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What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Being a Petroleum Engineer?

Petroleum engineers are specialized workers who have an educational background in engineering and work primarily for oil and gas companies. They locate oil and supervise its extraction by either drilling or injecting chemicals, water or steam into the earth. In addition to supervising the work of drilling teams, petroleum engineers also work to improve the techniques by which petroleum is captured. While a career as a petroleum engineer offers advantages, there are also drawbacks inherent in this occupation.

Petroleum engineers are specialized workers who have an educational background in engineering and work primarily for oil and gas companies. They locate oil and supervise its extraction by either drilling or injecting chemicals, water or steam into the earth. In addition to supervising the work of drilling teams, petroleum engineers also work to improve the techniques by which petroleum is captured. While a career as a petroleum engineer offers advantages, there are also drawbacks inherent in this occupation.

High Pay

The most obvious advantage of a career in petroleum engineering is the high pay. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, petroleum engineers reported an average salary of $138,980 per year in 2011, significantly higher than every other type of engineer. Petroleum engineers who worked for oil and gas extraction companies reported an even higher average salary, $150,890 per year, and the highest-paid 25 percent of petroleum engineers in the United States reported salaries of $172,040 or more per year. Few jobs requiring only a bachelor’s degree have such high pay.

Job Prospects

Very favorable employment prospects are another advantage of preparing for a career in petroleum engineering. While the projected rate of job growth in this field between 2010 and 2020 is just 17 percent, slightly higher than the 14 percent growth rate expected for the American economy as a whole, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that many openings will occur throughout the decade as current workers retire. In addition to the petroleum extraction industry, petroleum engineers also find work in the mining and petroleum manufacturing industries. Keep in mind, however, that finding work in this profession may require relocation.

Working Conditions

The conditions in which a petroleum engineer operate may be unpalatable for some. According to Minnesota career website, petroleum engineers spend long stretches of time sitting in offices studying maps and data, often by themselves. When they are working at drill sites, petroleum engineers frequently find themselves in remote and inhospitable locations. This career may not be the right fit for those who place a high value on frequent interaction with others and comfortable working conditions.

Hours and Schedule

The schedule required of many petroleum engineers is another significant drawback of the career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many petroleum engineers work far more than 40 hours a week, some logging 50 or 60 hours a week. In addition, many petroleum engineers must spend long hours traveling to and from drilling sites, sometimes at short notice, and many employment opportunities for petroleum engineers are inconveniently located in other countries or at offshore drilling sites. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that petroleum engineers often work grueling rotations of 84 hours on and 84 hours off while at drill sites.

2016 Salary Information for Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers earned a median annual salary of $128,220 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, petroleum engineers earned a 25th percentile salary of $97,430, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $179,450, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 33,700 people were employed in the U.S. as petroleum engineers.

Written By: Forest Time

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2 thoughts on “What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Being a Petroleum Engineer?

  1. Thank you for letting us know that the projected percent growth was around 14 percent for a petroleum engineer. I would imagine that companies who need bulk gas storage would want to use a company who has qualified employees. Surely you would think they would do their research to find petroleum services that they can trust.

    1. Hi Ellie, Thanks for blogging, great point, everyone wants an experienced qualified and highly skill workforce. To be honest though this issue has not changed in my 30 years in industry, there are many statistical papers reports and guidance notes prepared every year stating the specific sectors and areas that expertise will be required over the coming years. The trouble is very few companies actually over invest in the resources required, believing it someone else problem to train and qualify skilled professionals for the future and then many post graduates find it hard to gain hands on experience. We are entering a period of labour shortage across all sectors in the coming years and we will again see the type of rates for skilled people hiked to the rates of the 90’s mark my words and watch this space…

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