The Petroleum Engineering Department of CSM enjoys a worldwide reputation for excellence in petroleum engineering education and research. We attract well-qualified students from all over the world, which creates a healthy international atmosphere. The popularity of the program is reflected in the large number of applicants, the demand from industry for graduating students, and the high level of financial support from private sources, alumni and industry partners.
All disciplines within the field of petroleum engineering are covered in depth at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, in the classroom and laboratory and in research. Specific areas are drilling, formation evaluation, reservoir characterization, well completion and stimulation, well testing, production operations and artificial lift reservoir engineering, supplemental recovery, economic evaluation of petroleum projects, fundamental fluid and rock behavior, coalbed methane, tight gas, natural gas engineering, plus computer simulation of most of these topics.
A student taking our program will be involved with math, computer sciences, chemistry, physics, general engineering, the humanities, technical communication including report writing and public speaking, and environmental issues. The breadth and depth of our program is unique; it is designed to prepare each graduate for a successful career with both technical competence and managerial ability. To maintain leadership in current and future technology, decision making, and management, the program has the latest facilities for laboratory instruction and experimental research.
Professionals in the petroleum industry know the kind of work a Mines student is capable of and has already done; hence our students are first in line for jobs in the field. Recent graduates are working in production and operations, research, and consulting, and some have university faculty positions, Many have branched out to geothermal, environmental engineering, law, business, and systems engineering in renewable energy enterprises.
New graduates in petroleum engineering enjoy a wide variety of career opportunities. Job placement is 100 percent by graduation, with most students in this field remaining satisfied with a BS degree for their entire careers; those who earn Master’s and PhD degrees also enjoy 100 percent job placement.
A career in this industry may begin anywhere—a small town in the Rocky Mountains, a large U.S. city, or a remote location in any oil, gas, and geothermal producing area of the world. Most petroleum engineers are employed in the exploration for and the production of oil and gas. Others pursue related careers in geothermal energy production, environment protection, and hazardous waste remediation and disposal.
Most jobs involve a combination of office work and the use of expensive, computer-oriented, state-of-the-art technology, plus opportunities for trips to the field to supervise projects that the petroleum engineer has designed. All three activities are performed by engineers working for major, fully-integrated international oil companies; smaller independent operators; specialized companies that provide services for the producing companies; or consulting firms in oil and gas or the environmental arena.
New jobs exist in some surprising fields. An example is the current research being conducted to transfer earth drilling technology to space drilling on the moon or mars, using lasers for oil and gas drilling on earth, and ice coring in the Antarctic.
Typical career paths begin with the new engineer working for a well-established corporation for training and exposure to the company’s businesses. The entry-level engineer will work on integrated multidisciplinary teams, later moving into middle management or other positions of team leadership. Many engineers then accept upper management within the same company, or begin work with a new company or consulting firm. Still others decide to create their own enterprises. In this industry, it is common that one’s career path will include a variety of assignments in many locations around the U.S. or the world. (Overseas assignments are readily available for all who are interested.)
To be successful in the petroleum industry, it is best to have a solid educational foundation in petroleum engineering—and today this means possessing the requisite interpersonal skills. Teamwork and communication are essential for success and satisfaction. Top professionals enjoy working with integrated multidisciplinary teams on meaningful projects with significant consequences, such as deciding whether or not to spend $1.0 billion on an offshore platform and, if so, where to place it and how to design it.
Additionally, continued lifelong education is a must. Staying current with technology and news can be achieved easily by reading professional publications, or attending graduate school or short-course training.
Several worldwide trends ensure that the strong demand for petroleum engineers will continue. The ever-increasing population of the earth, combined with the growing thirst for energy in the developing countries, is putting significant upward pressure on the demand for oil and gas production. This increasing demand for energy, and the simple fact that oil and gas resources are limited, places the petroleum engineer in a strong position now and for many years to come. Oil company expenditures for exploration and production are rising fast, as are budgets and salaries for petroleum engineers. The number of job openings also is rising.
The ever-increasing integration of multidisciplinary teams of professionals—including petroleum engineers, geologists, geophysicists, and others—is another trend shaping the future of the industry. Joint ventures and partnerships among companies, and outsourcing of projects are opening new opportunities and new ways of doing business. These business trends are accelerating simultaneously with technological advances in the areas of computer simulation of underground oil and gas reservoirs, geophysical seismic techniques, horizontal drilling, and offshore drilling and production.
There are numerous areas for significant professional career growth for petroleum engineers—from drilling technology to the design of exotic fluid systems to inject in reservoirs to increase oil recovery. Salaries for petroleum engineers are, and will continue to be, among the highest paid of all professionals. Additionally, more jobs are available than there are professionals to fill them.
An education in petroleum engineering has proven to be an excellent foundation for careers in fields such as law, medicine, and business. For graduates who did not study petroleum engineering, it is common practice to pursue graduate programs in PE.
In summary, these trends, in combination with others, indicate that both the short and long-term demand for petroleum engineers will be high; PEs will be provided with expensive tools, and they will be expected to design significant projects in a global environment. In many ways, the atmosphere for petroleum engineers today is more exciting and satisfying than ever before.