Along with a master’s in petroleum engineering – one of the highest-paying master’s degrees – aspiring petroleum engineers can benefit from having strong computer skills. Programming skills have become prevalent computer skills for all kinds of technical career fields, including petroleum engineering. If you’re wondering which computer programming languages you most need to know for this occupation, it’s important to understand how petroleum engineers use programming, which languages are best suited to help you achieve those goals and what other software programs are important in the profession.

How Petroleum Engineers Use Programming

What is the purpose of learning computer programming? While developing a new technical skill is valuable in and of itself, it may not have as much to do with this particular engineering career as you might expect. Computer engineers and software engineers often use programming to create and develop software applications, but this task generally isn’t part of a petroleum engineer’s job duties.

When petroleum engineers use computer programming, they generally do so for one of two reasons. One reason is for the purposes of analyzing data rather than coming up with a new app, program or website. As such, statistical programming is among the most important kinds of computer programming for petroleum engineers to know. The other main reason for petroleum engineers to use computer programming skills is to develop the functions and applications to automate important but tedious mathematical calculations.

Featured Programs

You don’t have to know computer programming to automate calculations. Spreadsheet functions can automate simpler calculations for you. However, programming can become necessary when automating more complex or nuanced calculations and functions.  

The Most Important Computer Programming Languages for Petroleum Engineers

The development software languages petroleum engineers use most, according to O*NET, include R, Python, C++, Java and Microsoft Visual C#. Knowing R is ideal for statistical programming. Learning R allows you to work within statistical analysis software developed by statisticians and define new functions to add and customize functions. C++ is a language that works in conjunction with R. The general-purpose programming language Python primarily serves a different function in the life of a petroleum engineer. Python can be used for automating calculations in petroleum engineering.

Petroleum engineers may also encounter uses for skills in development environment software, such as Eclipse IDE, according to O*NET.

Computer Skills Beyond Programming

Computer literacy is important in this tech-focused field, but programming may not be the skill that matters the most for petroleum engineers. Simulation and modeling software programs and computer-aided design programs – most commonly, Autodesk AutoCAD – are some of the technical types of computer software most in use in this field. Simulation and modeling programs are part of what O*NET categorizes as analytical or scientific software.

One software program widely used across engineering disciplines is MATLAB, a programming and computer platform made by mathematical computer software company The MathWorks, Inc. Similarly, Autodesk’s finite element analysis FEA software helps engineers in all branches of the field calculate and predict how products react to the application of forces that range from heat to vibrations.

Other software programs are specific to the field of petroleum engineering. Computer Modeling Group (CMG), for example, offers reservoir simulation software. IHS PETRA has applications for petroleum engineers in all job roles, including reservoir engineer, drilling engineer, completions engineer and production engineer.

Weatherford’s PanSystem is a well-test analysis program, while its WellFlo program is used primarily in performance tests in the production engineering stage of petroleum extraction. Schlumberger’s line of software products for petroleum engineering applications includes the ECLIPSE reservoir simulator and the Petrel Geology and Modeling suite for 3D geological modeling of reservoirs and more. TRC Consultants PHDWin is a leading reserves and economics software program in the oil and gas industry.

The computer programs that matter in petroleum engineering aren’t exclusive to highly technical applications. Petroleum product extraction is expensive work, and financial analysis software is often used to keep costs under control. Petroleum engineers may also use enterprise resource planning software programs, business intelligence programs and databases.

In the list of skills needed for petroleum engineers, programming is far down O*NET’s list. A few of the most important skills for this occupation are critical thinking, reading comprehension, active listening, complex problem solving, decision making and systems analysis and evaluation.

Additional Resources

Top 10 Highest Paying Engineering Careers

What Are Currently the Hottest Areas of Research in the Field of Petroleum Engineering?

Is Continuing Education Important for Petroleum Engineering?

Which Area of STEM Is Most Important to Be Strong in to Be Successful in Petroleum Engineering?

Which Degree Is Best for a Software Engineer?