There’s that light on your dashboard again—it always seems to come on when you’re running late! “E”—empty. Where’s the nearest gas station?

Luckily for most of us, a convenience store with a gas pump is never far from reach, thanks in part to the thousands of petroleum engineers working behind the scenes and around the clock to supply gasoline at levels that meet the demand for it.

It’s not as easy as it sounds! In fact, some petroleum engineers spend years studying their craft all the way to doctor of philosophy degree. So, what does a petroleum engineer do, anyway?

In a nutshell, petroleum engineers are responsible for the many processes involved in taking raw fossil fuels from the earth, refining them into usable products, and delivering them safely to their destination for consumers just like you, running on empty on their way to the office.

Generally, there are three main types of PEs. First, there are drilling engineers, who are responsible for either drilling new wells into geological formations or extracting resources from old and decommissioned wells.

Then there are production engineers; they’re the ones that take over once drilling is complete and oversee how much of a given resource is being extracted. Finally, we have the reservoir engineers, who specialize in determining how much exactly a reservoir is capable of holding.

These are just the basics, however, and regardless of what area happens to interest you, as a petroleum engineer you will be in for a career that is in high demand and offers handsome rewards to those who are willing to put in the work.

The median wage for a PE is right around $130,000 per year, and the profession is expected to continue to grow at a faster-than-average rate of approximately 10 percent between now and 2024.

True, the industry is experiencing a setback at the time of this writing, but energy is a complex and volatile field . . . which is really another way of saying high risk, high rewards!

For those of you interested in this exciting career path, we’ve compiled a list of the top 20 petroleum engineering schools with your your needs in mind.  You may also be interested in finding the Best Schools and then seeing if they offer the degree you’re looking for.  That being said, the first thing we want to know, like you, is the bottom line: how much is this going to set me back?

So we’ve included the annual tuition for each school right up front for you. We’ve also included our College Choice Score, which is computed based on each school’s reputation in the field and its return on investment.

The end result is a list of schools that balance cost, reputation, and, ultimately, what they can do for you and your unique goals. You can’t go wrong with any of them, of course, but according to our research, these schools are leading the way.

We calculated our rankings based on a few important sources. The first source is actual college freshman polled during a nationwide survey published by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.

These students rated academic reputation, financial aid offerings, overall cost of school, and the survey also took into account graduate success rates ono the post-college job market. These factors were weighed equally alongside data from other publicly available sources, including U.S. News & World Report, the National Center for Education Statistics, and PayScale.com.

Now, fill ‘er up, and get to work!

1

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

CC Score: 100.00

Tuition: $19,137

Website

New Mexico Tech offers numerous bachelor of science degrees in science and technical fields in addition to masters and doctoral level programs. While it is a smaller institution—approximately two thousand students—it is consistently ranked among the best engineering schools in the country. It was started as the New Mexico School of Mines in the late nineteenth century to offer technical instruction to local residents. In the 1930s, their programs expanded to include petroleum engineering and technology, and it began conferring graduate degrees in 1946. It became the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 1960.

The school’s undergraduate petroleum engineering requires 38 hours of petroleum engineering courses distributed across the areas of drilling, production, and reservoir. The curriculum is heavily dependent on the related disciplines of math, chemistry, physics, and geology. The program at NMT also recognizes the importance of research in addition to applied skills, and it has been recognized for its excellence in research. NMT graduates have gone on to work for numerous leading companies in the industry, such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Apache, Devon, BP Alaska, Halliburton, Tengasco, PathFinder, Energen, and Baker Hughes.

2

Colorado School of Mines

CC Score: 99.32

Tuition: $34,828

Website

The Colorado School of Mines, often referred to simply as “Mines,” is a public university located in Golden, Colorado. Mines’s speciality is in engineering and the applied sciences. It regularly appears not only on rankings devoted to the engineering fields but is also recognized for its excellence among national colleges and universities. Mines has enjoyed expansion in recent years, with the completion of a new student center, computer center, and even a supercomputer that is jointly managed by Mines, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the National Science Foundation.

Mines Petroleum Engineering graduates enjoy an excellent reputation and are consistently placed in positions of influence throughout the industry, both in the field and in the office. Mines students also have opportunities for summer employment, travel, and opportunities overseas. While the Petroleum Engineering program focuses specifically on the needs of the petroleum industry, it also recognizes that the energy industry in general is in the middle of seismic shifts, so students are also prepared to tackle the challenges of alternative energy sources as well as working in adjacent industries, such as environmental law, medicine, and business. Members of the department—both professors and students—are involved in the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the American Association of Drilling Engineers, and the American Rock Mechanics Association.

