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What Does a Petroleum Engineer Do? (2023 Guide)

What Does a Petroleum Engineer Do

Have you ben thinking about becoming a Petroleum Engineer?

This career mainly involves designing and developing methods of extracting gas and oil. This is a good option for people who have good technical skills and strong problem-solving abilities. This job can be very rewarding and comes with a lot of variety. However, it is necessary to dedicate the time and dedication to becoming qualified.

So, let’s find out, ‘what does a Petroleum Engineer Do?’

Duties And Responsibilities

The tasks that you are charged with will depend on the company you work for. You will be assigned more responsibility as you advance in your career. Here are some of the typical duties and responsibilities that usually go with this job. 

Evaluating sites

You will usually start by performing an initial evaluation of an oil well or another type of site. This is done through strict surveys, testing, and analysis. You need to make sure that you follow the set protocols closely while conducting evaluation tasks.


Once gas and oil sites are discovered, you will work closely with geoscientists and other specialists. This will help you to gain an understanding of the geologic formation of the rock on the site. You will also consult with other professionals to determine the best drilling methods and create workable plans for activities. 


This role involves a lot of design work, which involves a detailed understanding of machinery and different environments. You will design and execute environmental controls on oil and gas operations. You also need to be able to design and adapt mining and oil field machinery and all associated tools. 


This role involves making sure the best techniques are utilized to recover the gas and oil from a site. You will develop plans to drill in gas and oil fields and recover the resources. Developing methods of injecting water, chemicals, gas, and steam into a reserve. This will help to force more gas or oil from the site. 


You will regularly research new ways of recovering larger amounts of resources. This can include performing engineering experiments to modify or enhance machinery. You need to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field and build on them to create further enhancements. 

Following protocols

You will need to apply engineering principles to all petroleum machinery. You must take care to adhere to all the established equipment performance specifications. This includes making sure safety protocols are followed at all times on the site. 


You may be charged with taking the lead on certain projects. This involves assigning work to team members and making sure all employees are properly utilized. You will also oversee all operations and make sure that each team member is working at the optimum level. You will also regularly inspect oil and gas wells to make sure installations are correctly completed.

Types Of Petroleum Engineers

Once you gain experience, there are several different areas you can specialize in. Each of these areas comes with a specific set of duties and responsibilities. Let’s take a closer look at the main types of petroleum engineers and what each of these roles involves. 

Completions Engineer

These professionals specialize in the building of wells and determine the best ways to finish building them to recover resources. They also oversee operations. This can include using hydraulic fracturing, tubing, and pressure control techniques. 

Drilling Engineer

Drilling Engineer

You will have to determine the best way to drill gas or oil wells. You must take several factors into account, not least of all the cost. It is essential to make sure that the drilling process is efficient, safe, and as environmentally friendly as possible. 

Production Engineer

Once drilling is completed, these specialists oversee the operation of wells. This largely involves monitoring the production of gas and oil wells. If wells are not producing at the optimum level, ways of resolving the issue have to be developed. 

Reservoir Engineer

Before a project begins, these experts travel to the reservoir and estimate the available resources. This involves studying the characteristics of the reservoir to determine the best extraction methods. It is also necessary to monitor operations at all stages of projects to make sure they run smoothly and safely. 

Subsurface Engineers

This role revolves around selecting the most suitable equipment for the subsurface environment. After choosing the hardware, these engineers adjust and monitor the equipment. And make sure the well and reservoir are working under optimal conditions. 

What Does A Petroleum Engineer Do? – The Work Environment

What Does A Petroleum Engineer Do? - The Work Environment

The majority of work for this job takes place in an office setting. However, you will sometimes travel to different work sites to oversee operations. Most professionals regularly travel to meet oilfield workers, clients, and other engineers.

Most professionals work for large gas and oil companies. This can involve the opportunity to live and work abroad for a few months or even years. While this is usually a full-time job, it often comes with overtime to cover travel time. 

