Getting a masters in petroleum engineering online can be a strategic option if you’re interested in advancing in this rewarding field. As petroleum continues to be tightly integrated with many facets of our daily lives, demand for engineers who specialize in oil and gas extraction may increase.
Although some entry-level petroleum engineering jobs only require a bachelor’s degree, some companies strongly prefer candidates with masters degrees, especially for more advanced positions.
Not only can a master’s in petroleum engineering help prepare you for future job positions, but it can also equip you with the tools to shape how we consume energy.
Online Masters in Petroleum Engineering Programs
Since petroleum engineering is a more specialized field, obtaining an M.S. in Petroleum Engineering can help you stand out to prospective employers. Most graduates branch into one of four main career paths, each of which corresponds to a different phase in the oil extraction process.
First, there are reservoir engineers, who are often the first to look at a potential oil reservoir. They analyze and test the wells, often helping companies forecast the amount of oil that can be extracted and the potential profitability of the reservoir.
Next up are the drilling engineers, who design the drilling infrastructure and casing plan needed for the extraction. During an extraction, they are often found on-site overseeing drilling operations, making sure everything is being conducted safely and efficiently.
Once the drilling and casing is complete, completion engineers then design the hydraulic fracturing system to extract the petroleum from the well. They are often tasked with finding out the most economical way to get the most oil out of the well for production.
Last but not least, production engineers continue to oversee and maintain oil wells after the extraction process has started. They make sure production is in line with reservoir engineers’ earlier estimates. All four of these specializations often have dedicated coursework in masters programs.
Regardless of which specialization you end up in, you can expect to split your time between working in an office and out in the fields. Some roles feature more on-site work than others, but it also depends on the company.
In addition, though you may be placed in a specific role with a specific title based on your program concentration, there is often quite a bit of overlap between the four types of petroleum engineers. During your program, you may consider gaining experience in multiple areas so you have a working knowledge of the entire end-to-end process.
Petroleum Engineering Careers & Salaries
An MS in Petroleum Engineering can open up a number of career opportunities, but graduates typically work in the industry as a type of petroleum engineer.
This makes a lot of sense because, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of petroleum engineering is known to have high median salaries in comparison to other engineering domains.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Petroleum Engineers, Management Firms||$172,000|
|Architectural and Engineering Managers||$144,830|
|Petroleum Engineers, Oil and Gas Extraction||$137,210|
|Petroleum Engineers, Engineering Services||$130,790|
|Petroleum Engineers, Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing||$129,960|
|Petroleum Engineers, Support Activities for Mining||$117,150|
|Petroleum Engineers, Government||$113,860|
|Junior College Engineering Teachers||$81,460|
|Geological and Petroleum Technicians||$51,130|
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an average job growth of 3% for petroleum engineers. With a masters in this specialized field, you may have a higher chance of qualifying for management positions and senior roles.
Petroleum Engineering Masters Curriculum
The curriculum in a master’s degree in petroleum engineering program often involves courses on advanced petroleum engineering techniques.
- Reservoir Engineering: In this essential course, you’ll perform material balance calculations to help determine the potential productivity of a reservoir as well as liquid-liquid and gas-liquid displacement processes.
- Reservoir Geomechanics: You’ll take an in-depth look into rock mechanics and how different oil and gas exploration techniques affect the deformation and stress of the earth.
- Reservoir Fluids: This course is an overview of the properties of natural hydrocarbon fluids you’ll encounter in reservoir, drilling, and completion engineering.
- Well Testing: You’ll study ways to evaluate and analyze oil wells and learn how to prepare and operate well-testing equipment.
- Drilling Engineering: You’ll learn about drilling systems and operations, including rotary systems, rig components, drilling fluids, and directional drilling.
- Completion Engineering: A must for aspiring completion engineers, this course may cover casing design, tubing design, perforation techniques, and other essential completion techniques and equipment.
- Production Engineering: You’ll focus on the design and optimization of production engineering techniques to get the most out of an oil well.
- Hydraulic Fracturing: You’ll examine fundamental techniques to ethically perform hydraulic fracturing, which is the process of making ruptures in the earth to access oil and gas reserves.
- Petroleum Production Economics: This course introduces the intricate economics of an oil and gas extraction project, including ways to measure project profitability and costs using techniques like Monte Carlo simulations.
- Computational Methods in Petroleum Engineering: In an increasingly digital world, this course introduces petroleum engineers to computer programming techniques and software needed to analyze and simulate different oil extraction operations.
Some courses can feature field trips or lab sessions to see engineering concepts at work. Many will depend on fundamentals in mathematics, physics, and geology courses that are typically covered in a bachelors in engineering degree.
To get admitted into a Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering online program, you might need the following:
- Bachelor’s degree in engineering. Many programs prefer applicants with a bachelors in petroleum engineering, but any related field in science or engineering may be eligible for admission.
- GRE or GMAT. Engineering masters programs typically still require a GRE or GMAT score, but some schools are starting to waive this requirement.
- Minimum GPA. Some schools have a minimum GPA threshold in relevant undergraduate coursework.
- Recommendation letters. Certain schools may request letters of recommendation from industry professionals or research professors.
As part of your application, you may also be required to draft a personal statement that outlines your academic qualifications and professional goals.
Regional accreditation is a system that sets an official standard for schools that offer higher education programs.
As you narrow down the schools that you might be interested in, you can check with the US Department of Education’s database of schools to see if they’ve been regionally accredited.
