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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0gVbw2Ynwo.
Quick Facts: Petroleum Engineers
2023 Median Pay $135,690 per year
$65.23 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2022 21,400
Job Outlook, 2022-32 2% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 500

What Petroleum Engineers Do

Petroleum engineers devise methods to improve oil and gas extraction and production.

Work Environment

Petroleum engineers generally work in offices or at drilling and well sites. Travel may be required to visit these sites or to meet with other engineers, oilfield workers, and customers.

How to Become a Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or a related field, such as mechanical, civil, or chemical engineering. Employers also value practical experience, which students sometimes gain through internships.

Pay

The median annual wage for petroleum engineers was $135,690 in May 2023.

Job Outlook

Employment of petroleum engineers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,200 openings for petroleum engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for petroleum engineers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of petroleum engineers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about petroleum engineers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Petroleum Engineers Do About this section

Petroleum engineers
Petroleum engineers devise methods to improve oil and gas extraction and production.

Petroleum engineers devise methods to improve oil and gas extraction and production. They also oversee drilling and offer technical advice.

Duties

Petroleum engineers typically do the following:

  • Design facilities to extract and produce oil and gas from reserves deep underground
  • Develop plans to drill in oil and gas fields, and then to recover the oil and gas
  • Analyze data to improve oil and gas production and reservoir recovery
  • Ensure that oilfield equipment is installed, operated, and maintained properly

Petroleum engineers work with geoscientists and other specialists to explore for oil and gas deposits, or reservoirs, in rock formations underground. After discovering reservoirs, petroleum engineers determine the best methods of extraction through wells on land or offshore rigs at sea. Their tasks may include designing the well, selecting drilling methods and equipment, and designing surface facilities.

Existing extraction techniques recover only a portion of the oil and gas in a reservoir, so petroleum engineers also research and develop new ways to recover more of the oil and gas. For example, workers may inject water, chemicals, or gases into an oil reserve to force out more oil or gas.

The following are examples of types of petroleum engineers:

Completions engineers decide how to finish building wells so that oil or gas flows up from underground. They oversee work to complete the building of wells, such as using tubing or hydraulic fracturing.

Drilling engineers design ways to construct oil or gas wells. They also ensure that the drilling process is safe, efficient, and minimally disruptive to the environment.

Production engineers take over wells after drilling is completed. They typically monitor wells’ oil and gas production. If wells are not producing as much as expected, production engineers figure out ways to increase the amount being extracted.

Reservoir engineers estimate how much oil or gas can be recovered from reservoirs. They also monitor operations to ensure optimal recovery of these resources.

Some petroleum engineers use their knowledge of underground geologic formations to specialize in areas outside of oil and gas. These specialties include carbon capture and storage, geothermal drilling and extraction, and subsurface hydrogen storage.

Work Environment About this section

Petroleum engineers
Petroleum engineers generally work in an office setting but must sometimes work onsite to monitor operations.

Petroleum engineers held about 21,400 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of petroleum engineers were as follows:

Oil and gas extraction 29%
Support activities for mining 16
Management of companies and enterprises 16
Engineering services 13
Petroleum and coal products manufacturing 7

Petroleum engineers generally work in offices or at drilling and well sites. They may travel offshore, to remote areas, or to international locations, sometimes for long periods. Petroleum engineers often visit these sites to meet with other engineers, oilfield workers, and customers.

Work Schedules

Most petroleum engineers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Extended shifts may be necessary when traveling to and from drilling sites or when helping to troubleshoot operations.

How to Become a Petroleum Engineer About this section

Petroleum engineers
Petroleum engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or a related field.

Petroleum engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or a related field, such as mechanical, civil, or chemical engineering. Employers also value practical experience, which students sometimes gain through internships.

Education

College students typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering. High school students interested in studying petroleum engineering may benefit from taking classes in math, such as algebra, geometry, and calculus; and science, such as biology, chemistry, and physics.

Bachelor’s degree engineering programs usually include academic, laboratory, and field work in subjects such as engineering principles, geology, and thermodynamics. College students may have an opportunity to participate in cooperative education programs or internships. Through partnerships with local businesses, these programs allow students to gain practical experience while they complete their education.

