There may be a big payoff for earning a master’s in petroleum engineering, which is one of the highest-paying master’s degrees. Still, going back to school takes time. If you’re wondering how long it is going to take you to graduate with your master’s in petroleum engineering degree, that depends on a couple of factors. On average, a master’s degree program in petroleum engineering takes two years to complete. Some graduate petroleum engineering programs are designed to be completed in as little as one and a half years. However, there are factors that can shorten your time to graduation and factors that can make your education take longer.

Factors That Can Make a Master’s in Petroleum Engineering Degree Take Longer

If you don’t have a background in petroleum engineering specifically, you may have some coursework to make up before you enroll or during the course of your graduate program. This means it may take you longer to earn your degree. Although you can become a petroleum engineer with a background in civil, mechanical or chemical engineering, a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering is the preferred preparation for a career in this field, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Students coming to the field from one of these other engineering backgrounds may not have quite enough specialized knowledge of the petroleum engineering branch. To fill in the knowledge gaps, you may have to take foundational courses like Introduction to Petroleum Engineering, Petroleum Fluid Properties, Reservoir Engineering I and the Development of Oil and Gas Reservoirs to enroll in a graduate petroleum engineering program.

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You should also expect your education to take longer if you opt to study part-time instead of full-time. Part-time study in a petroleum engineering master’s degree program can take a minimum of two and a half to three years to complete, potentially doubling your time in graduate school. Still, there are numerous reasons engineers might prefer to study part-time rather than full-time, even if it takes them longer to graduate. You have a better chance of earning your degree without having to leave the workforce as a part-time graduate student, especially if you’re able to take classes in the evenings or online to accommodate your work schedule. You may also be balancing personal commitments, including family obligations or hobbies.

If you plan to earn your master’s in petroleum degree by studying part-time, just be aware that some programs limit how long students have to finish their coursework. To ensure that you’re continuing to make progress, work with your academic advisor.

Factors That Can Help You Earn Your Master’s in Petroleum Engineering Fast

Choosing an accelerated petroleum engineering master’s degree program can help you speed up your timeline to graduation. Of course, you can only fast-track your studies so much, especially in this field. For most master’s in petroleum engineering programs, you will need to complete at least 30 credits of rigorous graduate-level coursework. Choosing a program that requires fewer credits rather than one with more extensive credit requirements could potentially save you time and money, even if the difference is only a few credits.

Given the high entrance requirements for a master’s in petroleum engineering program, you can’t expect to enter the program with advanced standing or test out of courses with a competency exam, the way graduate students in other fields do. You can, however, opt for a program with an accelerated schedule. Students who are willing to forgo a summer break might be able to speed up their progress by enrolling in a petroleum engineering master’s degree program that includes one or more summer semesters in their course schedule.

If you haven’t yet earned your bachelor’s degree, consider enrolling in an engineering school that offers a combined B.S./M.S. in petroleum engineering. These programs typically shorten the time to completion for both degrees to a combined five years by allowing students to start taking graduate coursework – and counting that coursework toward both degrees – as undergraduates.

If you’re not able to earn your degree any faster than the usual one-and-a-half to two years, that’s okay. Your graduate education may include original research, publications, co-ops or internships, capstone experiences and more experiences that are worth the wait.

Additional Resources

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