3

Stanford University

CC Score: 99.21

Tuition: $46,320

Website

Stanford University in Stanford, California, needs little introduction. Consistently recognized as one of the world’s foremost institutions of higher education in virtually any field of study, it also boasts a leading engineering program. Stanford was founded in 1885 and admitted its first students in the fall of 1891. The school was tuition free until 1920, and after World War II, the school undertook a professional expansion program to fuel entrepreneurial interests and establish local industry. Today the area is known as Silicon Valley, and Stanford raises in excess of $1 billion annually. Stanford retains a strong entrepreneurial spirit and continues to encourage new business ventures and leadership at the highest levels of achievement.

Stanford’s petroleum engineering program grows out of its Bachelor of Science degree, which is designed to prepare students for a broad array of careers in the energy industry. It includes petroleum engineering training but is not limited to it; consistent with its entrepreneurial roots, Stanford places a heavy emphasis on training for the future of the energy industry, which is not limited to petroleum. However, students can still expect rigorous training in the areas of traditional fossil fuels. Students are also encouraged to think about larger, structural challenges facing the industry. To this end, they are required to complete a senior capstone project, which is intended to identify and propose technical solutions to a major energy-related problem. Graduates of Stanford’s program enjoy some of the best placement records of any program in the country.

4

Texas A&M University

CC Score: 98.14

Tuition: $26,356

Website

Texas A&M University, originally Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, is a public university in College Station, Texas, and the flagship school of the Texas A&M University System. In addition to being the fourth-largest university in the United States, it is also the largest university in the state of Texas. Texas A&M is no stranger to higher education rankings, and its engineering program in particular is internationally recognized for excellence. It boasts a number of strategic partnerships with institutions such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, Texas AgriLife Research, and Texas AgriLife Extension Service. The A&M campus is home to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and situated on over five thousand acres. It awards bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in over 150 different subjects across the curriculum.

The petroleum engineering program graduates as many as two hundred students annually through the dedicated Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering. Students pursue a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering and are trained in the traditional areas of drilling, production, and reservoir engineering as well as transportation methods and other cognate disciplines. Many of them continue their education in graduate programs, while others are placed in positions throughout the energy industry. The curriculum at A&M is based on the basics of petroleum engineering, but it also ensures that its students acquire practical experience as well in order to acquire an understanding of the needs and challenges of the industry.

5

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

CC Score: 98.06

Tuition: $14,230

Website

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is located in Rapid City, South Dakota, and offers degrees exclusively in the engineering and science fields. It was established in 1885 as the Dakota School of Mines, and its first degree was awarded in 1887. It is a smaller school with approximately 2,500 students. In 1943, it received its current name, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

The petroleum engineering program at SDSMT is offered through the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, where both science and engineering expertise are combined to offer students a comprehensive education in the energy industry. The department serves both graduate and undergraduates and offers two undergraduate degrees—the B.S. in Geology and the B.S. in Geological Engineering. It also offers minors in geology, geospatial technology, and petroleum systems. The minor in petroleum systems will be of particular interest to students interested in working in petroleum engineering. It requires eighteen credit hours of courses in the field.

6

University of Texas at Austin

CC Score: 97.97

Tuition: $34,836

Website

The University of Texas at Austin is the flagship school of the University of Texas System. With over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students and over 24,000 faculty and staff, it is one of the largest and most well-respected universities in the country. Its annual research budget exceeds $550 million, and its campus is home to numerous institutes, centers, libraries, and museums.

Prospective petroleum engineers will study in UT’s Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, which is staffed by leading theorists and practitioners in the field and offers both undergraduate and graduate training. It is a competitive program that admits approximately 100 students annually, which represents less than 10 percent of its applicant pool. The departments also boasts a state-of-the-art learning center that provides students with cutting-edge tools for the energy industry. Students will major in either petroleum engineering or geosystems engineering and hydrogeology.

7

University of Louisiana at Lafayette

CC Score: 97.80

Tuition: $19,348

Website

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, located in Lafayette, Louisiana, is the largest school in the University of Louisiana system and the second largest university in the state of Louisiana. It was originally founded at the end of the nineteenth century as an industrial school and became a part of the University of Louisiana system in 1999. It offers bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in both arts and sciences, and is well known for its programs in computer science, engineering, and architecture.

