Who are the people who have this job? Petroleum engineers! Petroleum engineering involves activities that find oil and gas for energy needs. They develop new technologies to extract oil, convert it into useful products, and maintain existing infrastructures. As so much of our daily lives require energy, petroleum engineering is essential and skilled professionals are always in demand in the field.
College Choice has compiled a ranking of the 15 best Ph.D. programs in Petroleum Engineering. These schools aim to develop future researchers and practicing engineers. Keep reading to discover what the requirements are, the outlook of the field, and what school may be right for you.
What kind of Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering should you get?
Chemical and Natural Gas Engineering often gets lumped together with a Doctor of Philosophy in Petroleum Engineering. Chemical engineers work more generally with synthetic material substances, finding new ways to use them efficiently and safely. Natural gas engineers function similarly to petroleum engineers but focus more on using natural gas in everyday industrial functions. While most Ph.D. programs in Petroleum Engineering will only focus on that field, sometimes the degree will feature another discipline in its title. This is not a bad thing, but it does mean that you will likely take more electives.
Some schools may allow students to specialize in a particular area within Petroleum Engineering. The most common specializations are Drilling, Reservoir, and Production Engineering. To declare a specialization or emphasis, one must take additional courses or pursue specific research.
Check out our ranking of the 20 Best Petroleum Engineering degrees here.
How much money does a person with a Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering make?
As an advanced engineer with the highest degree possible in the field, those who hold a Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering can expect to make at least six figures. According to PayScale, the average salary of these degree holders earn $120,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports that regardless of degree, petroleum engineers have a median pay of $137,170 as of 2018. Metropolitan areas offer the highest wages for these types of engineers. For instance, Dallas, Texas is one of the most popular and highest paying cities to pursue a career in petroleum engineering.
The oil and gas extraction industry is the most popular employer in this field, the second is the mining industry. Due to the increased need for energy and gas, jobs for petroleum engineers are expected to experience a considerable growth of 15% from 2016 to 2026. It makes sense that as the demand grows, salaries grow as well.
What can you do with a Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering?
In seeking a Ph.D., these professionals prepare for high-level engineering positions as well as more academic research opportunities. Because of the required doctoral dissertation, the expectation is that engineers will be able to bring something new to the field, in addition to performing well in their job. Careers are available both in the private and public sector.
Some common tasks within the industry include:
- Drilling for energy
- Producing petroleum-related products
- Checking reservoirs
- Managerial positions
What are the requirements for a Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering?
Although some programs allow students straight from their undergraduate study to apply for the Ph.D. program, most schools require students to have a Master of Science degree in Petroleum Engineering already. Those who do not have the exact degree but hold a related engineering degree may also apply, given that they have taken or will take the required courses. Generally, the program will take about three to four years to complete.
Throughout the program, students take a variety of coursework, several exams, and complete research for the doctoral dissertation. Many students will choose to do a related internship or teach undergraduate courses. Most schools are rigorous and require students to maintain at least a 3.0 or 3.5 GPA. Students will have an advising committee to ensure he/she is on the right path to doctoral candidacy.
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $16,562
Considered to be the most prestigious university on the West Coast, Stanford University is a private university located in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was founded in 1885 by former state senator and American tycoon Leland Stanford, along with his wife Jane. Leland dreamt of providing an affordable education in liberal arts and technology to an area that was still up and coming. Today, Stanford is nationally and globally recognized for its amazing programs, faculty, and research. The U.S. News & World Report ranks the school No. 7 in the nation.
Stanford’s Energy Resources Engineering department offers a Ph.D. program in Petroleum Engineering. This degree is an extension of the Master’s program and is ideal for those with fantastic scholarship. Potential courses in the program include:
- Numerical Linear Algebra
- Geothermal Reservoir Engineering
- Reflection Seismology
There is also the unique option of declaring a Ph.D. Minor at Stanford. Declaring a Ph.D. minor means that the student will only take part of the credits required for the entire Ph.D. degree.
The University of Texas at Austin
College Choice Score: 95.15
Average Net Price: $14,356
The University of Texas at Austin is a highly ranked public research institution with top programs in the humanities and sciences. The school’s Petroleum Engineering programs are among the best in the nation at all levels. UT Texas offers its Ph.D. program through the Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the Cockrell School of Engineering. About 160 graduate students are currently enrolled. At least 10% of alumni of this program now serve in executive-level positions.
Earn your Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering through this nationally recognized program that is ranked No. 1 by the U.S. News & World Report. Students can be admitted into the program at the undergraduate or graduate level. Some research focus-areas include:
- Artificial lift
- PVT analysis
- Production logging
This program boasts $13 million worth of research and funding, pursuing projects that benefit the entire industry.
