How to become a petroleum engineer is a question on a lot of people’s minds these days. With such a generous pay packet and the opportunity to travel with an interesting career, it’s easy to see why that is the case. As a petroleum engineer myself, I have witnessed several different pathways into the industry and I’ll outline these in this post. The most common to complete an undergraduate degree in a geoscience or relevant engineering discipline. Petroleum companies hire many different kinds of engineers; everything from aerospace to civil. If you are willing to put in the hard yards you could also start at the bottom and work your way up through the company. Though at some point it will be necessary to complete some kind of higher education in order to continue climbing the corporate rungs. Each of these strategies have different advantages and disadvantages.
Many universities now offer bachelor programs in petroleum engineering, this is likely the best approach to become a petroleum engineer. So it’s best to start off by checking with your local universities and seeing what they have on offer. If the universities nearby aren’t offering petroleum engineering and you aren’t content with relocating, it’s reasonable to pursue a degree in a different field of engineering such as aerospace, chemical or mechanical. Each of these disciplines are looked upon favourably by petroleum companies. While good grades are an important part of your tertiary education, in order to prepare the early stages of your career it is incredibly important to involve yourself in extra-curricular activities, especially those where you gain leadership skills, experience managing groups and interact people from different cultures. I can’t stress this enough. Get some leadership skills and experience down on your CV! Go to Toastmasters, Meetup or anywhere else where you can show that you’ve been in a leadership position.
At the time of writing this, the price of a barrel of oil is around $60 and the job market for petroleum engineers is very cold. I’ve known PhD students who have accepted graduate trainee programs recently. That’s how competitive it has become. It is possible to still compete with these candidates for such roles but you must be smart and prepare early. Getting involved in Society of Petroleum engineers and showing an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and involvement in the industry. This is the most important aspect. Show an undying passion, companies like to see candidates who are going to put everything into their role. And of course you may think ‘sure I’m going to be one of those guys who works their arse of and will achieve great things’ that’s awesome. And I bet you’re right. But at the end of the day it is only a thought, and the companies want to see action and involvement never have the following words rung truer – actions speak louder than words.