If you’re reading this you’re one step closer to a lifetime of high-salary, rewarding, and important work.
There are 1.2 billion cars on the roads now, and within 15 years that number will almost double. Even if some of those are electric (and who wouldn’t want a Tesla?) it’s clear that there will be plenty of need for oil and gas in the future.
That’s where Petroleum Engineers come in. These guys bust their asses finding, extracting, and refining oil and natural gas, and if an asteroid is plummeting towards earth it’ll be Petroleum Engineers who fly up to deal with it.
You’re probably here because you’ve heard it’s the best-paid career in America. And that’s true. The money is outstanding. But what you’ll love even more than your bulging wallet is the creativity, teamwork, and opportunities for travel and personal growth.
So let’s get down to business – you’re looking for the right Petroleum Engineering school. How should you choose one? First, watch this one-minute video that took me about 7 hours to make.
Now let’s get into the ten best schools. For a fuller, more detailed list, you can visit this page.
Our rankings are based on a variety of factors. The most important is the size and age of the Petroleum Engineering program. Then there’s the admittance rate (lower means the school is tougher to get into), retention rates (good schools don’t lose students), graduation rates (a high rate means the teaching is good) and last but not least, cost.
With that in mind, here’s the current top 10.
The Top 10 Petroleum Engineering Schools in the USA, 2017
|2017 Rank||Admissions Info||School Name||State||S:F Ratio||% Admit||Ret. Rate||Grad Rate||P.E. Degrees Awarded|
|1||Texas A&M University||TX||20||67%||90%||79%||245|
|2||University of Texas at Austin||TX||18||39%||95%||80%||206|
|3||University of Southern California (USC)||CA||9||18%||96%||92%||80|
|5||Pennsylvania State University||PA||16||51%||93%||86%||231|
|6||Colorado School of Mines||CO||16||38%||94%||77%||235|
|7||University of Oklahoma||OK||18||78%||85%||66%||188|
|8||University of Tulsa||OK||11||44%||88%||68%||105|
|9||Missouri University of Science and Technology||MO||18||88%||87%||65%||90|
|10||Texas Tech University||TX||22||63%||83%||60%||163|
Online Petroleum Engineering Degrees
It is possible to study Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering online, which might be handy if you can’t commit to a full-time course or can’t relocate.
Your best bet for an online Bachelor’s is probably the University of North Dakota’s College of Engineering & Mines which offers an excellent, ABET-accredited online program. It’ll take between 4-6 years depending on how much time you can invest. Here’s a case study written by someone who went through the program.
For a Master’s, look no further than Texas A&M’s distance learning program. As they’re swamped with requests, you have to send in your application before they’ll read your resume or cover letter.
Is Petroleum Engineering a Good Major?
What Exactly is Petroleum Engineering?
When oil was found in Texas in 1914, the discipline of Petroleum Engineering was born. It’s the study of getting hydrocarbons – oil and gas – from the ground and into my car.
For a more vivid introduction I recommend an excellent documentary on the subject that did well at the Oscars. It’s called ‘There Will Be Blood’ and the opening scene made me want to become a Petroleum Engineer. Another iconic scene that made it into the popular zeitgeist is the ‘I drink your milkshake’ scene, in which the protagonist announces he has used his superior engineering skills to liberate the villain’s oil.
How Do I Become a Petroleum Engineer?
You need different skills. A bit of math, some chemistry, and let’s brush up on geology just for fun. Join some student groups and enrol in the Society of Petroleum Engineers.
All the easy-to-reach milkshake (AKA hydrocarbon) has been… well, reached, and as we start to tackle the harder stuff we need different skills. The future of the industry is advanced computer simulations, reservoir behaviour modeling, and seriously complex automation. Petroleum Engineers in the future will be part oilman, part James Bond baddie.
If you have some natural talent in problem-solving, are creative, and can be a good team player you’ll do well in this industry.
But the first step is to get your degree. Put your zip code into the Campus Explorer widget and within minutes they’ll be helping you to find the right school for you.
What Do Petroleum Engineers Do?
First, find some oil. You can try carrying a stick around until it vibrates in your hands, or you can map the entire surface of the planet (and the ocean floor) looking for likely spots.
After calculating the possible yield and seeing if it’s economical to extract the hydrocarbon, it’s a simple matter to dig miles into the crust of the earth. Simple? Maybe not. Have you seen Armageddon? And that was just a rock in space – imagine doing that in challenging terrain like Oklahoma. (Just joking you guys! Love OK.)
Also on the plus side, you get to operate massive machinery, drive trucks, and if you do destroy that asteroid (comet?) then you never have to pay taxes again.
Petroleum Engineering Internships
Work experience is just as useful to your fledgling P.E. career as your academic results. The easiest way to learn the business is to get in the business.
Get a head start by applying at these well known companies:
- Shell has high GPA requirements, as you’d expect from one of the biggest companies in the USA. The minimum is 3.2 to even be considered. Uniquely, Shell offers an Associate degree through a special internship known as the Operations Technical Internship.
- ExxonMobil, the biggest petroleum exploration and production company in the world, has minimum GPA requirements starting from 3.3. The internships are prized.
- BP hires interns in many technical fields in locations across the USA.
- Marathon Oil is a respected name in the industry and its interns often go on to great things.
- Southwestern Energy Company has some interesting opportunities and is well worth considering.
If you’re looking to travel, do some research on Husky Energy, Encana and Canadian Natural, and Statoil (from Norway).
The Uncertain Future
Nobody knows what will happen in this business, but some things are always true. The oil price goes down and there are layoffs and pessimism. The oil price goes up and it’s whiskies and strippers all round.
All we can be certain of is that oil will remain the number one source of energy for many decades to come. The Center for Strategic and International Studies predict the world’s energy consumption will increase from 549 quadrillion Btu in 2012 to 629 quadrillion Btu in 2020 and then to 815 quadrillion Btu in 2040. What’s going to meet that need? Solar? Sure, some of it.
But let’s get real. The same report states that hydrocarbons will continue to supply the vast majority of the world’s energy use in 2040.
How about another report from the boffins at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. It states:
Fossil fuels will still dominate energy demand in 2040 with a 75% share (compared to about 80% in 2013).
For all the uncertainty that may cloud the sector’s future, one thing is certain. Time and again the oil and gas sector has demonstrated resilience and innovation to adapt to a dramatically changing world. Whatever the future may hold, the oil and natural gas sector will continue to play a vital role in meeting our changing energy needs.
Oil and gas will be the main source of energy for your whole lifetime, and probably way beyond that. Society needs – and will continue to need – creative, intelligent people to get that oil into those cars, and to bring that gas from deep underground into those kitchens.
As older Petroleum Engineers retire, companies are going to pay higher and higher salaries to attract and keep the brightest young minds. The future for anyone just starting out is bright indeed.
Here’s the catch-22 of petroleum engineering education: The best time to start a degree may be at the bottom of an oil price cycle, when students’ first instinct might be to run the other way.
Source: Houston Chronicle