The Department of Petroleum Engineering provides training through both research and applied expertise. Students acquire experience in oil drilling, natural gas extraction, well design, risk evaluation, and geology. The department has experienced significant growth and increased notoriety in recent years, and its student chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers has been named both the best in the world and in North America. Graduates of the department currently enjoy a placement rate of 100 percent.

8

Montana Tech / University of Montana

CC Score: 97.45

Tuition: $20,152

Website

Montana Tech, originally established as the Montana School of Mines in 1900 with a federal grant of 100,000 acres of land, is located in Butte, Montana. It started with twenty-one students and two degrees—mining engineering and electrical engineering—and now enrolls approximately three thousand students and offers 73 different undergraduate degrees, 18 minors, and numerous other certification and pre-professional programs. In addition to these programs, Montana Tech has also grown to offer over twenty different graduate degrees as well as a doctoral program in Materials Science. Needless to say, it has come a long way in just over a century.

Montana Tech’s program in petroleum engineering prepares students to either pursue further graduate study or secure employment upon graduation. Either way, Tech has an excellent placement rate for its graduates. Students will receive training in exploration, resource recovery, environmental issues, and industry economics and trends. Tech’s campus features five state-of-the-art laboratories, and it offers students hands-on experience at site locations across the state. Its Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering offers concentrations in Reservoir Engineering, Drilling Engineering, and Production Engineering.

9

University of Pittsburgh

CC Score: 97.39

Tuition: $28,958

Website

The University of Pittsburgh is a state university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, although it has been a private institution for the majority of its existence. It was founded as Pittsburgh Academy in 1787 after the Revolutionary War, renamed as Western University of Pennsylvania in 1819, and became the University of Pittsburgh in 1908. It became a state institution in 1966. It enrolls nearly 30,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in 17 different schools at its urban campus and also operates four undergraduate locations in Bradford, Greensburg, Johnstown, and Titusville, all in western Pennsylvania. It is frequently recognized for its research and health sciences programs, as well as its affordability.

Pitt’s petroleum engineering program has much to commend it. Established over a century ago in 1910, its Chemical and Petroleum Engineering department was the very first department of petroleum engineering anywhere in the world. The department currently boasts over 40 faculty members, and it operates numerous labs, learning centers, and programs for its students. The number and quality of resources available to Pitt students rival those found at any other program in the country. Its strengths in research provide students with a comprehensive background in the science of petroleum engineering, and its graduates are employed throughout the industry in both applied and research capacities.

10

Pennsylvania State University

CC Score: 97.37

Tuition: $31,346

Website

Penn State is no stranger to College Choice rankings . . . or any other rankings, for that matter! It is consistently recognized as one of the premier public state universities in the country in any number of areas, both online and residential. It offers bachelors, masters, doctoral, and professional degrees, and it also offers a well-developed continuing education program for adults and working professionals. While its primary campus is located in University Park, Pennsylvania, it also operates two law schools, a medical school, and over twenty satellite campuses and specialization schools across the state. It enrolls nearly 100,000 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs across its several campuses.

Penn State’s program in petroleum and natural gas engineering prepares students for any number of career and education paths upon graduation. The Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering major is pursued through the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and students are trained in extraction methods, transportation, environmental impact, exploration, production methods, drilling, and reservoir engineering. Alumni can be found in both the public and private sectors, research and field occupations, graduate programs, and in nearly every field of specialization in the industry.

11

Texas Tech University

CC Score: 97.28

Tuition: $21,267

Website

Texas Tech, located in Lubbock, Texas, is a public research university and the flagship school of the Texas Tech University system, which operates four institutions across the state. It was founded in 1923 as Texas Technological College and is now has one of the largest enrollments in the state and serves students through an extensive research agenda, 13 colleges, 60 centers and institutes, and undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs. Its Lubbock campus is home to an undergraduate campus, a law school, and a medical school, and it is renowned for its research programs in health sciences, computer sciences, and engineering.

The petroleum engineering program at Texas Tech is housed at the Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering, which offers bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in petroleum engineering. It offers training in the foundational disciplines of mathematics, science, geology, physics, and chemistry and also industry specific training involved with discovery, development, drilling, production, and transportation of natural resources. The department enjoys a number of influential partnerships, which have resulted in recent million- and multi-million dollar grants from individuals and corporations such as the Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Chevron, and the Apache Corporation.

