Online Petroleum Engineering Degree

Petroleum engineers extract oil and gas from the earth, and must do so while also trying to limit costs, accidents, and environmental damage. Petroleum engineering is a sprawling field, and there’s room for engineers of all stripes. Whether you want to explore potential extraction locations, manage the actual extraction process, or work in research to develop more sustainable engineering practices, you’ll be able to pursue a lucrative career in petroleum engineering.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in petroleum engineering are projected to grow 10% between 2014 and 2024. In large part though, your future job prospects in the field will be affected by the supply and price of oil and gas. As large reservoirs run out, companies will begin venturing into less hospitable areas or put funding into finding new extracting methods for existing places — both of which will increase the demand for petroleum engineers.

Prospective petroleum engineers must be dedicated to a lifetime of studying in the field, since it requires you to understand complex information and best practices. In many cases, these practices are in a constant state of flux as the field grows and new extraction methods are discovered and implemented. Engineers should also be willing and able to work long hours and to travel on short notice. In return, petroleum engineers will enjoy working in an exciting industry that pays well.

Below, we’ve covered bachelor’s and master’s petroleum engineering programs. If you’re interested in becoming a petroleum engineer and you want to study online, read on to learn more about what you’ll learn in school and how the degree can prepare you for a rewarding career.

Online Petroleum Engineering Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Bachelor's $15,551 7.31% 4 years $82,424 $114,950 5.8%
Master's $16,779 6.47% 2 years $93,000 $110,671 N/A
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

Most formal online petroleum engineering degrees start at the bachelor level; two years is simply not enough time to learn the fundamentals of this highly complex field. The discipline is also much less common than many other branches of engineering. Most employers require you to have at least a bachelor’s degree and it is generally true that the higher the degree, the higher your starting salary. From there, your progression in the field largely depends on your work experience and on-site training. Prospective students interested in the field should enroll in programs that are accredited by ABET or the Society for Petroleum Engineers (SPE). Not only will this ensure that your curriculum is up to par with industry standards, but it also allows you to pursue SPE-specific scholarships.

Online Petroleum Engineering Degrees

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Online Bachelor’s Degree in Petroleum Engineering

Most employers want applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in the field. As part of the program, you may have the opportunity to pursue a summer internship or minor in a complementary field, like geoscience. Because the main purpose of the degree is to prepare graduates for the workforce, the curriculum covers all facets of the petroleum field, including drilling, reservoir analysis, and thermodynamics. The base salary for petroleum engineers is over $80,000, well above the national average; the high starting salary also explains why graduates are rarely saddled with high student loan debt.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Secondary Reservoir Recovery, Subsurface Geology, Fluid Chemical Properties and Process, Drilling and Well Design

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Petroleum & Natural Gas Engineering, Geoscience & Engineering, Industrial Engineering

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Environmental Engineer, Geoscientist, Hydrologist, Material Engineer, Petroleum Engineer

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $55,000-$74,999

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Environmental Engineer – 12% growth
    Geoscientist – 10% growth
    Hydrologist – 7% growth
    Materials Engineer – little to no change
    Petroleum Engineer – 10% growth

Online Master’s Degree in Petroleum Engineering

Those looking to earn a master’s in petroleum engineering online usually want to gain management experience or specialized knowledge in a particular subfield. Most coursework builds upon fundamental knowledge in math, physics, geology, fluid dynamics, and other skills learned in a bachelor’s program. Other requirements include an internship (those already working in the industry can use their job to fulfill this requirement) as well as research and a graduate thesis. Though people with a master’s in petroleum engineering online tend to receive a higher base salary, the petroleum industry prioritizes work experience, and the salary gap between undergraduate and graduate degree-holders is expected to shrink over time.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Advanced Drilling & Well Techniques, Membrane Separation, Reactor Design, Oil & Gas Exploration

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Petroleum Engineering, Petroleum Geochemistry, Minerals Engineering

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Environmental Engineer, Geoscientist, Hydrologist, Materials Engineer, Petroleum Engineer (better chance for a supervisor position with this degree)

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $80,000 to $130,000

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Environmental Engineer – 12% growth
    Geoscientist – 10% growth
    Hydrologist – 7% growth
    Materials Engineer – little to no change
    Petroleum Engineer – 10% growth

