Oil and gas engineering is a small field combining engineering and the earth sciences. Oil and gas engineering is one sub-field of petroleum engineering. Petroleum engineering focuses on using knowledge about the earth's physical attributes to find hydrocarbon sources. Oil and gas engineers work for the energy industry to find the most likely spots for oil and gas deposits.
The education required for these fields is the same. In fact, most oil and gas engineers have degrees in petroleum engineering, though some also study geology, physics and other sciences. A bachelor's degree is the basic degree required to get entry-level work, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a master's degree is the "preferred" degree level for researchers working in the field in any form of geo-science.
Petroleum engineers look to find out why hydrocarbon reserves are located where they are. They may work on mapping or with technologies related to finding those reserves. Some petroleum engineers also work in developing new technologies to make using coal-based fuels cleaner and more efficient. Oil and gas engineers work for the oil industry, and their job is more specific. They map areas to find fuel deposits and then guide the drilling and recovery of those deposits.
The difference between petroleum engineers and oil and gas engineers is minute to people outside the industry. Within it, the difference plays out in job availability. The oil and gas extraction industry employed more than 10,000 oil and gas engineers in 2009. Mining, which was the second-largest industry, employed only 4,240 general petroleum engineers.
According to the BLS, in May 2009, petroleum engineers working in the sub-field of oil and gas extraction earned an mean annual pay of $126,090. Petroleum engineers working in coal manufacturing earned a mean pay of $123,690, while the highest pay went to petroleum engineers working in office settings. These engineers averaged more than $145,000 annually.
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