Petroleum Engineering Undergraduate Program

Program Description

Field session in CaliforniaThe primary objectives of petroleum engineering are the safe and environmentally sound exploration, evaluation, development, and recovery of oil, gas, geothermal, and other fluids in the earth. Skills in this branch of engineering are needed to meet the world’s ever-increasing demand for hydrocarbon fuel, thermal energy, and waste and pollution management.

One of our objectives in the Petroleum Engineering Department is to prepare students to succeed in an energy industry that is evolving into an industry working with many energy sources. Besides developing technical competence in petroleum engineering, you will learn how your education can help you contribute to the development of alternative energy sources such as geothermal. In addition to exciting careers in the petroleum industry, many petroleum engineering graduates find rewarding careers in the environmental arena, law, medicine, business, and many other walks of life.

Areas of Focus

PE Students looking at computer modelWe know where the oil is, now what? Reservoir engineers study how the different types of rocks, liquids and gases interact to figure out exactly where the oil is and how to get it out. They create models to help predict the best ways to get oil and gas out of the ground.

It’s more than just digging a hole; it’s knowing how to plan the well, what equipment to choose and how to utilize it effectively. Drilling engineers focus on how fluids, pressure and other factors affect your drilling.

Once a hole is drilled, how do you finish it? Completions engineers address problems like what pipe designs to use, how to stimulate the well to produce more or how to analyze and prevent possible environmental damage.

PE female student working in labKnow how to get liquids out of the ground and where you want them to go. Production engineers can focus on how to use pumps to extract oil and gas or on the various transportation methods and surface facilities.

Faculty instructing student on computerThere are huge quantities of data in all stages of development, and we need data analytics engineers who can analyze that data to provide insights on how to make petroleum resource acquisition more economical, safe and environmentally friendly.


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.

Summer Sessions

Two summer sessions, one after the completion of the sophomore year and one after the junior year, are important parts of the educational experience. The first is a one-week session designed to introduce the student to the petroleum industry. Various career opportunities are highlighted as well as showing petroleum field and office operations and geology. In addition, students are indoctrinated in health, safety, and environmental awareness. Historically, the areas visited have included Europe, Alaska, Canada, the U.S. Gulf Coast, California, the Midcontinent, the Northeast US, and the Rocky Mountain Region.

The two-week session, after the junior year, is an in-depth study of the Rangely Oil Field and surrounding geology in Western Colorado. The Rangely Oil Field is the largest oil field in the Rocky Mountain region and has undergone primary, secondary, and enhanced recovery processes. Field work in the area provide the setting for understanding the complexity of geologic systems and the environmental and safety issues in the context of reservoir development and management.


We want to provide a broader skill set to our undergraduate students so they are better qualified for the PE jobs, as well as for opportunities in related industries. This will be accomplished by offering new minor programs to our students in:

Complementary Minors

There are many programs across campus that work well with a petroleum engineering degree, including:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Geology
  • Geophysics
  • Computer Science
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Economics
Combined BS & MS Programs
Petroleum Engineering

Students can get a combined bachelors and masters degree in Petroleum Engineering. This program allows you to double-count six credit hours in both the undergrad and graduate programs. Students choose from a Masters of Science (research and thesis) or Masters of Engineering (no thesis).

Petroleum + Engineering and Technology Management

Mines’ 4+1 Petroleum Engineering BS and Engineering and Technology Management (ETM) MS combine a deep understanding of engineering fundamentals with practical business knowledge and leadership skills. Build upon your technical depth with management and decision making tools to enhance your knowledge, marketability and career potential.

Students can double count six credits of approved undergraduate courses (such as EBGN 425/525 or PEGN 438) toward their ETM degree.

Check out this flyer for more information, or go to

Chevron Short Course Series

The Chevron Short Course Series provides intensive one- or two-day courses taught by industry professionals in software or skills that will be beneficial to seniors about to enter the workforce. Previous short course topics have included Sucker Rod Pumping Fundamentals, Decline Curve Analysis, Big Data Analytics, Aries, Fracture Design and Introduction to Numerical Simulation.

Click here for more info


The Petroleum Engineering Department encourages involvement with the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the American Association of Drilling Engineers, and the American Rock Mechanics Association. The department provides some financial support for students attending the annual technical conferences for these professional societies.

Local Chapters:

Exchange Programs

Undergraduate and Graduate students in the Petroleum Department have the opportunity to participate in study abroad programs with the following institutions:

  • King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran Saudi Arabia
  • IFP-Petroleum Economics and Management, Rueil-Malmaison, France
  • Montanuniversitat, Leoben Austria
  • Khalifa Institute, Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • University of Nicosia, Cyprus
  • University of Aberdeen, Scotland
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway


Interested students, please contract the Office of Global Education about specifics for each program.


Career Opportunities

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

  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Business
  • 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.

Career Path

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.

Future Opportunities

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.


The Petroleum Engineering Program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET,, under the General Criteria and the Petroleum and Similarly Named Engineering Programs Program Criteria

The enrollment and graduation data for the Petroleum Engineering program and other Mines programs can be found on the homepage of the Mines Office of Institutional Research.