Important Qualities

The hard skills that you need to do this job will be taught during further education and on-the-job training. You also need to develop a set of valuable soft skills which relate to how you approach tasks. Here are some of the main qualities you need to have to do this job well. 

Analytical skills

Analytical skills

You will need to be able to interpret large amounts of technical data. You must be comfortable spending time reading complex information and simplifying it. This will help you to make sure that facilities operate effectively and safely. 

Leadership skills

Being a good leader also involves recognizing the skills of the people you work with and motivating people. You need to make sure that different members of your team work well together. When personal issues arise, you must be able to take the lead in resolving them. 

Communication skills

You need to be able to interpret testing and drilling information for other employees and clients. It is essential to be able to give clear and detailed instructions. You also need to have strong written communication skills. 

Math skills

You will regularly use the principles of calculus when performing different tasks. This will help you to analyze, design, and troubleshoot different parts of projects. Taking the time to gain and maintain advanced math skills will help you do your job more effectively. 

Problem-solving skills

When issues arise, you must be able to analyze the issues and come up with creative solutions. This involves looking at problems from different angles and developing various solutions. You will then select the solution that best fits the needs of the project and your clients. 

Education and Training

You usually need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering to secure an entry-level job. It is best to search for a four-year course that focuses on petroleum engineering. It should combine classroom, laboratory, and fieldwork in engineering principles, thermodynamics, and geology. 

Some universities and colleges also offer five-year programs that provide a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. This will allow you to work in research and development or work as a university instructor. If possible, find a course that provides hands-on instruction and work experience. The engineering program should also be ABET-accredited.  

Licenses and certifications

Licenses and certifications

Although you do not need a license to secure an entry-level job, holding one will help you to advance. You can do this once you have gained a little work experience. Gaining a Professional Engineering license allows you to oversee other engineers, sign off on projects, and work independently.

You will need to sit and pass an accredited exam to gain a specialist license. You will need to make sure that your skills remain up-to-date and take continuing courses. The exact requirements for gaining and upholding your license can vary slightly between different states. 

The requirements for state licensure include…

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program.
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.
  • At least four years of relevant work experience.
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering exam.

Professional Organizations 

Joining a professional organization is the best way to take your career to the next level. You will gain access to the latest research materials and findings and make connections with other professionals. Here are two professional organizations that you should consider joining. 

The Society of Petroleum Engineers 

You can earn professional certification through this society. The Society of Petroleum Engineers is dedicated to helping members develop their careers and gain advanced skills. There is also an events calendar packed with conferences, lectures, forums, and workshops for members to attend. 

The National Society of Professional Engineers 

You can also gain licensure through this organization. The National Society of Professional Engineers provides a wealth of licensure information, including resources and up-to-date information. The official website features a job board, and you can also join the mentoring program.

Additional Jobs In Engineering

Let’s start with my in-depth guides on the Top Highest Paying Engineering Jobs, along with the Top High Paying Jobs Without A Degree, and finally, the Best Paying Jobs In Energy.

We also have a few energy companies you might be interested in applying to, so check out our in-depth guides to the Duke Energy Application, the Nicor Gas Application, and the ComEd Application, followed by the ABM Application, and the Consolidated Edison Application for 2023.

Finally, check out the outstanding selection of career guides in the engineering field, such as our Environmental Engineer Job Description, our Manufacturing Engineer Questions, our Civil Engineer Job Description, and Process Engineer Job Description, or how about our Biomedical Engineer Job Description, our Electronics Engineer Job Description, and our Electrical Engineer Job Description.

What Does a Petroleum Engineer Do? – Final Thoughts

If you are looking for an interesting engineering field, working as a Petroleum Engineer could be for you. It takes several years to gain the professional qualifications and training you need to do the job. However, this role comes with plenty of advancement opportunities and the chance to oversee projects.

Earning an advanced degree and certification can translate into a very competitive salary. The average annual wage for this role is $130,000. However, you could easily earn at least $200,000 per year once you gain skills and experience.

Good luck in your new exciting career as a Petroleum Engineer!

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