With oil prices at historical lows and companies laying off employees, for some of us it might be time to consider a different career path. There are plenty of alternative careers for petroleum engineers, these are a couple that are perhaps the most appealing.
Not exactly a bobby, but search for trainee patent attorney jobs in your area. A first year trainee patent attorney has a great starting salary of between $60,000 – $90,000 (the amount depends on the size and reputation of the firm). A masters is preferred, but not required and if you get hired they will immediately put you into a Master of Intellectual Property Law that you will study part time while you work.
Your skills and knowledge in the petroleum industry will be put to good use as a patent attorney. Your understanding is used to help draft, apply for and prosecute patents. You may also do some work in litigation depending on the structure of the firm itself.
To give a brief example: Petroleum Company A has developed a new wireline tool that is better able to characterize formation damage within the wellbore by using a novel radioactive technique. They go to the law firm to get a patent on the new tool. It’s your job to understand the technology of this tool such that you can protect it in the broadest of possible ways through the patent application. It’s then a process of redrafting the patent application until the patent office accepts the application (on the first few applications it’s common to seek greater protection on the technology than will be accepted and draft down).
After working in the industry for 10 or 15 years you may get an opportunity to become a partner in the law firm and that’s when the big bucks can roll in. Partners can easily earn around $300,000 if they find a reputable patent law firm.
If you like reading and are a fan of language then this is your kind of job. You will be skim reading documents the majority of the time and an ability to synthesise this information into a profound understanding are musts. For more about patent attorney jobs take a look here.
It’s also possible to find work in finance, although it can be initially tricky to get that foot in the door with little experience. Networking works best here and if you are interested, then undertaking the CFA level 1 exam should give you a solid enough foundation in finance and prove to potential companies that you are passionate.
You would be looking for jobs with the title oil and gas research analyst. A research analyst works for an investment firm and studies in immense detail the financials of a basket of companies in a single sector (in your case oil and gas). You can work as either a buy side research analyst or sell side research analyst and as the name suggests, they look for buy or sell recommendations specifically. Your understand of companies in the oil and gas industry will bring valuable insight to the table as a research analyst and you will look at the financial implications of bringing new technology to the market, industry trends and operating value of companies to discover if an investment opportunity exists.
The only real issue with finance are the long hours. These guys are working all the time in their hey days, but if you like numbers and present well then you will go far in a research analyst role. For more about buy side and sell side research analysts take a look here.
Other Engineering Disciplines
There’s also plenty of opportunity to work in different engineering disciplines, you just have to be ready to sell yourself to the company that you are looking for a career change and are no longer interested in petroleum engineering.
Look for more obscure ones, I had a friend that successfully went from petroleum into materials engineering and then into automotive engineering (in drive train) working on developing defence force vehicles.
This depends a lot on your background and what you studied your bachelor in. Just be ready to sell yourself and to change your resume around to align it as best you can with what the company is looking for.
There’s a trade out there that is even more lucrative than being a petroleum engineer. It’s a Dual Trade Electronic Instrumentation Technician. These guys make so much cash it makes me feel sick. I had a few buddies I grew up with and instead of going to University they began working in these trades. At 22 years old they were on $300,000 per year. Unbelievable right? It makes me feel sick too. For more on instrument technicians take a look here.
The job is to commission and test instrumentation controls in the industry. Pretty simple stuff. If you can get into an apprenticeship as a dual trade electronic instrument technician, make sure to stick it out and work through those first couple of years, the pay will be sh*t, but once you finish it will all have been worth it.
While I’m sure this isn’t for everyone out there because the salary is nothing compared to any of the other professions, I’ve had a few friends that have transitioned from the petroleum engineering lifestyle to a teaching one. There are perks with it such as the low stress, easy days and plenty of holidays each year. You’re also able to easily move around the world in a teaching profession, plenty of countries are looking for English teachers. It might be worthwhile for you to research teaching is like to help you make a decision.
If you want to get started in teaching you’ll probably need to undertake a masters in education before applying for any jobs (however check your country’s requirements as I’m certain it will be different on a country basis).
If you’re still interested in becoming a petroleum engineer, check out our guidelines here.