12

University of Tulsa

CC Score: 97.20

Tuition: $36,962

Website

The University of Tulsa, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a private university that has historically been affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. It offers programs across the liberal arts curriculum and is well known for its law school, computer science programs, English department, natural science programs, and its research efforts and training in the energy industry. Tulsa is home to the National Energy Policy Institute and the National Energy-Environment Law and Policy Institute. Admission to Tulsa is highly competitive, and it has an impressive undergraduate research program. It offers degrees through six colleges and departments and a graduate school.

Training in petroleum engineering is offered through the McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering. With over 500 students enrolled in the department, McDougall is the largest department at Tulsa. Like many other departments on our list, McDougall prepares students for either immediate entrance into the workforce or pursuit of further studies at the graduate level. Students can expect to receive both practical and classroom training in the primary petroleum engineering areas of drilling, production, and reservoir science. The department shares the university’s aggressive research agenda, and it enjoys support from some of the top energy companies in the world.

13

University of Alaska Fairbanks

CC Score: 97.16

Tuition: $21,350

Website

The University of Alaska Fairbanks, the flagship school of the University of Alaska system, is a public research university that is currently approaching its centennial after its founding in 1917. Its roots in the geological sciences run deep—it was originally founded as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. Its name was changed to the University of Alaska in 1925. It operates seven other campuses in the region as well as an online learning program. It continues to excel in the sciences, particularly in agriculture, forestry, geophysics, computer science, biology and marine sciences, and engineering.

These strengths of course lend themselves well to the petroleum engineering program, which is the only one of its kind in the state, and the university’s location lends itself to specialized areas of the industry, such as arctic oil and gas exploration and development. It also offers a graduate program in addition to its undergraduate program. Students are exposed to chemistry, geology, physics, and traditional principles of engineering science as well as new frontiers and challenges facing the industry. Like so many schools on our list, graduates of Fairbanks benefit from the highest placement rates in the country as well as relationships with all the major energy firms.

14

University of Oklahoma

CC Score: 97.11

Tuition: $20,469

Website

The University of Oklahoma, located in Norman, Oklahoma, consistently receives attention as one of the nation’s premier large public research universities. Founded in 1890, it is not one of the oldest schools in the country, but it has made extraordinary strides in that time. It offers over 150 bachelors programs, 160 masters programs, and over 70 doctoral programs in both arts and sciences. It currently enrolls over 30,000 students and employs almost 3,000 faculty members. It has been recognized for its excellence in research, technological advancement, and contributions to the arts. Its most influential major areas of study include aviation, geology, engineering, architecture, medicine, and Native American studies.

Oklahoma’s petroleum engineering program is also a popular and well-respected area of study. Undergraduate students pursue their program through the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering and receive a well-rounded education through exposure to the liberal arts in addition to math, science, and engineering coursework and advanced studies in drilling engineering, production engineering, and reservoir engineering. Students are also trained in real-world problem solving and leadership skills. The School also offers masters degrees in petroleum engineering, natural gas engineering, and geological engineering.

15

University of Houston

CC Score: 96.94

Tuition: $24,378

Website

The University of Houston in Houston, Texas, is the flagship campus of the University of Houston system. It is also a relatively young school, having been founded in 1927, but it has also grown exponentially in the years since to become the third largest university in the state of Texas, and it currently enrolls well over 40,000 students on its nearly 700-acre campus. It offers nearly 300 degree programs and awards over 9,000 degrees annually, including doctoral and professional programs, and boasts over 40 research centers and institutes on campus that contribute to its reputation or excellence in research.

Houston’s Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering is a relatively new program, having started in 2009. Its Cullen College of Engineering offers both a major and a minor in petroleum engineering as well as masters and doctoral degrees in the field. Students are trained in drilling, petrophysics, production, reservoir engineering, geoscience, and economics. The program also specializes in the areas of reservoir, production, and chemical engineering. The program is competitive, and students admitted to the program take 52 of their 129 hours in petroleum engineering. The school’s location in Houston, one of the major international centers for energy firms, affords students proximity to leaders in the industry.

16

Missouri University of Science and Technology

CC Score: 96.91

Tuition: $26,152

Website

Originally the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy and a member of the University of Missouri system, the Missouri University of Science and Technology is located in Rolla, Missouri and enrolls approximately 9,000 students. Founded in 1870 and located near one of the country’s leading areas for the production of lead and zinc, it was the first school of technology west of the Mississippi and began with a mandate to provide training in agriculture and engineering. While is does offer majors in the humanities, business, and social sciences, the majority of S&T students attend in pursuit of training in engineering, science, and math.

