Oilfield engineers, more commonly known as petroleum engineers, create the equipment that pulls that pulls the oil from the ground so it ultimately finds its way into your car or home as fuel. Although these engineers have offices from which to plan projects, they usually have to travel to drilling sites to inspect oilfield operations.
Oilfield engineers made an average of $70.90 per hour, or $147,470 yearly, as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest earners made less than $36.07 per hour, while the top earners received over $90 hourly. Their salaries were greater than the mean of $43.73 per hour made by all engineers, and higher than $22.01 averaged by all workers in all industries. This profession requires at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering, although many employers prefer a master’s degree.
The best employment opportunities for oilfield engineers were in oil-producing states. Texas led the list, with 21,580 out of the 36,410, and an average hourly pay of $74.11. Oklahoma ranked second with a mean of $76.97 per hour, followed by Louisiana, averaging an hourly $63.32. The highest-paying state for the profession was Oklahoma, followed by Alaska, at a mean of $76.46 per hour, and Virginia at a mean hourly wage of $74.43. The city with the highest employment was Houston, where 14,160 engineers averaged $75.35 per hour. The top paying metro area was Dallas with a mean of $85.02 hourly.
One of the contributing factors to employment and salaries was the hiring industry. Oil and gas extraction boasted the most jobs, with 19,880 oilfield engineers, and the highest pay an average of $77.43 per hour. Compare these figures to those for mining support activities, which providing engineering services on a contract basis. They hired 5,120 oilfield engineers and paid a mean hourly wage of $54.68. Another factor was educational level, according to a May 2011 report produced by Georgetown University, which revealed that petroleum engineering undergraduates made a median salary of $120,000 per year. Dividing this by the 2080 annual work hours produces $57.69, the highest rate for any engineering major. Getting a graduate degree boosts salaries by 7 percent.
The country’s need for oil to support a growing population will provide job increases for oilfield engineers of 17 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. This rate is significantly higher than the 14 percent projected for all occupations in all industries, and the 11 percent predicted for all engineers. Higher oil prices encourage companies to hire more engineers to handle drilling in harsher environments and deeper waters. The biggest employers will continue to be oil extraction companies. However, mining support companies will also show good employment because many companies outsource their petroleum engineering needs to save money.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Work Environment for Petroleum Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Wages for Petroleum Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: May 2012 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Petroleum Engineer
- Georgetown University: What’s It Worth - Engineering?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Job Outlook for Petroleum Engineers
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