Transferring Your Military Training to Civilian Jobs:
How to Become a Petroleum Engineer

By U.S. News University Connection
America's Job Exchange

How to Become a Petroleum EngineerVeterans seeking a post-military career that offers better-than-average pay in a rapidly growing field might discover putting their discipline, mathematical and scientific skills to work pays off big in petroleum engineering. This highly specialized field only requires a bachelor's degreeto enter while relying on many of the same skills that foster a successfulmilitary career.

A Day in the Life of a Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers are tasked with developing and designing methods for extracting natural gas and oil from deposits found deep beneath the earth's surface. They may also be tasked with developing new ways to extract commodities from existing wells.

Petroleum engineers tend to spend a lot of their time working in offices or research facilities, but they may also work directly on drill sites. Site deployment can last for long periods of time and tends to require travel, often out of the country. Professionals in this field are mainly employed by oil and gas extraction companies, but they may also work for mining support services firms, architectural and engineering companies, and manufacturers, among others.

Duties of the Job

While the exact duties required of a petroleum engineer can vary based on the specific post, some of the more common tasks they are assigned include:

  • Designing machinery and equipment to extract gas and oil efficiently
  • Developing ways to inject such things as gas, steam, water or chemicals into a reserve to force out oil
  • Developing drill plans for recovery of gas and oil
  • Providing oversight of wells, well testing and surveys to ensure completion and evaluation
  • Employing computer-controlled drilling or fracturing methods to connect areas of a field to a single well
  • Oversight of equipment installation, maintenance and operation

Breaking into the Field

Petroleum engineers typically have a bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering while mechanical or chemical engineering may also prove acceptable. Since on-the-job training isn't typical in this arena, it's often recommended that students consider cooperative education programs where they can work and learn at the same time. State licensing is required.

Skills for the Job

The field draws on a number of skills that many veterans develop during service. They include:

  • Analytical abilities: Professionals must be able to assess drilling plans, anticipate potential problems and help their employers anticipate problems before they make financial commitments.
  • Creativity: Overcoming and adapting to the challenges of drilling calls for creativity.
  • Mathematical and science skills: Engineers must be able to use calculus and advanced mathematics while also having a strong grasp of geology and chemistry
  • Problem-solving: Strong skills in this arena can help engineers overcome issues with plans and wells as they arise.

Career Outlook

Veterans considering petroleum engineering will find this is a rapidly growing field.

  • The field is anticipated to grow at a 26% rate through 2022 (U.S. Dept. of Labor)
    *The national average for all job fields combined is 11%
  • The median pay for petroleum engineers was $130,280 a year (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

To learn more about other positions in the engineering field or find a specific job, check out thePetroleum Engineer Job Description page here.