Accreditation is more than just having the assurance that your program meets a high educational standard. Many times, accreditation can be the difference between whether or not you’ll be able to transfer previously earned credits to your current program.
A school’s accreditation status is also an important factor for financial aid. A school must often be accredited for you to be eligible to apply for federal aid and private scholarships.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Petroleum engineers have very high earning potential, but the initial investment into a master’s degree can add up. Luckily, financial aid programs and scholarships can help fund your education if you qualify.
If you’re already in industry, you can check if your company offers any financial support for employees interested in continued education. In addition to possibly being able to cover some of your tuition costs, you may be able to continue working part-time as you earn your degree.
If you’re not currently employed, you may want to start by researching your eligibility for federal or state grants. You can fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for federal and state aid programs and to determine your eligibility for school grants.
In addition, some professional and nonprofit organizations offer merit-based scholarships. Applying to scholarships often requires a personal statement or letter of recommendation, but the potential rewards can really pay off if you’re selected.
Professional Petroleum Engineering Organizations
Professional petroleum engineering organizations allow you to build meaningful connections with other petroleum engineers.
- Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)
- Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA)
- The American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME)
Joining an organization and attending their events can help you network with industry professionals and other passionate students. As an added bonus, many of these organizations also offer grants and scholarship opportunities.
Is It Hard to Become a Petroleum Engineer?
Succeeding in petroleum engineering often requires strong problem solving skills and technical acumen in mathematics, science, and general engineering.
There’s also a lot of technical jargon—including terms like reservoir engineering, completion engineering, and hydraulic fracking—that may be foreign to those unfamiliar with the field.
Both of these aspects can explain why petroleum engineering is often considered a difficult profession. Being tasked with delivering energy to the world is no small task. Petroleum engineering graduates, though, may be rewarded with great pay and the possibility of traveling to different areas of the world.
Is There a High Demand for Petroleum Engineers?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 3% job growth for petroleum engineering occupations through 2029. Demand for petroleum engineers is expected to keep pace with the average rate of job growth across all professions.
This job outlook is likely due to a number of factors. For one thing, it’s difficult to predict whether companies will continue to expand to new areas, especially if they do not project new operations to generate profits.
Oil prices can also have a big impact here. There is usually a strong correlation between high oil prices and good employment opportunities for petroleum engineers.
What Can You Do with a Masters in Petroleum Engineering?
Petroleum engineers with a masters degree can often apply for more senior roles in engineering and management. Entering an engineering role often means you’ll specialize as one of the following:
- Reservoir Engineer: These engineers analyze and determine profitability of an oil well.
- Drilling Engineer: These engineers design infrastructure and oversee drilling operations.
- Completion Engineer: These engineers design systems to extract oil from well.
- Production Engineer: These engineers prepare extracted oil for further production.
Apart from these traditional petroleum engineering roles, graduates can also pursue positions as engineering managers, sales engineers, and junior college teachers.
Do You Need a Master’s Degree for Petroleum Engineering?
A bachelors is often the requirement for entry-level jobs in petroleum engineering. Some employers, prefer candidates with a graduate degree, though, when it comes to senior or management roles.
Choosing to pursue a master’s degree in petroleum engineering may be very rewarding, but it ultimately depends on your career goals.
For example, you may consider the opportunity cost of missing out on the salary and experience gained from 2 years in industry versus pursuing a masters degree full-time. Some companies may value additional industry experience over an advanced degree.
On the flipside, you might really enjoy the theoretical, academic aspects of petroleum engineering and want to pursue further studies beyond a masters degree. Being clear about your professional goals can help you determine if a masters is right for you.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters in Petroleum Engineering Online?
Typically, a masters degree program in petroleum engineering will take 2 years to complete with regular 16 week semesters and a full-time commitment. This is usually the timeframe for both thesis and non-thesis program types.
There are some programs, though, that are designed to be only 1 year long. These programs often do not involve a final thesis, and they are intended to help you focus on one particular aspect of petroleum engineering that you’re interested in.
Is a Masters in Petroleum Engineering Worth It?
Yes, a masters in petroleum engineering is worth it for many students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for petroleum engineers is expected to grow at a 3% rate over the next ten years, which is the average rate of job growth across all professions.
Petroleum engineers are also known for receiving the highest pay out of all engineering professions. Besides the high compensation, petroleum engineers also have a chance to make a difference by solving some of the world’s most pressing energy problems.
As populations continue to rise, so will energy demands. Petroleum engineers may continue to be asked to reliably deliver energy to all areas of the world.
Universities Offering Online Masters in Petroleum Engineering Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer engineering degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Texas Tech University is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Houston is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The University of South Carolina Columbia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Getting Your Masters in Petroleum Engineering Online
If you have a passion for energy and the environment, then you may consider pursuing a masters in petroleum engineering online. For comparison purposes, you can also explore online masters in systems engineering, chemical engineering, or mechanical engineering programs. Some universities even offer online masters in financial engineering programs, a newcomer to the engineering profession.
A masters program can help you gain valuable technical knowledge about multiple aspects of petroleum engineering. You can also have the opportunity to network with fellow students who share your ambitions.
Once you’ve completed your graduate degree, you may be able to apply your newfound skills to large-scale oil and gas extractions. Some graduates even have the chance to travel all over the world. You can take the next step toward your career goals by exploring accredited online masters programs in petroleum engineering.