Online Petroleum Engineering Degree

Petroleum engineers determine the safest and most efficient way to drill from wells and extract oil and natural gas. To pursue this career, you need a petroleum engineering bachelor’s degree. With a projected 15% job growth rate, this exciting field is growing faster than other fields, which means better job security and a more positive long-term career outlook. Although a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering is highly preferred to start this career, a bachelor’s degree in civil, chemical, and mechanical engineering are acceptable as well.

In 2017, petroleum engineers earned an annual median wage of more than $130,000, which is higher than normal for engineering positions. Petroleum engineers work at drilling and well sites or in office environments. They often travel to various locations and job sites to coordinate with customers, clients, oilfield workers, and engineers to ensure jobs get completed safely and on time. Although a bachelor’s degree is required, field experience is also helpful.

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Many employers need professionals with an online petroleum engineering degree. These professionals boast skills that are highly useful in their focus areas. Petroleum engineers often earn higher pay than other engineers because of their unique skills in the engineering market.

  • Accessibility

    By accessing courses online, aspiring petroleum engineers can study and complete assignments from anywhere, which is especially helpful for working individuals.

  • Flexibility

    Aspiring engineers who can attend classes at their convenience can better focus on their field work and balance their personal and professional commitments.

  • School Options

    Some engineers travel the country visiting job sites while others work from nearby offices. To successfully complete a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering, consider your specific situation.

  • Diversity

    Through networking, engineering students can relate to and learn from others in the field. Networking also opens up job opportunities when individuals remain in contact with their associates. By meeting other engineers from different backgrounds, you also expand your knowledge.

  • Technology

    Learning asynchronously allows students to engage with professors and classmates at a convenient time.

Types of Petroleum Engineering Degrees

Petroleum engineering schools online offer associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. Typically, the higher level of education, the more career opportunities are available. Although you need a bachelor’s degree to work as a petroleum engineer, most employers prefer a master’s degree. You can earn an associate degree in 2-3 years while a bachelor’s can take 3-5 years. To earn a master’s degree, you must invest up to two years after your bachelor’s degree or up to six years if you are completing a bachelor’s and master’s dual program. Tuition rates vary depending on your school and state.


Online Associate’s Degree in Petroleum Engineering

Associate Degree in Petroleum Engineering

Individuals interested in an associate degree in petroleum engineering can pursue entry-level employment. Graduates learn how to research independently and how to solve common problems using scientific concepts. An associate degree typically takes 2-3 years to complete depending on whether you attend class part time or full time. This program often requires 60 credits to complete. An associate degree can help you get your foot in the door in some companies or build a foundation for higher education and higher-paying positions in the future. Students take mostly general education courses along with classes focusing on science and engineering. Admission requirements for an associate program vary by school. Most schools require a high school diploma or a GED. In some cases, you might need to supply test scores as well. Research admissions requirements prior to applying to your desired school.

Example Courses:

  • Introduction to Petroleum Industry

    This foundational course provides an introduction to the industry, which proves especially beneficial for students new to the field.

  • Fundamentals of Mathematics

    Engineers, especially petroleum engineers, use math and data to make decisions at job sites. Engineers with a basic knowledge of math fundamentals can better perform their jobs.

  • Petroleum and Natural Gas Chemistry

    Petroleum engineers must know about the gases they encounter while drilling and evaluating sites. This course teaches students the safety risks and hazards of the laws of chemistry.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Petroleum Engineering

Bachelor’s Degree in Petroleum Engineering

For entry-level positions, employers often seek candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering. Students can earn a bachelor’s in petroleum engineering online in 3-5 years depending on whether they attend classes full time or part time. A bachelor’s usually requires around 120 credits. Students should research entrance requirements to ensure they meet the minimum requirements. Individuals can usually submit a high school diploma or GED from an accredited institution, but some schools require testing scores or relevant work experience. You may also need to complete an internship depending on where you attend school. An internship helps your resume stand out when applying for petroleum engineering positions, since it provides valuable experience.