Some colleges and universities offer a 5-year engineering program that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who have a master's degree.

Employers may prefer to hire candidates who graduated from an engineering program accredited by a professional association such as ABET.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level petroleum engineer positions. Experienced engineers may obtain a Professional Engineer (PE) license, which allows them to oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public.

State licensure typically requires a bachelor’s or higher degree in engineering, a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, several years of relevant work experience, and a passing score on the PE exam.

Each state issues its own license. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements. Several states require continuing education for engineers to keep their licenses.

The Society of Petroleum Engineers offers optional certification. To be certified, petroleum engineers must be members of the Society, pass an exam, and meet other qualifications.

Advancement

Petroleum engineers may advance to supervise a team of engineers and technicians, becoming engineering managers. For more information, see the profile on architectural and engineering managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Petroleum engineers must be able to evaluate data to monitor and improve production.

Communication skills. Petroleum engineers must be able to explain and present complex, technical information to a variety of audiences, including nontechnical ones.

Interpersonal skills. Petroleum engineers must be able to interact with other types of engineers and with nontechnical oil and gas workers.

Math skills. Petroleum engineers use calculus and other math in their analysis, design, and troubleshooting work.

Problem-solving skills. Petroleum engineers must be able to troubleshoot issues that arise and address them as safely and efficiently as possible.

Pay About this section

Petroleum Engineers

Median annual wages, May 2023

Petroleum engineers

$135,690

Engineers

$102,660

Total, all occupations

$48,060

 

The median annual wage for petroleum engineers was $135,690 in May 2023. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $77,340, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $225,920.

In May 2023, the median annual wages for petroleum engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises $168,190
Oil and gas extraction 158,720
Petroleum and coal products manufacturing 157,590
Engineering services 132,070
Support activities for mining 102,250

Most petroleum engineers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Extended shifts may be necessary when traveling to and from drilling sites or when helping to troubleshoot operations.

Job Outlook About this section

Petroleum Engineers

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Engineers

7%

Total, all occupations

3%

Petroleum engineers

2%

 

Employment of petroleum engineers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,200 openings for petroleum engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

The need for petroleum engineers to help facilitate oil and gas extraction at existing operations is expected to create some demand for these workers. However, increased use of renewable energy and weaker investments in fossil fuel production may limit job growth over the projections decade.

Employment projections data for petroleum engineers, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Petroleum engineers

17-2171 21,400 21,900 2 500 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of petroleum engineers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2023 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Architectural and engineering managers Architectural and Engineering Managers

Architectural and engineering managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in the fields of architecture and engineering.

Bachelor's degree $165,370
Geoscientists Geoscientists

Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth.

Bachelor's degree $92,580
Industrial engineers Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers design, develop, and test integrated systems for managing industrial production processes.

Bachelor's degree $99,380
Mechanical engineers Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.

Bachelor's degree $99,510
Civil engineers Civil Engineers

Civil engineers plan, design, and supervise the construction and maintenance of building and infrastructure projects.

Bachelor's degree $95,890
Chemical engineers Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, physics, and engineering to design equipment and processes for manufacturing products such as gasoline, detergents, and paper.

Bachelor's degree $112,100
Mining and geological engineers Mining and Geological Engineers

Mining and geological engineers design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals for use in manufacturing and utilities.

Bachelor's degree $100,640
Geological and petroleum technicians Geological and Hydrologic Technicians

Geological and hydrologic technicians support scientists and engineers in exploring, extracting, and monitoring natural resources.

Associate's degree $53,440

Contacts for More Information About this section

For information about general engineering education and career resources, visit

American Society for Engineering Education

Technology Student Association

For information about the Professional Engineer license, visit

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying

National Society of Professional Engineers

For information about accredited engineering programs, visit

ABET

For information about certification, visit

Society of Petroleum Engineers

O*NET

Petroleum Engineers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Petroleum Engineers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/petroleum-engineers.htm (visited July 09, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, May 14, 2024

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.