As you explore the different engineering career paths, you might be drawn to an occupation with a high rate of pay, a favorable job outlook or an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling across the globe. You don’t have to sacrifice any of these desired qualities if you choose the job that’s a perfect fit for you. Petroleum engineering, the discipline of engineering that primarily involves extracting oil and gas deposits for use as fossil fuels, offers all of these benefits and more. To get started, you will need a bachelor’s degree from an engineering school that is accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering Technology (ABET).
Six-Figure Earning Potential
Money probably should not be the sole factor in choosing a career, but it certainly is an important factor to consider for most students. You want to know that all of the time, effort and tuition dollars you invest into earning your degree will be worthwhile.
As a whole, engineering is a high-paying occupational group. The median salary for engineers of all disciplines is $92,220, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Petroleum engineering is the highest paid engineering occupation, with a median wage of s $132,280. Even in the lowest paying industry among the top employers of petroleum engineers, support activities for mining, the median wage is a six-figure $110,280. At the other end of the spectrum, the highest paying industry, management of companies and enterprises, pays petroleum engineers in leadership roles a median annual salary of $167,950.
Of course, new graduates of petroleum engineering degree programs can’t expect to start off making these six-figure salaries. The median wage takes into account workers of all experience levels, and entry-level positions typically do pay a good deal less than mid-career and senior-level positions. However, even entry-level salaries for this occupation are notoriously high. In fact, at some engineering schools, the average starting salary for petroleum engineering graduates is as high as $78,541.
There is a massive wage gap among petroleum engineers, with the highest paid earning more than $113,210 more than the lowest paid petroleum engineers, according to the BLS.
Rapid Job Growth
Petroleum engineering is a relatively small engineering occupation, at least compared to some of the broader and more established branches of engineering. The BLS reports just 33,700 petroleum engineers working across the U.S., compared to 303,500 civil engineers and 288,800 mechanical engineers.
However, the occupation is also growing at a “much faster than average” rate, according to the BLS. Opportunities across all occupations in all fields are expected to rise by just seven percent over a decade, with engineering occupations expected to see a very modest improvement of eight percent. Petroleum engineering jobs, though, are expected to grow by 15 percent. All in all, another 5,100 jobs for petroleum engineers are expected to appear over the course of a decade.
One reason for this rapid job growth is because there aren’t currently enough graduates of petroleum engineering programs to fill the number of open jobs in the U.S., according to petroleum engineers.
A Chance to See the World
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to languish behind a desk day after day in the same office, some engineering jobs might sound boring. One of the qualities of petroleum engineering that most appeals to people working in the field is its hands-on nature. You may spend some time in an office setting, but you will spend much of your time out in the field, at drilling and well sites.
A role in petroleum engineering is a particularly good choice if you long for the adventure of traveling the world. Travel is a common requirement for petroleum engineering positions, according to the BLS. In some positions, you could end up traveling great distances, even overseas, so it’s important that you view this chance to see the world as a benefit of the career path rather than an unwanted obligation. The work, and particularly the work schedules, can be demanding, but for the right job candidate, the opportunity to visit exotic locations is well worth the challenges.
Drilling sites and offshore oil rigs a just a couple of the work settings petroleum engineers might find themselves in when out in the field.