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Compared to other engineering professionals, petroleum engineers have a relatively narrow focus area. In a nutshell, success in this role means effectively and efficiently extracting oil and gas from deposits below the surface of the earth. As such, the work of petroleum engineers sometimes involves a lot of travel — but if they get the job done right and on time, these pros are often handsomely rewarded. However, we’ll turn to that a little bit later.

For now, what are the key responsibilities of these extraction experts on a day-to-day basis? Good question! Top priorities for petroleum engineers today typically include:

  • spearheading oil and gas extraction efforts
  • collaborating with mechanical engineers, drilling engineers, electrical engineers and others in the field
  • applying advanced knowledge of drilling sites, crude oil extraction processes, reservoir engineering and the oil and gas industry in general
  • operating and maintaining vital drilling equipment
  • ensuring that all relevant mechanical and electrical machinery is operating optimally
  • maintaining and servicing key machinery
  • inspecting mechanical and electrical systems on an ongoing basis, and making adjustments as necessary
  • documenting and reporting on technical issues as they arise
  • supervising, mentoring and coaching other team members
  • ordering key equipment and supplies to support engineering operations
  • troubleshooting, servicing and repairing important engineering equipment
  • continually ensuring compliance with applicable local, state and federal regulations
  • keeping colleagues aware of safety practices and “watch outs” relevant to petroleum engineering

how do you become a petroleum engineer?

There's certainly no one set path to becoming a petroleum engineer, but having the right educational background certainly helps. Above all, however, the good news is that the core requirements for becoming a petroleum engineer aren’t so extensive. Just make sure you can check off the following:

  • a bachelor’s degree in engineering — and preferably in petroleum engineering (although a candidate who has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical, civil or chemical engineering, together with relevant work experience, may meet many of the requirements)
  • previous work experience in the field of petroleum engineering

Beyond that, certification, training and licensure can help candidates stand out from the pack, as well — and there are a lot of great resources available online at this point. Check out these top petroleum engineering courses from Udemy, our learning partner, if you aren’t sure where to get started.

what are the key skills of a petroleum engineer?

Petroleum engineers design key tools, systems and processes in the oil and gas space, so they tend to be pretty busy people. To be effective in the role, therefore, it’s crucial that you can do things fast and efficiently — and that requires not only the right technical training, but the right mix of soft skills, too.

Not sure which soft skills to highlight on your resume when applying for roles? No worries. Just do what you can to include the following, which should definitely bring the right kind of attention to your candidacy:

  • strategic thinking
  • strategic planning
  • organization and time management
  • attentiveness to detail
  • design thinking
  • cross-functional collaboration
  • written, verbal and presentation skills
  • empathy
  • listening ability
  • emotional intelligence (EQ)

If you can convince a prospective employer that you've got some of these traits, the job should be all yours.

what is the salary of a petroleum engineer?

Petroleum engineers are among the best paid in the engineering profession — on average, for example, they’re better compensated than both civil engineers and electrical engineers. With that in mind, looking at the latest data, average salaries for these highly in-demand pros can be grouped into three tiers — low, middle and high — depending on a host of factors, such as your location, market, responsibilities and previous professional experience.

Those tiers are as follows:







Your best bet, however, if you want to get the most relevant salary information, is to check out our free salary comparison tool. It can help you discover data about compensation for petroleum engineering roles in many different markets.

key takeaways

We've spelled out what petroleum engineers do, mapped out a few career paths, touched on salary and suggested a few of the ways you can pivot in this direction, if you’re interested. At this stage in the game, the next move is 100 percent up to you.

To recap, so far we’ve covered:

  • what petroleum engineers do
  • background, training, experience and other requirements for this position
  • key skills
  • salary
  • and more

If you’re ready to get busy, start searching for petroleum engineer openings near you with Randstad.