'll find information that can help you locate apprenticeship opportunities in your state:

    • If there are businesses that have sponsored apprenticeships in this field in the past, you'll find their name and contact information.
    • If there are related occupations that might have apprenticeship opportunities, you'll find links to that information.
    • You'll also see contact information for state and federal agencies that oversee apprenticeship programs.

    What is the source of this information?

    Apprenticeship information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeships, and from CareerOneStop. Learn more at Apprenticeship Finder Help.

Activities: what you might do in a day
  • Analyze costs and benefits of proposed designs or projects.
  • Prepare detailed work plans.
  • Direct quality control activities.
  • Analyze physical, survey, or geographic data.
  • Monitor the productivity or efficiency of industrial operations.
  • Develop technical methods or processes.
  • Explain engineering drawings, specifications, or other technical information.
  • Determine operational methods.
  • Direct energy production or management activities.
  • Resolve operational performance problems.
  • Confer with other personnel to resolve design or operational problems.
  • Direct equipment maintenance or repair activities.
  • Direct installation activities.
  • Maintain operational records or records systems.
  • Prepare technical reports for internal use.
  • Create models of engineering designs or methods.
  • Design environmental control systems.
  • Supervise engineering or other technical personnel.
  • Direct design or development activities.
  • Collect samples of raw materials or finished products.
  • Interpret design or operational test results.
  • Inspect equipment or systems.
  • Research advanced engineering designs or applications.
  • Design industrial equipment.
  • Test performance of electrical, electronic, mechanical, or integrated systems or equipment.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical work activities that people in this career might do on the job. You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More activities” to see more detailed examples of activities for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these activities to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET’s Detailed Work Activities.

Knowledge
People in this career often know a lot about:
  • Engineering and Technology - Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Physics - Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • Administration and Management - Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
  • Economics and Accounting - Knowledge of economic and accounting principles and practices, the financial markets, banking and the analysis and reporting of financial data.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of general knowledge areas that are most commonly required for jobs in the career. Knowledge is typically gained through education and related experience.

    This list can help you learn if you are prepared for a job in this career. It can also help you decide on education or training programs that could help you prepare for the career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Knowledge descriptors.

Skills
People in this career often have these skills:
  • Reading Comprehension - Reading work-related information.
  • Active Listening - Listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions.
  • Speaking - Talking to others.
  • Writing - Writing things for co-workers or customers.
  • Critical Thinking - Thinking about the pros and cons of different ways to solve a problem.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it.
  • Monitoring - Keeping track of how well people and/or groups are doing in order to make improvements.
  • Coordination - Changing what is done based on other people's actions.
  • Time Management - Managing your time and the time of other people.
  • Systems Analysis - Figuring out how a system should work and how changes in the future will affect it.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Thinking about the pros and cons of different options and picking the best one.
  • Active Learning - Figuring out how to use new ideas or things.
  • Social Perceptiveness - Understanding people's reactions.
  • Systems Evaluation - Measuring how well a system is working and how to improve it.
  • Management of Personnel Resources - Selecting and managing the best workers for a job.
  • Science - Using scientific rules and strategies to solve problems.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list the work-related skills most commonly required for jobs in the career.

    This list can help you understand how well your current skills fit this career. It can also help you plan your education or professional development.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Skills descriptors.

Abilities
People in this career often have talent in:
  • Written Comprehension - Reading and understanding what is written.
  • Oral Comprehension - Listening and understanding what people say.
  • Oral Expression - Communicating by speaking.
  • Inductive Reasoning - Making general rules or coming up with answers from lots of detailed information.
  • Problem Sensitivity - Noticing when problems happen.
  • Written Expression - Communicating by writing.
  • Information Ordering - Ordering or arranging things.
  • Speech Clarity - Speaking clearly.
  • Speech Recognition - Recognizing spoken words.
  • Deductive Reasoning - Using rules to solve problems.
  • Near Vision - Seeing details up close.
  • Category Flexibility - Grouping things in different ways.
  • Fluency of Ideas - Coming up with lots of ideas.
  • Mathematical Reasoning - Choosing the right type of math to solve a problem.
  • Selective Attention - Paying attention to something without being distracted.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list of personal qualities that might influence work and are most commonly required for success in this career.

    This list can help you understand if your natural strengths and abilities are a good fit for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Abilities descriptors.

Interests
  • Conventional - Occupations related to Conventional interests frequently involve following set procedures and routines. They include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.
  • Investigative - Occupations with Investigative interests frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. They often involve research and figuring out problems mentally.
  • Realistic - Occupations with Realistic interests frequently involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of work environment-preferences that are most commonly associated with the career. It can help you understand if your natural interests are a good fit for this career.

    Click "Take an interest assessment" for a quick 30-question assessment that can help you understand your interests and see careers that might be good matches for them.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Interest descriptors.

Typical tasks
  • Assess costs and estimate the production capabilities and economic value of oil and gas wells, to evaluate the economic viability of potential drilling sites.
  • Develop plans for oil and gas field drilling, and for product recovery and treatment.
  • Direct and monitor the completion and evaluation of wells, well testing, or well surveys.
  • Analyze data to recommend placement of wells and supplementary processes to enhance production.
  • Monitor production rates, and plan rework processes to improve production.
  • Interpret drilling and testing information for personnel.
  • Specify and supervise well modification and stimulation programs to maximize oil and gas recovery.
  • Assist engineering and other personnel to solve operating problems.
  • Confer with scientific, engineering, and technical personnel to resolve design, research, and testing problems.
  • Coordinate the installation, maintenance, and operation of mining and oil field equipment.
  • Maintain records of drilling and production operations.
  • Write technical reports for engineering and management personnel.
  • Simulate reservoir performance for different recovery techniques, using computer models.
  • Design and implement environmental controls on oil and gas operations.
  • Assign work to staff to obtain maximum utilization of personnel.
  • Coordinate activities of workers engaged in research, planning, and development.
  • Take samples to assess the amount and quality of oil, the depth at which resources lie, and the equipment needed to properly extract them.
  • Supervise the removal of drilling equipment, the removal of any waste, and the safe return of land to structural stability when wells or pockets are exhausted.
  • Evaluate findings to develop, design, or test equipment or processes.
  • Inspect oil and gas wells to determine that installations are completed.
  • Conduct engineering research experiments to improve or modify mining and oil machinery and operations.
  • Design or modify mining and oil field machinery and tools, applying engineering principles.
  • Test machinery and equipment to ensure that it is safe and conforms to performance specifications.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical tasks that people in this career might do on the job.  You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More tasks” to see more detailed examples for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these tasks to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET‘s Tasks.

Other resources

    What does this information tell me?

    These are additional online resources related to this career. You may find different or more detailed information at these sources.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information is collected and maintained by CareerOneStop.