The easiest way to become a petroleum engineer is to complete a degree in petroleum engineering.
But you may have already started a degree in mechanical engineering and realized your interest lies in petroleum engineering.
Likewise, you may wish to know if you can expand your job opportunities by completing mechanical engineering and petroleum engineering.
In this guide, you will find the answers to both of these questions as well as how to pursue your petroleum engineering dream.
Can A Mechanical Engineer Work As A Petroleum Engineer?
Petroleum engineers design, develop, and implement methods for extracting oil and gas from the ground.
They may also find ways to process and refine the raw materials to meet various industries’ needs in the most efficient ways.
Since petroleum engineers design and develop specialized machines, a mechanical engineering degree is incredibly helpful in the trade.
Learn more: Do Mechanical Engineers Work Inside Or Outside?
In the past, it may have been easier to obtain a petroleum engineer job with just a mechanical engineering degree as you would gain experience in the specific work environment.
However, these days, it is important to take any specific petroleum engineering classes you did not complete with a mechanical engineering degree.
Typically, these classes focus on designing and developing oil and gas extraction techniques.
There are also many opportunities in the tech industry for mechanical engineers. Learn about them in our guide.
How To Become A Petroleum Engineer
The most straightforward way to become a petroleum engineer is to pursue a relevant degree in college.
You can also study a related engineering field such as civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering and follow up with a specialization in petroleum engineering or Master’s in petroleum engineering.
Ensure your program is accredited by a professional engineering association if you want to obtain licenses later in your career.
Some employers require licensure for higher-level petroleum engineering positions.
Once you obtain licenses, you acquire a title as a professional engineer (PE) allowing you to oversee projects and other engineers.
Typically, you need an accredited engineering program degree, an excellent score on a Fundamentals of Engineering exam, an excellent score on a Professional Engineering exam, and work experience.
Interested in alternative career paths for mechanical engineers? See how mechanical engineers get started in renewable energy.
You can certainly accomplish petroleum engineering education and training after completing a mechanical engineering program.
In fact, this may make you more desirable to employers as you demonstrate broader knowledge and skills than most petroleum engineers.
Your secondary petroleum engineering degree may also be shorter, as you have already completed foundational courses in engineering mechanics, physics, calculus, statistics, and linear algebra.
Another option is to complete an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering but pursue petroleum engineering as a graduate program.
This way, you can open up higher-ranking and higher-paying job opportunities in petroleum engineering.
There are many excellent YouTube channels you can follow to keep up with petroleum engineering, and updates in the oil and gas industry. A few of the most popular are:
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- American Petroleum Institute
- EnerCom Inc
- Petro Learn
- Pipeline Oil and Gas News
- Oil and Gas Journal
- Oil and Gas IQ
You can now earn petroleum engineering degrees online.
The best schools for online programs include:
- University of North Dakota
- Texas A&M University
- University of Southern California
- University of Louisiana- Lafayette
- University of Houston
- Texas Tech University
A mechanical engineer can work as a drilling engineer in the oil and gas industry.
A drilling engineer designs, builds, and implements procedures and machines to drill safely and efficiently.
Since these fall under a mechanical engineer’s scope of knowledge and skill, they only need to take on a few extra courses to be able to handle drilling engineering.
These courses focus on relating engineering fundamentals to producing, drilling, retrieving, and transporting oil and gas.
Mechanical and petroleum engineering are both excellent career choices. But they have key differences that may help with your decision.
Petroleum engineers earn significantly more than mechanical engineers.
That said, mechanical engineers have more job opportunities than petroleum engineers.
In 2020, there were almost 300,000 jobs for mechanical engineers. In contrast, petroleum engineers only had 28,500 jobs.
With both industries growing at roughly the same rate, it may be easier to find a job in mechanical engineering.
Furthermore, you may need a higher academic degree or further certifications and licenses to stand out in petroleum engineering.
Petroleum engineers can work in many positions, such as:
- Drilling Engineer: A drilling engineer designs and implements equipment and processes to drill efficiently.
- Production Engineer: A production engineer designs and develops equipment and procedures to optimize oil and gas production.
- Completion Engineer: A completion engineer oversees the building of wells for oil and gas.
- Reservoir Engineer: A reservoir engineer determines where and how to extract oil and gas.
- Petroleum Geologist: A petroleum geologist discovers new oil and gas opportunities.
- Offshore Drilling Engineer: An offshore drilling engineer designs, implements, and oversees drilling operations on a rig.
Learn more: Can Petroleum Engineers Work From Home?
Generally, people consider engineering to be a difficult domain.
Petroleum engineering tends to be more difficult. It requires focusing on specific techniques, problem-solving, and heavy math.
On the other hand, mechanical engineering material is easier although you must progress at a fast rate to consume all the necessary information.
If you prefer going at your own pace and truly understanding each component of your work, you may prefer petroleum engineering even if the content is harder.
If you are in mechanical engineering or already completed a mechanical engineering degree, concentrating on petroleum engineering is a great choice.
It provides you with a distinct specialization and increases your earning potential.