A bachelor’s degree is often the entry-level minimum requirement to gain a position as a petroleum engineer. The work experience you gain along with any additional certifications and higher-level degrees position you for more career opportunities.

  • Environmental Engineering

    Engineers work in a variety of different climates and environmental surroundings. This course provides a better understanding of how the environment plays a part in the engineering role.

  • Physics

    Energy and force, matter, motion, space, and time play a role in engineering. Understanding how physics works assists with common engineering situations.

  • Properties of Petroleum Fluids

    Students gain the knowledge to make safe decisions in the field when they learn about the different types of gases and fluids they will encounter.

Online Master’s Degree in Petroleum Engineering

Master’s Degree in Petroleum Engineering

A master’s in petroleum engineering online opens up more opportunities for those already working in the field. The degree allows individuals to pursue higher-paying positions, step into teaching positions, or contribute research or publications to the field. A bachelor’s degree is typically required as an entrance requirement to a master’s degree program. Depending on your school, you may need to submit test scores and some relevant work experience.

Students can explore different types of master’s degrees such as a master’s degree in petroleum engineering, petroleum exploration, hydrocarbon reservoirs, and petroleum chemistry and refining. Typically, you can earn a master’s degrees in 2-3 years if you possess a bachelor’s degree. It can take 5-6 years if you attend a dual bachelor’s-to-master’s degree program. Usually, this degree requires about 36 credits in order to complete the program. Some academic programs might require an internship to obtain a master’s degree. Other programs might require a certain amount of clinical hours in the field, usually supervised, in order to complete the degree program. The internship or clinical program requirement can last a semester or take place over a certain number of hours. If you attend school online, you can ask someone from your internship job site to sign a form that proves you meet your school’s internship or clinical fieldwork requirements.

Example Courses:

  • Oil and Gas Machinery

    Petroleum engineers must know the different types of machinery they encounter in order to successfully perform their job. This course provides the required knowledge regarding the different types of machinery found in the field.

  • Petrochemical Production Technology

    Petroleum engineers use technology to drill and refine oils and natural gases. Keeping up with advancing technology benefits their daily engineering duties.

  • Deep Oil Refining Processes

    Petroleum engineers visit many job sites and work plants in order to conduct their work. This course reviews the many different types of oil refining processes that exist.

Online Doctorate Degree in Petroleum Engineering

Doctoral Degree in Petroleum Engineering

Those looking to become the ultimate expert in the petroleum engineering field often pursue a doctoral degree. A doctorate takes 6-8 years to complete depending on if a student takes a dual graduate master’s-to-doctoral degree program. Most doctoral programs require an officially published dissertation in order to graduate. Most schools also often require an internship or a certain amount of supervised hours in the field.

To get into the program, individuals need a bachelor’s degree and often a master’s degree, GRE test scores, official transcripts, prior or current relevant work experience, and an essay. The program consists of earning anywhere from 36-90 doctoral credits depending on your prior education. If you want to retire in the field one day, teach at the professor level, or contribute significant research, consider earning this higher-level petroleum engineering degree. Pursuing your doctoral degree opens the door to more opportunities and higher-paying positions.

Example Courses:

  • Geomechanics

    Studying soil and rocks from a geological perspective gives petroleum engineering students basic field knowledge. Individuals must become familiar with oil, rocks, natural gases, and other components.

  • Geophysics

    Studying the earth’s natural science and physical properties allows students to analyze results they discover and test them from a quantitative standpoint.

  • Petroleum Geostatistics

    Petroleum engineers work often with reservoir modeling, making it important to understand how to use geostatistical models and tools in order to solve potential obstacles. This course guides students on how to use their resources.

To work as an entry-level petroleum engineer, you need a bachelor’s degree, but not licensure. However, if you want to pursue higher leadership duties, a professional engineering (PE) license teaches you how to oversee other engineers and lead various projects. PE license requirements vary by state, but typically you must earn a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program. You also need at least four years of relevant work experience and a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.

In order to keep up with license requirements, petroleum engineers must continue their education. Some societies and associations, such as the Society of Petroleum Engineers, offer their own certification. Engineers can get certified through these groups if they hold membership.

