Drill for Success: Petroleum Engineering Careers

Drill for Success: Petroleum Engineering Careers

If you're interested in a career with energy, consider petroleum engineering.

All engineers, be they mechanical, aerospace, nuclear, or petroleum, use skills in logic, science and math to design solutions to technical problems. In petroleum engineering, the problem involves high risk and high reward.

Petroleum engineers find the most efficient, safest, and economical way to extract oil and gas from beneath the earth. Petroleum engineer technicians plan and conduct field inspections of oil and gas drilling operations.

Houston, as home to some of the most well-known oil and gas companies in the world (such as Halliburton and Exxon Mobil) is a prime location for anyone interested in petroleum engineering.

The Work of Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum is used in everything from gasoline to prescription drugs. Resources are scarce, and oil extraction must be designed, tested, and conducted with careful attention to environmental impact and safety.

Much oil and natural gas exists in reservoirs miles beneath the surface of the earth, under non-permeable rock. Petroleum engineers work with geologists to learn more about the rock formations that need to be drilled, and then decide on a drilling method.

Engineers design the equipment and processes to get the most oil and gas out of the reservoir. Processes might include using water injectors to force out more oil, or hydraulic fracturing (also called "fracking"). Fracking actually fractures deep rocks to make them more permeable, and thus the oil and gas they hold more accessible to the well.

However, even the best techniques used to drill produce only a portion of the available oil and gas, and petroleum engineers must design and develop new technologies to extract the most oil while also lowering the cost of operations.

Education and Training

Most petroleum engineers hold at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, though many hold a master's degree or have done some graduate work. Some schools, such as the University of Houston, offer bachelor degree programs specifically tailored to a career in petroleum engineering.

Classes will include mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus), basic sciences, and some humanities and social sciences. Petroleum engineers will focus on subjects like chemistry, geophysics and fluid dynamics.

Continuing education is critical for engineers, so they can keep to keep pace with new technologies and methodologies, and many engineers go on to get a master's degree in engineering or business.


Petroleum engineering jobs in Houston »

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