Petroleum engineers recover oil beneath the earth's surface. Petroleum engineers are not in the field digging and drilling, but are the ones responsible for locating the oil, estimating how much oil is available for recovery and coming up with the best way to recover the largest amount of crude oil possible.
A strong background in math, science, physics and, of course, engineering will help a student succeed in a college engineering program. Most often, a student can earn a degree in any type of engineering and then cross into petroleum engineering. So, for example, a student can earn a degree in electrical engineering and then use the degree to enter the petroleum field. The first two years of an engineering degree involves general courses in science and math, while the last two allow the student to focus on a specialty, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.
The daily duties of a petroleum engineer can vary widely depending on where the drilling is in its process. The petroleum engineer is a vital part of the recovery process at every step. In the beginning, when an oil reservoir is discovered, the engineer examines the size, shape and location of the oil reserve. Next, she will determine the specific method needed to extract the oil. The engineer's job is to create and enforce methods to get as much oil as possible from a drilling site.
For a petroleum engineer, the dangers are minimal. Since the engineer is not often out in the field, therefor he is not exposed to the same level of chemicals as are equipment operators. However, the engineer is expected to make trips to the sites to evaluate the progress and look for ways to improve the site. Because of these trips, it is possible for a petroleum engineer to be exposed to dangerous conditions, equipment and chemicals.
As of 2008 the salary for a petroleum engineer was between $57,820 and $166,400 as recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Petroleum engineers as compared to all other engineer fields have the highest salary. The median yearly salary for petroleum engineers was $108,020, while the next highest median salary belonged to computer hardware engineers with a median yearly salary of $97,400.
The type of worker who would excel in the field of petroleum engineering, would be detail-oriented and have excellent math and critical thinking skills. A petroleum engineer also spends a significant amount of time improving drilling methods and this requires clear communication with workers at all levels. A petroleum engineer must also consider where she stands on environmental issues. The act of drilling for oil is often seen as a threat to the environment and surrounding wildlife.
- Photo Credit oil well image by michael langley from Fotolia.com
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