The Starting Salary for a Petroleum Engineer

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Petroleum engineers work for oil and gas drillers and refiners.
Petroleum engineers work for oil and gas drillers and refiners. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Petroleum engineers specialize in methods of extracting gas and oil from the Earth so these resources can be refined and used by consumers. These engineers understand the best drilling methods to use for a particular resource and its location, and they often design equipment to perform the required drilling task. Petroleum engineers spend time both in the office planning resource recovery and onsite overseeing drilling and other operations. With natural resources found around the globe, petroleum engineers can find themselves employed in a variety of countries and earning significant starting salaries.

General Salary Data

Engineers in general garner some of the highest starting salaries of all professions, and petroleum engineers in particular tend to top the list. The average starting salary of a petroleum engineer with a bachelor’s degree was $83,121 as of 2009, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). However, not all salary reporting sites place the petroleum engineer starting salary that high. State University reports the petroleum engineer starting salary as $61,516 as of 2011.

Starting Salary by Degree

While NACE’s starting salary of $83,121 applies to petroleum engineers with a bachelor’s degree, those with master’s degrees earn starting salaries between $64,295 and $90,718 as of 2011, according to Education Portal. Students earning a master of science in petroleum engineering typically have focused on areas of specialization such as the design of production systems. In this field, a master’s degree usually does not make a significant impact in comparison to a bachelor’s degree when it comes to starting salaries.

Starting Salary Compared to Other Engineers

Petroleum engineers with bachelor’s degrees earn more in starting salaries than other engineers by far. Compared to the next engineer on the NACE starting salary list, the chemical engineer at $64,902, the petroleum engineer starting salary of $83,121 is 25 percent higher. Third on the list is the mining and minerals engineer with a starting salary of $64,404. With the highest starting salary out of the gate, petroleum engineers tend to make the most of all engineers during their working years.

Job Outlook

In addition to having the highest starting salary among engineers, petroleum engineers also have the best job prospects. Petroleum engineering jobs are expected to rise 18 percent over a 10-year period, increasing to 25,900 positions in 2018 from 21,900 in 2008, according to the BLS. As growing economies require more resources, the need for petroleum engineers is expected to outpace the number of graduates seeking their first jobs.

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