Petroleum engineering students obviously benefit from this long tradition of excellence in engineering and proximity to a major center of geological activity. In addition to the traditional areas of drilling, production, and reservoir science, students are also trained in reserves estimation, predicting future production levels, and evaluating petroleum formations. Students have access to advanced tools for well operation and simulation, reservoir engineering, and recovery methods, as well as new industry techniques.

17

Texas A&M University Kingsville

CC Score: 96.89

Tuition: $18,294

Website

Texas A&M Kingsville became a member of the Texas A&M University system in 1989 after first being founded as a teacher’s college in 1917 and then undergoing a transition to an “arts and industries” college in 1929. It is a public research university and offers degrees in agriculture, engineering, and the sciences in addition to select programs in the humanities. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and, while it is relatively small compared to other institutions on this list, offers programs up to the doctoral level in over 60 different subjects. It features state-of-the-art facilities including an active farm for its agricultural students.

Kingsville students interested in a career in petroleum engineering will study in the Wayne H. King Department of Chemical and Natural Gas Engineering and focus their work in either the Natural Gas or Chemical Engineering programs, both of which share a number of similar skills and principles with the petroleum engineering industry. The department prides itself on producing students who are multi-talented and capable of creative work in these related industries. Students have access to chemical laboratories and drilling facilities alike and progress through a broad-based curriculum that will prepare them for a number of career options.

18

University of Wyoming

CC Score: 96.52

Tuition: $15,632

Website

Texas A&M Kingsville became a member of the Texas A&M University system in 1989 after first being founded as a teacher’s college in 1917 and then undergoing a transition to an “arts and industries” college in 1929. It is a public research university and offers degrees in agriculture, engineering, and the sciences in addition to select programs in the humanities. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and, while it is relatively small compared to other institutions on this list, offers programs up to the doctoral level in over 60 different subjects. It features state-of-the-art facilities including an active farm for its agricultural students.

Kingsville students interested in a career in petroleum engineering will study in the Wayne H. King Department of Chemical and Natural Gas Engineering and focus their work in either the Natural Gas or Chemical Engineering programs, both of which share a number of similar skills and principles with the petroleum engineering industry. The department prides itself on producing students who are multi-talented and capable of creative work in these related industries. Students have access to chemical laboratories and drilling facilities alike and progress through a broad-based curriculum that will prepare them for a number of career options.

19

Louisiana State University

CC Score: 96.50

Tuition: $26,467

Website

The Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, most commonly known simply as Louisiana State University or LSU, is a public institution located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was founded in 1853 and enjoys a storied history in the state. The Baton Rouge campus is the flagship school of the Louisiana State University system and enrolls over 30,000 students in both undergraduate and graduate programs, which also makes it the largest university in the state. It is known for its high level of research activity in both the sciences and the humanities as well as select professional schools, such as the E. J. Ourso College of Business and the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, which are regularly recognized for excellence.

Petroleum engineering students at LSU can look forward to studying in a department dedicated to the discipline, the Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering. While the majority of graduates work in the petroleum industry, the wide-ranging curriculum also prepares students to work in related industries as well, such as geothermal energy, hydrology, and mining. Students receive comprehensive training in not only drilling, production, and reservoir engineering but also petrophysics, well logging, hydrocarbons, geology, physics, chemistry, economics, and mathematics.

20

University of Texas of the Permian Basin

CC Score: 96.36

Tuition: $13,938

Website

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, located in Odessa, Texas, was founded in 1973 and is the newest member of the University of Texas system. It recently reached a record enrollment in excess of 6,000 students and continues to experience rapid growth. UTPB is also enjoying considerable facilities expansion as well, most notably a new 70,000 square foot Science and Technology Complex, which is where its science, computer, and information systems programs are located. The complex boasts dozens of laboratories, classrooms, offices, and lecture halls.

UTPB’s location in the Permian Basin places it in close proximity to recently discovered oil reservoirs, and its petroleum engineering program has risen to meet the needs associated with this discovery. The program offers intentionally broad training in the industry and prepares students for expertise in resource development, exploration, conservation, and transportation alike. Students acquire hands-on experience in drilling, well engineering, equipment operation, reserve estimation, and property management. UTPB graduates have been placed in careers in both public and private sectors across the industry.

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