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How to Become a Petroleum

Engineer[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Petroleum Engineers near you!
Petroleum engineers must have a bachelors degree in engineering, preferably in petroleum
engineering. However, a bachelors degree in mechanical or chemical engineering may also
meet employer requirements. Employers also value work experience, so college cooperativeeducation programs, in which students earn academic credit and job experience, are valuable as

Petroleum Engineer Education

Students interested in studying petroleum engineering will benefit from taking high school
courses in math, such as algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; and in science, such as biology,
chemistry, and physics.
Entry-level petroleum engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree programs
include classes, laboratory work, and field studies in areas such as engineering principles,
geology, and thermodynamics. Most colleges and universities offer cooperative programs in
which students gain practical experience while completing their education.
Some colleges and universities offer 5-year programs in chemical or mechanical engineering that
lead to both a bachelors degree and a master's degree. Some employers may prefer applicants
who have earned a graduate degree. A graduate degree also allows an engineer to work as an
instructor at some universities or in research and development.
ABET accredits programs in petroleum engineering.

Important Qualities for Petroleum

Analytical skills. Petroleum engineers must be able to assess complex plans for drilling and
anticipate possible flaws or complications before the company commits money and people to a
Creativity. Petroleum engineers must come up with new ways to extract oil and gas because
each new drill site presents challenges. They must know how to ask the necessary questions to
find possible deposits of oil and gas.
Interpersonal skills. Petroleum engineers must work with others on projects that require highly
expensive machinery, equipment, and infrastructure. Communicating and working well with
others is crucial to protecting and preserving firms huge capital investments.
Math skills. Petroleum engineers use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in
math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Problem-solving skills. Identifying problems in drilling plans is critical for petroleum engineers
because drilling operations can be costly. They must be careful not to overlook any potential
issues and quickly address problems that do occur.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a petroleum engineer. A Professional
Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be

acquired later in ones career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE
can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the
public. State licensure generally requires

A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program

A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam

Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years

A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelors degree. Engineers who pass this
exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting
work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and
Practice of Engineering.
Several states require engineers to take continuing education courses in order to keep their
licenses. Most states recognize licensure from other states if the licensing states requirements
meet or exceed their own licensure requirements.
The Society of Petroleum Engineers offers certification. To be certified, petroleum engineers
must be members of the Society, pass an exam, and meet other qualifications.

Advancement for Petroleum Engineers

Entry-level engineers usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. In large
companies, new engineers also may receive formal training. As engineers gain knowledge and
experience, they move to more difficult projects where they have greater independence to
develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions.
Eventually, petroleum engineers may advance to supervise a team of engineers and technicians.
Some become engineering managers or move into other managerial positions. For more
information, see the profile on architectural and engineering managers.
Petroleum engineers also may go into sales and use their engineering background to inform the
discussion of a product's technical aspects with potential buyers and help in product planning,
installation, and use. For more information, see the profile on sales engineers.

Petroleum Engineer Salaries[About this

section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]
The median annual wage for petroleum engineers was $130,050 in May 2014. 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 $73,990, and the highest 10 percent earned
more than $187,200.
In May 2014, the median annual wages for petroleum engineers in the top industries in which
they worked were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises

Engineering services


Oil and gas extraction


Petroleum and coal products manufacturing


Support activities for mining


Petroleum engineers typically work full time. However, about 2 in 5 worked more than 40 hours a
week in 2014. Overtime may be necessary when traveling to and from drilling sites to help in
their operation or respond to problems when they arise. When they are at a drilling site, it is
common for these engineers to work in a rotation: on duty for 84 hours and then off duty for 84

Job Outlook for Petroleum

Engineers[About this section] [To Top]
Employment of petroleum engineers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster
than the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be favorable because many
engineers are expected to retire.
Oil prices will be a major determinant of employment growth. Because many petroleum
engineers work in oil and gas extraction, any changes in oil prices will likely affect employment
levels. Higher prices can cause oil and gas companies to drill in deeper waters and in less
hospitable places and return to existing wells to try new extraction methods. This means that oil
drilling operations will likely become more complex and will require more engineers to work on
each drilling operation.
Demand for petroleum engineers in support activities for mining should also be strong, as oil and
gas companies find it convenient and cost-effective to seek their services on an as-needed basis.

Petroleum Engineers Job Prospects

Job prospects are expected to be favorable because of projected growth and because many
petroleum engineers may retire or leave the occupation for other reasons over the next decade.

Employment projections data for Petroleum Engineers, 2014-24

Change, 2014-24
Occupational Title




Projected Employment,


Percen Numeri


Essential Information
Orthopedic surgeons are medical doctors who specialize in treating the musculoskeletal system;
they may specialize in areas such as sports medicine or hand surgery. The orthopedic surgery
career path requires 8-9 years of post-baccalaureate education, along with continued
maintenance of board certification.

Required Education

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree and 4-5 year residency

in a hospital

Other Requirements

State medical license and board certification in

orthopedic surgery

Projected Job Growth (20142024)*

14% for all physicians and surgeons

Mean Salary (2016)*

$247,520 for all surgeons

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information
Orthopedic surgeons operate on patients with musculoskeletal problems, including arm, leg,
neck, bone and tissue ailments. Orthopedic disorders and conditions may range from congenital
deformities to musculoskeletal injuries, trauma and tumors. These surgeons perform operations
on patients who are under general anesthesia. The field offers qualified individuals the chance to
build lucrative careers in hospitals, academic medical centers or private practice environments.

Career and Earnings Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasted 14% growth for physicians and surgeons
from 2014-2024, particularly in rural areas of the U.S. where there is a low ratio of physicians to
the population ( The BLS reports that surgeons made an average salary of
$247,520 annually as of May 2016. Because orthopedic surgery is a popular area of specialty,
jobs may be more competitive in traditional environments, such as hospitals and health centers.

Career Requirements
After completing a 4-year bachelor's degree program in biology, pre-medicine or a related field,
aspiring orthopedic surgeons must complete four additional years of medical school, followed by
a 4- to 5-year orthopedic surgery residency in a hospital. The first year of residency usually
covers general surgery, with the remaining years devoted to orthopedic-specific training.
Surgeons wishing to specialize further in subspecialties, such as orthopedic sports medicine or
pediatric orthopedics, must also complete a 1- to 2-year fellowship after their residency.

Required Licensing and Certification

Like all doctors, orthopedic surgeons must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination to
legally practice ( This exam can be taken in several parts, usually while students
are still involved in their residencies. After completing their residencies, orthopedic surgeons
must also pass an exam by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery, a division of the
American Board of Medical Specialties, in order to be certified in their area of surgery
( Recertification is required every 7-10 years.

Skills Required
Orthopedic surgeons must have a thorough understanding of current medical technologies,
medical ethics, pharmacology and physiology. A particular aptitude for musculoskeletal health,
disease prevention and treatment is essential.
An orthopedic surgery career also requires an ability to work long hours and make solid
decisions under pressure. Orthopedic surgeons must stay abreast of new developments in the
orthopedic surgery field.
Orthopedic surgeons complete more than a decade of training, including an orthopedic surgical
residency in a hospital. They must pass the complex USMLE exam to earn their medical license,
then take an exam to become board certified as an orthopedic surgeon. Jobs for physicians and
surgeons of all types are projected to grow at a much faster than average rate from 2014-2024,
and salaries for surgeons averaged nearly $250,000 in 2015.