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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Yes, you might be able to get a job as a reservoir engineer, but be aware that while companies are not allowed to discriminate based on age, they may feel obligated to pay a competitive salary to you based on your 15 years of work experience. This may or may not make price you out of the market. That said, starting salaries for petroleum engineers probably meet or exceed the salary of a "typical" civil engineer working for a municipality. You should be very candid with potential employers regarding the starting salary you desire. The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) regularly conducts salary surveys so you should be able to see the current starting salaries. Last time I checked, a BSPE was getting around $90k. Also, keep in mind that the industry can change quickly, so it is always a bit of a gamble if you decide to go to school full time and give up your current job. If you can go to school at night while working, it will take you longer but could be less risky. Best of luck to you.
This is not an easy question to answer. Getting a masters degree in any engineering area depends on why you want the degree. In some fields, having a masters degree is a prerequisite for entry. For example, if you want to do research, you need a masters or even a PhD. This is generally not the case for petroleum engineers who want to do entry level work. However, you also need to weigh the cost of pursuing the advanced degree with the benefits it will return. In the USA, someone with a Masters in PE may start at a higher salary than someone with a bachelor's degree, but after 4 or 5 years on the job, the person who is a best performer may command the best salary. Also, it depends on what the hiring environment is like. During some of the down cycles, students may do better to stay in school and get a Master's degree if companies aren't hiring. That's a gamble, but if you can get a good scholarship, it could be worth it. Also, I have interviewed some students who did not get great grades as an undergraduate and they pursued a Master's degree in order to demonstrate that they had turned things around and could master the material. Sorry, that I can't just give you a "yes" or "no" answer, but there are lots of factors you need to consider.
It depends on what you want to do in the oil and gas industry. If you want to stay with structural engineering and work on designing platforms and the like, you would want a master's degree in Civil and you would likely be working for an Engineering & Construction (E&C) Firm and less likely to be working for a major integrated oil company. If you wanted to work at a major integrated oil company and oversee the work being done by an E&C firm, that is also a possibility, but I think there are fewer jobs there and they are likely to hire an experienced person from an E&C firm. If you want to get into the day to day operations, a BSCE plus an MS PetE will make you very attractive for a wide variety of entry level positions such as Drilling, Facilities Engineering, Reservoir Engineering and Subsurface Engineering. There is a pretty large demand right now as the average age of our employees is getting pretty high and a shortage is predicted in the next few years. Best of luck to you.
One of the things I like the most about Petroleum Engineering is the wide variety of things you might end up doing. Starting out, you need to spend a fair amount of time in the field to learn how things really work. I recommend that everyone get some experience in either drilling, workovers, completions or surface facilities (processing units or small gas plants). When I have worked in those types of assignments, I typically spend about 25% to 40% of my days at the site and the remainder in the office. This may make me sound ancient, but we did not have laptops or even desktops back then, so there were some things that had to be done back at the office. These days, some of the new engineers spend 75% or 80% of their time in the field. After getting a good 4 or 5 years of field experience, you will either be ready to move into management or take a broadening assignment in reservoir engineering. When I worked as a reservoir engineer, I went to the field far less (maybe 10% of the time), BUT by that time, I knew a lot of the field personnel, so it was easy to call them on the phone, understand what they were doing and get the information I needed. As a reservoir engineer, you have a lot more influence on what gets done. Reservoir engineers (along with geologists) make the proposals to management on which wells to drill or workover, whether to shut in or abandon a well, lay a pipeline, etc. So although you are stuck at a desk, you have more of a long term, business focus. Another thing that can really impact how much time you spend in the office vs the field is the type of fields that you are working. If you are assigned to a complicated project, you might spend a lot of time in the planning phase (i.e. - a year or more in the office to plan a well that will cost a hundred million dollars to drill and take several months). If you are working on a mature field with uncomplicated wells and facilities, the planning phase will be much shorter. No matter what job you have as a petroleum engineer, however, you need to enjoy working in teams with people of all different levels of experience and education.
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I wish I could help you, but it really depends the country in which you live and/or in which you are seeking work. In the USA, you do not need to have experience if you are seeking an entry level position and have reasonably good grades/gpa.
The future looks pretty good right now for petroleum engineering. We older folks talk about "the big crew change". In the next 5+ years, there are a LOT of people who will be retiring, which increases the demand for new graduates. I would definitely keep your options open, however, and try to stay as general as you can freshman year (math, physics, etc.) and part way through sophomore year. See if you can take courses that satisify the requirements for Mechanical, Chemical or Civil in case the market changes or you don't like Petroleum. The best way to really find out is through summer internships, so be sure to apply for those. Also, check out the scholarships offered by the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Historically, they have been pretty good.
The market is so good for engineers in the US, I don't really see any obstaclesm especially in the petroleum industry. If you are willing to work hard and show how your prior experiences can benefit your employer, I think your chances are good. We are all so concerned about the "big crew change", employers are doing everything they can to keep valued employees from retiring. SPE has done some surveys on the demographics of engineers in the oil industry, so you might want to check that out. Many oil companies are looking for folks that are willing to relocate, so be aware of that. I can't really speak for companies outside the oil industry. I won't sugar coat this, however, and tell you that every potential employer is going to welcome you with open arms. Some will probably quiz you about why you made the change to engineering and whether you are going to stick with this, etc., but I got asked when I was interviewing about whether I was going to get married, start having babies and quit. This was 30+ years ago and interviewers know that they can't ask those types of questions. What I have learned in my career is that there are no "sure" things and that hiring decisions need to be made based on merit and whether there is a good fit between the company's culture and the potential employee's interests & personality. Hope this helps.
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