Individuals with a petroleum engineering degree are in high demand. Petroleum engineering professionals can work in roles such as engineering technologist, college professor, pipeline engineer, or petroleum engineering foreman. Most jobs require travel and engineers often work at wells or drill sites. A petroleum engineering career offers a rewarding, stable, and lucrative path for students who enjoy a particular field.

Petroleum Engineering Salaries by Position

Job Title Minimum Degree Required Description Median Annual Salary
Geological or Petroleum Technician Associate degree These technicians provide assistance to engineers and scientists when researching and discovering oil, natural gas, and minerals. They also assist in extracting natural gases and other chemical and physical components derived from the earth. $54,190
Petroleum Engineer Bachelor’s degree These engineers develop methods on how to extract oil or gas from beneath the earth’s surface. Petroleum engineers find ways to work on old and new wells. $132,280
Reservoir Engineer Bachelor’s degree These engineers help companies find and use underground fossil fuels. They research and determine whether they can benefit from these fuels. $115,496
Drilling Engineer Bachelor’s degree, licensure requirement These engineers oversee all drilling operations. They stay on top of state and federal drilling requirements and the best methods. They also stay current on new drilling data. $116,692
Engineering Manager Bachelor’s degree, licensure requirement These managers supervise and oversee a company’s technical engineering operations. They guide other engineers to make the best possible decisions. They also produce reports to ensure they meet quality standards in the industry. $114,554
Project Manager, Engineering Bachelor’s degree, licensure requirement These project managers lead specialized engineers in specific projects. They ensure engineers follow safety regulations and laws. They also create proposals and keep records of all financial costs of incoming projects. $89,490

Work experience helps engineers advance in the field, as companies value and appreciate real-world experience; however, the ultimate advancement comes when engineers possess both work experience and formal education. See the chart below for potential salary earnings for petroleum engineers based on their work experience alone.

Salaries for Petroleum Engineers by Experience
Job Title Entry Level Mid-Career Experienced Late-Career
Petroleum Engineer $97,000 $120,000 $140,000 $177,000

Where Do Petroleum Engineers Work?

Work environments and conditions for petroleum engineers vary by geographic location, industry, and company. Petroleum engineers often work in either an office environment or somewhere with a drill or well site. They also travel frequently, both domestically and abroad. The highest-paying jobs for petroleum engineers exist in managing large companies, extracting oil or gas, or assisting with mining activities. Working hours and schedules vary depending on the company. Typically, petroleum engineers work 40 hours a week; however, depending on job title and specific deadlines, petroleum engineers may work longer hours. They also might not stay on a single job site, and instead can oversee and lead multiple job sites for a given company.

Below are some of the top-paying locations for petroleum engineers.

Top-Paying Locations for Petroleum Engineers
State/Area Employment Annual Mean Wage
New Jersey 190 $187,370
Texas 17,840 $170,450
Colorado 1,410 $163,110
Alaska 820 $149,220
Louisiana 1,510 $148,600

Professional Petroleum Engineering Organizations

By joining a professional organization, petroleum engineers can network with other engineers, seek scholarships, explore job openings, and take advantage of resources regarding certifications and licensures. Browse the list below to explore some of the field’s professional organizations.

  • Society of Petroleum Engineers: This organization serves workers in the oil and gas industry by providing resources and networking opportunities.
  • Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers: This organization advocates for the safety and responsibility of those working in the oil and gas industry. The group represents various companies and promotes responsible development strategies.
  • Independent Petroleum Association of America: This organization represents thousands of oil and natural gas producers around the country and provides educational materials, courses, news, and information about upcoming meetings and events.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology: Through the U.S. Department of Commerce, this institute works scientifically to enhance and improve the quality of life for industry professionals and all those they serve. This site provides educational resources, updated news information, events, and publications.
  • U.S. Geological Survey: This site provides reliable scientific information for professionals working in the field to enhance their knowledge about better understanding the earth. The site offers current information for working professionals to continue learning about the field, as well as networking and career opportunities.