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Petroleum engineer

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Petroleum Engineering Salary

Petroleum Engineering Salaries By Percentile
Percentile 10% 25% 50% 75% 90%
Hourly Wage $36.07 $47.05 $62.64 $88.23 $90.00
Annual Wage $75,030 $97,860 $130,280 $183,520 $187,199

The median salary for petroleum engineers in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $130,280. The top 10% of petroleum engineers earn over $187,199 per year, while the bottom 10% earn $75,030 or less. Petroleum engineering salary ranges are dependent upon the experience of the engineer as well as the location where the engineer works.

A petroleum engineer may expect to work full time, but many work in excess of 40 hours per week. They often are required to travel between drilling sites. In some situations, petroleum engineers work long rotations when they are on-site. A petroleum engineer may anticipate some foreign travel in order to work at various oil and gas sites.

Top Paying Industries

Industry Employment % of industry employment Hourly mean wage Annual mean salary
Oil and Gas Extraction 19,880 10.95 $77.43 $161,050
Management 2,120 .11 $77.25 $160,680
Chemical Manufacturing 270 .19 $70.32 $146,270
Scientific Research and Development 500 .08 $70.09 $145,780
Machinery, Equipment, and Supplies merchant Wholesalers 40 .01 $69.49 $144,540

Top Paying States

State Hourly mean Wage Annual mean salary # Employed Employment/1000 jobs
Oklahoma $76.97 $160,090 3,820 2.49
Alaska $76.46 $159,040 740 2.31
Virginia $74.43 $154,810 1,100 0.30
Texas $74.11 $154,160 21,580 2.04
Kansas $66.69 $138,720 180 0.13

Petroleum Engineer Job Description

A petroleum engineer is someone who creates and develops ways to extract oil and gas from fields underneath the earth’s surface. Many petroleum engineers spend part of their time on location at drilling sites, which may eventually lead to spending months in a foreign country. Typically, foreign assignments are offered to employees with several years’ of work experience to their credit.

Petroleum engineers must deal with gas and oil deposits that are found deep underground, in rock formations. They must work closely with geologists to analyze the type of rock formation that contains the deposit in order to ascertain how best to reach the gas or oil, with an emphasis on safety, efficiency and profitability. The petroleum engineer’s job is to develop the best methods for drilling. In some instances, they may need to actually design special modifications for the drilling equipment. They are often responsible for overseeing the actual drilling operation. Drilling sites can be found on land or at sea (called off-shore rigs).

Petroleum Engineer Duties

  • Develop designs for extraction equipment
  • Develop ways to extract oil and gas from existing wells by updating equipment and methods
  • Develop safe, economic ways to remove more oil from oil reserves by the injection of a material such as water, gas or steam
  • Determine economic and safe ways to drill for gas and oil deposits
  • Complete necessary well and drill safety inspections and certifications
  • Make sure drilling equipment is calibrated and maintained properly

How To Become A Petroleum Engineer

Someone interested in becoming a petroleum engineer must expect to obtain a degree in engineering from a university or college. Obtaining a master’s degree may make a candidate more desirable to prospective employers. Petroleum engineers must also anticipate preparing for and successfully passing a licensing examination.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Petroleum Engineer?

It takes approximately four years to complete the minimum educational requirements to become a petroleum engineer. Many schools offer a five-year program that will allow the graduate to obtain their master’s degree in petroleum engineering.

Education Requirements

Becoming a petroleum engineer requires a candidate to hold a high school diploma or equivalent in order to gain entry into an engineering program at a college or university. The typical bachelor’s program will take four years to complete. Students may expect to take classes on topics such as geology and engineering principles, with work in the classroom setting as well as in the field. 

Many colleges offer students the opportunity to participate in work-study programs near the end of their educational experience in order to obtain valuable experience in the field. Someone interested in the field of petroleum engineering may want to obtain their master’s degree as well, which would allow them to work in research and development or teach at a university level. Holding an advanced degree may increase a candidate’s job prospects.


Certification is not required, but it is available through the Society of Petroleum Engineers.


All states require petroleum engineers to be licensed if they are going to be offering their services to the public. A petroleum engineer who is licensed is then referred to as a professional engineer. In order to be licensed, the candidate must hold a degree in engineering from an accredited program, successfully pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, have particular work experience, and successfully pass the Professional Engineering exam.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobs available to petroleum engineers are expected to grow by 17% for the years between 2010 and 2020. The reasons for this increase include an expectation of retirement of older engineers during that time period, as well as an increased dependency upon oil and gas as sources of energy for people around the world. It is also anticipated that improvements in equipment and methods for extracting oil and gas will create a need to modify existing wells and drilling equipment to make them more efficient.

States With Highest Employment Levels

State Hourly mean Wage Annual mean salary # Employed Employment/1000 jobs
Texas $74.11 $154,160 21,580 2.04
Oklahoma $76.97 $160,090 3,820 2.49
Louisiana $63.32 $131,700 2,090 1.12
California $53.95 $112,210 1,550 0.11
Colorado $65.88 $137,030 1,390 0.63

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