Online Doctorate Degree in Petroleum Engineering

A doctorate degree in petroleum engineering is useful for those looking to pursue advanced or specialized research in the field. Classes are small and most of your work in the program will be research specific to your interests. Many, if not all, doctoral candidates have significant work experience in petroleum engineering; many are also interested in a career in academia.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Strategic Technology Management, Operational Research, Application of Systems Theory, The Impact & Process Optimization of Technology

  • COMMON MAJORS

    DBA and PhD, Business Administration – Management of Engineering & Technology, Petroleum Engineering, Engineering Physics, Systems Engineering

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Environmental Engineer, Geoscientist, Hydrologist, Materials Engineer, Petroleum Engineer, Postsecondary Teacher

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $70,000 to $130,000 per year

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Environmental Engineer – 12% growth
    Geoscientist – 10% growth
    Hydrologist – 7% growth
    Materials Engineer – little to no change
    Petroleum Engineer – 10% growth
    Postsecondary Teacher (engineering, math, science, etc.) – 13% growth

Online Petroleum Engineering Choose Your Career

Average Petroleum Engineering Salaries

$83,470
$91,310
$89,700
$129,990

Industrial Engineers

Salary: $83,470
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
1% 241,100 Bachelor's N/A

Because of their varying responsibilities and skill sets, industrial engineers can find jobs in a variety of different industries. In petroleum work, they must monitor the effectiveness of a team’s production process. They work to eliminate waste and inefficiencies and devise systems that integrate all factors of a work scenario into an efficient whole. They may also help material scientists develop more efficient and cost-effective extraction techniques. Successful industrial engineers must learn the in’s-and-outs of the industry and help their company adapt to unexpected market shifts successfully.

Materials Engineers

Salary: $91,310
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
1% 25,300 Bachelor's N/A

These engineers study different types of materials used in a range of products, from engines to biomedical devices. Material engineers working in the petroleum industry predominantly use their knowledge and skills to develop better tools for extracting oil and gas from the earth. This means working with petroleum engineers and geoscientists to test how these tools interact with the substances at a particular reservoir. Because they almost always work in teams, material engineers must communicate well with others.

Geoscientists

Salary: $89,700
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
10% 36,400 Bachelor's AAPG Certification

Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the earth in order to understand its composition and history. In the context of the petroleum industry, geoscientists use their skills to help engineers estimate the size of the deposit at a particular location and to develop the best methods for extracting oil and gas from a particular site. Those pursuing careers as geoscientists must not only learn all they can about their field, but also be able to adapt to different work environments, from laboratories to deserts and fields. Perhaps most importantly, geoscientists must collaborate well because they often work in teams with other engineers and scientists.

Petroleum Engineers

Salary: $129,990
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
10% 35,100 Bachelor's Petroleum Engineering Certification

Petroleum engineers research locations to extract gas and oil from beneath the earth. They also oversee the extraction equipment as it’s being designed and built, and in many cases, directly monitor the project on-site. From there, your job duties depend on what kind of petroleum engineer you are. Drilling engineers, for example, manage the drilling process, from calculating costs to maintaining safety throughout an operation.

Online Petroleum Engineering Professional Requirements

Petroleum Engineering Certification

In addition to an online petroleum engineering degree, those working in the field are encouraged (and sometimes required) to obtain the Petroleum Engineering Certification (PEC). The PEC is accredited by The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), an international body overseeing industry standards and conduct. The PEC is a global credential that testifies to your technical knowledge; because the petroleum industry often involves work outside the United States, the credential is very important for your job prospects.

In order to sit for the PEC exam, applicants must be members of SPE, have a bachelor’s’ degree or its equivalent, and have four years of experience in the industry. The exam itself costs $150 and features 70 multiple-choice questions covering three main areas of engineering: drilling, production, and reservoir. The test is broken down into two 3.5 hour segments with 35 questions per session. Study materials are available through the SPE website and test-takers are allowed to take certain texts into the exam with them. Though this is a one-time exam, certificate holders are required to maintain their standing by participating in at least 16 hours of continued professional development and education each year.

Is it required?

Varies/Recommended

How long will it take?

7 hours