Oil Comp Engr
35 Years Experience
I have worked at a major integrated oil company for over 30 years. I have degrees in Civil and Petroleum Engineering. I currently work with safety, health and environmental management systems. I have worked in operations and safety in both the upstream (finding and producing oil and gas) and downstream (refining, chemicals and distributions) areas. I have travelled all over the world. I enjoy my job but have endured both good & bad business cycles as well as good and bad managers.
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There is a higher percentage of women engineers now than when I started 30 years ago, but it is still male dominated as are most engineering fields. I have never felt disadvantaged likely due to the fact that I entered the industry in the days just after the Arab Oil embargo when crude oil prices were high and projected to continue to climb. Oil companies were competing vigorously for engineers, men or women. Also, I was fortunate in that many of the rig superintendents I worked with were my dad's age and had daughters going into the industry. So, if anything, for me it was reverse discrimination when I went to the rigs. The guys had to sleep with the roughnecks, but I typically got my own room. I have noticed some subtle discrimination, however. For example, I notice that at meetings the men often interrupt each other and never get called on it. However, if I interrupt someone, I am chided to be patient and "wait my turn". As with all engineering fields, women engineers do struggle with the on ramping and off ramping if they significant time off (i.e. years) to raise kids. This does not seem to be as big an issue for doctors and lawyers. Also, we still need to make more progress in offering part time work to women engineers.
I think you are confusing profits with return on investment. Yes, oil companies have made a lot of profit in sheer # of dollars but if you look at the capital employed, the rate of return is nowhere near what Apple or Microsoft makes. The other thing to take into account is that oil companies don't control the lion's share of oil and gas reserves any more. The nationalized oil companies in places like Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran and Venezuela control most of the reserves and impact the price of oil and gas.
I would say that it is not extremely common as it is not the place for everybody. However, it is very common for engineers and geologists to start with a large company, get their training and then leave for smaller companies that can't afford to run their own training programs OR they leave to start their own business. The big money (and big risk) is running your own company. You have to get funding but if you have just one big success, you can become very wealthy. I'm a bit risk averse which is why I never took the plunge to go out on my own, plus I liked the environmental side of the business better than the frontline operations. Environmental work is a bit grueling at a consulting firm but at a large company it is a bit more of 9 to 5 job which was good for me and my kids as they were growing up. Also, I was attracted to the fact that, at a large company, there would likely be opportunities to work in different areas of the business without having to change companies and lose seniority and/or benefits. Also, if you don't like your boss, he/she will eventually get transferred (or you will). At a small company, you could get stuck with a bad boss or bad work group for decades.
Mathematics is about so much more than "number crunching". Computers do more than just add lots of numbers. Mathematics is about solving problems and building models that simulate natural phenomena. Engineers either build those mathematical models OR they have to study mathematics and computer science to be able to understand whether the models they use are valid for the problem they are attempting to solve. if you want to delve deeper, I recommend a fascinating book called, " Is God a mathematician?". You can find it Amazon or most large bookstores.
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Any engineering degree is a lot of hard work. You don't necessarily have to be a genius but you have to be very committed. Most engineering schools want to see their students succeed (they are not trying to weed students out like you might find in a pre-med program). Schools I have been associated with offer help sessions, tutors, and office hours for teaching assistants and professors. One of my friends' children attended TAMU and I know that they offer these benefits. It is critical that you take advantage of all of these and never be afraid to ask questions and ask for help. If you don't understand a concept, chances are that at least one other person in the class didn't either but was just too shy to ask the question. I would not advise anyone, however, to pursue petroleum engineering because of the great salaries. You need to enjoy what you do and look forward to going to work every day. If you don't, a great salary won't be enough to keep you going day after day.
If your grades and resume are pretty good, I would try to get on with one of the major oil companies (Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil, etc.) and let them train you. Most of them will pay your tuitiom if you want to pursue a masters degree at night. You will find a LOT of engineers who work as petroleum engineers have a degree in ME, ChE, CE , etc. If your grades are not so great or this is not an option, then consider getting a Master's degree in PE from one of the top notch schools for PE like LSU, Penn State, Univ of TX or Texas A & M. The demand is so great for petroleum engineers right now that you can probably enter their program with a BS in Civil and with a few courses to catch up, get a Masters in PE. The scholarships in PE are pretty good right now. Also, the courses you have taken as a civil will probably be good prequisites for the PE masters courses. For example, I have a BS in Civil and a Masters in PE. When I took courses in geology and casing design, they were a cinch. Tulane University used to have a Masters in PE that was designed just for those with a bachelors in something other than PE. They closed that program in the 1990's but maybe other universities have a similar program. I would probably not pursue a bachelors in PE (I think you would be bored) nor an online degree (I don't think they have credibility yet).
Either one is good. Civil should give you some basics in structural (steel and concrete) as well as soils and geotechnical that will be useful in drilling. Mechanical engineering basics will help out with facilities design and understanding subsurface mechanical aspects. The first two years of both programs should be fairly similar. I would pick the one that you enjoy the most. if you are a glutton for punishment, fido what I did. Get your bachelor's degree and then go to school at niight for your masters in Petroleum while you are working for an oil company and let them pay for it. In that case a mechanical degree is going to make you more marketable. Some oil companies don't hire many Civils.
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