The Petroleum Engineering Department
The Petroleum Engineering program at Colorado School of Mines is consistently ranked among the world’s best. We prepare our students with the skills and knowledge needed to power the world and to lead the petroleum industry into the energy future.
We attract highly 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 industry demand for our graduates, and the high level of financial support from private sources, alumni, and industry partners.
We offer both an undergraduate degree program (ABET accredited) and graduate degree programs at Master and PhD levels. All disciplines within the field of petroleum engineering, which can be categorized into drilling, production, and reservoir engineering, are covered in depth at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Specific areas of focus are fundamental fluid and rock behavior, well design and construction, well completion and stimulation, formation evaluation, well testing, reservoir characterization, production operations and artificial lift, reservoir engineering and management, supplemental recovery, economic evaluation of petroleum projects, and unconventional oil and gas reservoirs.
A student in our undergraduate program will be involved in math, computer sciences, chemistry, physics, general engineering, the humanities, technical communication, including report writing and public speaking, environmental issues, and corporate social responsibility. The breadth and depth of our program is designed to prepare each graduate for a successful career with both technical competence and managerial ability.
- BS – 143
- 27% Female
- 48% International
- Graduates – 41
- 29% Female
- 68% International
- MS/ME – 16
- PhD – 25
Average Starting Salary
- BS $79,100
- MS/ME $86,000
- PhD $78,757
- BS 95%
- MS/ME 94%
- PhD 98%
Petroleum is everywhere...
Oil and natural gas are an integral part of our everyday lives. Not only does petroleum still power the majority of the world’s vehicles, but it is also used in products that we’d never consider, from computer parts and medical devices, to eyeglasses, lipstick, and diapers. In fact, in 2020, the U.S. consumed about 6.63 billion barrels of petroleum, an average of about 18 million barrels of petroleum per day. And that was the lowest level of annual consumption since 1995.
Because of the ubiquity of oil and natural gas, our standard of living is directly tied to the cost of energy. In the developing world, where petroleum is still the cheapest fuel source, it plays an important role in lifting people out of poverty.
The Mission of the Petroleum Engineering Program continues to evolve over time in response to the needs of the graduates and industry; in concert with the Colorado School of Mines Institutional Mission Statement and the Profile of the Future Graduate; and in recognition of accreditation requirements specified by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The Mission of the Petroleum Engineering Program is:
Our mission is to provide the necessary skills at the undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education levels to serve the world in developing conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon resources, water resources, and geothermal energy, while promoting cutting-edge research to improve resource recovery, advancing technologies to combat environmental problems, such as carbon sequestration and other earth disposal processes, and to foster the socially responsible development of Earth’s resources.
Program Educational Objectives
The Petroleum Engineering program’s objectives are broad statements that describe what our graduates are expected to attain within three to five years of completing their degree. The Petroleum Engineering Department’s faculty and other constituents have affirmed the following Program Educational Objectives:
- Obtain an industry, government, or academic position in petroleum engineering, or a related field, or be pursuing a graduate education in petroleum engineering or in a related field;
- Demonstrate advancement in their chosen careers and exercising leadership in the area of petroleum engineering;
- Continue to develop personally and professionally, and serve others, through continuing education, professional societies, educational institutions, community groups, and other organizations; and,
- Identify the ethical implications and social impacts of engineering decisions.
ABET and Student Outcomes
The Petroleum Engineering Program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, https://www.abet.org, under the General Criteria and the Petroleum and Similarly Named Engineering Programs Program Criteria
1. an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics.
2. an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors.
3. an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
4. an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts.
5. an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives.
6. an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.
7. an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies
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. In both cases, they use the state of the art technologies in a wide spectrum of disciplines from earth sciences to engineering, social sciences, management, and economics. Petroleum engineers are typically employed by
- 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.
Recent graduates are working in production and operations, research, and consulting, and some have university faculty positions. In addition to exciting careers in the petroleum industry, many graduates find rewarding careers in other areas including
- Systems engineering in renewable energy enterprises
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.
A typical career path begins 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. Petroleum engineers by nature are risk takers, and start up many companies at various stages of their career. 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.)
Skills and Education
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.
After graduation, the petroleum engineer begins a path of lifelong learning, facilitated initially by membership as students in professional societies like the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the American Association of Drilling Engineers or the American Rock Mechanics Association, to keep abreast of the latest technologies. Petroleum engineers may specialize during their career in drilling, completions, reservoir or production engineering, or they may move from one area to another as the opportunities present themselves. Petroleum engineers must estimate and manage risk, including operational, and technical risks, or the uncertainty in future oil and gas prices.
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.
The recent shale developments, first in the United States and then across the world, will demand many petroleum engineers to successfully produce hydrocarbons in an economic and environmentally responsible manner. The era of “easy oil” is over, and more engineers will be required with innovative ideas to produce the energy needed by the world’s growing population, and manage energy price volatility. These new engineers will work closely with other geoscientists in multi-disciplinary teams, and will need good communication skills to convey their ideas to various stakeholders, including their colleagues, investors and the public.
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.
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.
What to do with a Petroleum Degree
The undergraduate petroleum engineering program at Mines has a 87.9% job placement rate and the average starting salary is $82,404. Most of our students go into direct operations at oil & gas companies and immediately get to work on some of these pressing issues. We also have several students who go into finance and data analytics. Petroleum engineering jobs can take you around the world to remote locations as well as urban centers, at some of the world’s largest multinational oil companies, smaller operators, or even financial institutions.
Diversity, Inclusion & Access
The Petroleum Department is dedicated to Diversity, Access & Inclusion and we understand that by committing ourselves to this priority, our department becomes a more creative and innovative space to study and work. Our 2021-2022 Diversity, Inclusion & Access Update is now posted and we are excited to continue working on our goals!
We also encourage you to explore the university’s DI&A website for more information on what is happening campus-wide: https://www.mines.edu/diversity/
Department's 100th Anniversary
The Petroleum Engineering Department celebrated our 100th Anniversary in 2022. We commemorated this milestone with activities including a student launch party, an open house and special guest speakers. Records and photos from different time periods were shared and it was exciting to see both how far we’ve come and how some things are still the same. It all culminated in the inaugural PE Hall of Fame Gala. See highlights from our year-long celebration on the 100th Anniversary website.
Program Advisory Board
The Program Advisory Board (PAB) for the Petroleum Engineering Department is made up of industry professionals that have a passion for education and our program at Mines. We have the privilege of having a diverse team providing feedback to our program. Please follow the link to their page to learn more