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Top Petroleum Geology Schools

by Douglas Matus

Petroleum geology, a specialized type of geoscience, centers on the origins and harvesting of hydrogen carbon-based fuels. For those interested in a petroleum geology career, the American Academy of Petroleum Geologists stresses the importance of attendance at schools targeted by oil and gas industry recruiters. These schools tend to be located in oil-producing states, have highly-ranked earth science departments or specialized petroleum geology research groups, and feature corporate partnership opportunities.

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona has the "U.S. News & World Report" 2010 best geology program in the country, as formulated from surveys of professional academics. UA also received recognition as 31st best overall earth sciences school in The Guardian's 2011 world rankings, created through surveys of academics and industry leaders. The Geosciences Department at UA benefits from selective admissions criteria to attract recruiters from companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips. UA also maintains company partnerships that yield student internships and training projects. Students at UA develop an advanced skill set, with instructional emphases on geochemistry, geophysics, petrology and a variety of other areas.

Pennsylvania State University

Located in the state that launched the global oil industry, the Department of Geosciences at Penn State won the 2010 “U.S. News & World Report” third-best geology program ranking, and came in 41st in the 2011 The Guardian world rankings of earth science programs. Penn State features research groups in areas like structural geology and tectonics, geodynamics and geophysics, and landscape dynamics and sedimentary systems. The Geosciences Department at Penn State also offers a Petroleum Geosystems graduate emphasis, with a specialized course in petroleum geology. Students benefit from instruction in all levels of hydrocarbon development and accumulation, with site visits, team-based projects and industry lecturers.

University of Texas

“U.S. News & World Report” also honored the University of Texas at Austin with its third-best 2010 geology program ranking, while The Guardian chose UT in 2011 as the 36th best overall earth sciences school. Students can study petroleum geology through the Energy Geosciences group, which offers instruction in carbon sequestration, exploration geophysics, resource assessment, and subsurface basin analysis. Students also gain experience with the facilities used in the petroleum geology industry, thanks to the Applied Geodynamics Lab, Carbonate Petrography Lab and the Nano Geosciences Lab. Students can connect with members of the gas and oil industry through UT's Advanced Energy Consortium, which features partnerships with Shell, British Petroleum and Petrobras.

Rice University

Rice University in Houston offers a specialized course in petroleum geology through its Subsurface Geoscience master's program. Located in one of the world's preeminent petroleum industry cities, Rice ranks as the 25th overall school for earth sciences and 12th for seismology and geophysics in the 2010 "U.S. News & World Report" rankings. Students in Rice's program take courses in management, policy and geophysical exploration methods and can choose a geology focus to develop geophysical and seismological knowledge for a well-rounded skill set. Future petroleum geologists benefit from the internship opportunities offered through Rice's partnerships with Houston-based industry leaders such as Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Marathon Oil.

About the Author

Douglas Matus is the travel writer for "West Fort Worth Lifestyle" magazine, and spent four years as the Director of Humanities for a college-prep school in Austin. Since 2005, he has published articles on education, travel and culture in such publications as "Nexus," "People's World" and "USA Today." Matus received an Education Pioneers fellowship in 2010 and an MFA from CalArts in 2011.

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