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Petroleum Engineer Career - Schools, Salary & Outlook

If you're creative, detail-oriented, and analytical, you might be a good candidate for petroleum engineer training. Petroleum engineers develop technology and methods to drill into the earth and recover oil and gas resources effectively. They collaborate with geologists to determine the formation of the earth where the deposits are, then work out the most efficient method of extracting the maximum amount of gas and oil from the deposit.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that most petroleum engineers work in oil and gas extraction; support activities for mining; and architectural, engineering, and related services. If you decide to become a petroleum engineer, it's necessary that you communicate well, understand a variety of engineering concepts, and have a firm grasp of math and physics.

Petroleum Engineer Salary: 2009 BLS Information

Aspiring petroleum engineers can most likely look forward to an excellent salary. The BLS reports that the mean annual petroleum engineer salary in 2009 was $119,960, and the 90th percentile earned a median salary of $150,310. Starting salaries for petroleum engineers are quite good, since the 10th percentile earned $58,600. The the top-paying states for petroleum engineers are Arkansas, North Dakota, Alaska, Colorado, and California, and the highest-paying metropolitan areas are the following:

  • Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma
  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • College Station-Bryan, Texas
  • Denver-Aurora, Colorado
  • Bakersfield, California

The highest-paying industries were reported as office administrative services, employment services, scientific research and development services, basic chemical manufacturing, and pipeline transportation of crude oil.

The BLS states that most petroleum engineer jobs tend to be located in states that have significant petroleum deposits, including Texas, Alaska, California, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. If you're interested in making the most of a career as a petroleum engineer, consider living in Texas, Oklahoma, or Arkansas, since these states tend to have lower costs of living. If you're looking at cities that can give your salary-to-expenses ratio a boost, consider Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma or College Station in Bryan, Texas since these are some of the highest-paying cities for petroleum engineers, yet both states states boast a low cost of living.

Petroleum Engineer Training: Online and Traditional Programs

A bachelor's degree is the minimum training required for most petroleum engineer jobs. To work as an engineer offering your services directly to the public, you'll need to be licensed as a professional engineer (PE). Licensure typically requires a degree from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, passing a state exam, and four years of work experience. While it's not possible to get all of your petroleum engineer training online, you may be able to complete some of your coursework via distance education.

The career outlook for petroleum engineers is quite good, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thanks to the fact that petroleum engineers should be needed to develop new resources, as well as extract more from the current resources. The employment in this career field is expected to rise by approximately 18 percent between 2008 and 2018.