University of Southern California
College Choice Score: 92.87
Average Net Price: $32,892
Located in the heart of the city of Los Angeles, the University of Southern California is one of the state’s premier private universities. At the time of its founding in the late 19th-century, LA was just a frontier town. USC has witnessed the city grow and has educated many of the world’s leaders today. Currently, about 27,500 graduate and professional students are enrolled. Based on estimates, USC is said to generate about $8 billion worth of economic impact.
USC’s Petroleum Engineering Ph.D. is a research-centered program held in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science in the Viterbi School of Engineering. Upon completion of the program, graduates will be well-versed in a variety of topics such as enhanced oil recovery and reservoir analysis. Below are some of the key features of the program:
- Minimum 60 credit hours of coursework
- Ability to earn the MS degree upon coursework completion
- Teaching and research assistantships available
Taking one additional required course, administered by a different department, is expected of students to meet program specifications. By connecting the departments in this way, interdisciplinary learning is inevitable.
Texas A&M University
College Choice Score: 91.52
Average Net Price: $19,554
Texas A&M University was the state’s first public institution of higher education. Its campus is located in the Houston-Dallas-Austin triangle, giving students prime opportunities to network in the state’s major cities. Currently, more than 59,000 students are enrolled throughout the school’s 125 undergraduate, 200 graduate, and 100 doctoral programs. In 2018, Money ranked Texas A&M as the No. 1 public university in the state for having the best value.
Texas A&M’s Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering program is for Master’s students who wish to continue on to a future in research. Throughout the program, students will take a variety of tests, coursework, residencies, as well as submitting a dissertation. Key features of the program include:
- Minimum of 64 credit hours for Master’s holders
- Personal counseling
- Transfer credit accepted
Students must complete at least nine credit hours per semester or enroll in the ten-week summer semester to meet the residency requirement.
Missouri University of Science and Technology
College Choice Score: 89.64
Average Net Price: $14,133
The Missouri University of Science Technology, more commonly known as Missouri S&T, is a public land- and space-grant university. Although the school initially focused on promoting STEM-related majors, the university offers a total of 99 programs in the humanities as well. Students who are particularly interested in engineering programs have come to the right place! Missouri S&T offers a variety of engineering research and job opportunities. The school’s engineering college has been ranked No. 3 in the country.
Missouri S&T offers either a Ph.D. or a Doctor of Engineering in Petroleum Engineering. Students have access to state-of-the-art lab equipment where they can perform different projects and research. Possible areas of research are:
- CO2 sequestration
- Well-completion performance studies
There are several scholarships available specifically for Petroleum Engineering students. Interested students should apply online.
Texas Tech University
College Choice Score: 87.83
Average Net Price: $15,820
Since its founding in 1923, Texas Tech University has developed strong programs in the STEM fields, as well as in the liberal arts. Before the TTU known today was established, the school was called the Texas Technological College. In the 1960s, the institution started to grow and is now the seventh-largest institute in the state. Several of TTU’s engineering programs have been highly-ranked nationally for their value. They are also known for offering an affordable education with a high return on investment.
Learn from experienced professionals through TTU’s Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering program. Students will be adept at the basic principles of engineering and the application of advanced research methods. There are five core areas of studies, including Computation, Reservoir Engineering, Drilling Engineering, Formation Evaluation, and Production Engineering. Students must take at least two courses in each of the five core areas to meet their degree requirements.
Students can transfer up to 24 credit hours from the Master’s program to the Ph.D. program.
The University of Tulsa
College Choice Score: 87.39
Average Net Price: $25,086
Founded in 1894, the University of Tulsa began as the Presbyterian School for Indian Girls. Today TU is a private, nondenominational research institution that values diversity. TU’s graduate programs currently enroll a little over 1,100 students. There are a total of 16 doctoral programs currently available. The McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering school is known for its cutting-edge technology and research that is especially useful for energy enterprises. The U.S. News & World Report ranks TU as the best school in the state.
The McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering offers the advanced Ph.D. program that focuses on research. This school is known for providing top graduate programs in the field. Main features of this degree include:
- Minimum of 78 credit hours
- Regular consultation with an advisory committee
- Extensive research consortium
There are a variety of student organizations and industry societies that students can join. These are great networking opportunities.
University of Pittsburgh
College Choice Score: 85.37
Average Net Price: $22,848
With over 225 years of history, the University of Pittsburgh is one of the oldest universities within the country. Pittsburgh is proud to have notable alumni who have participated in world-changing research. Making new health discoveries and championing major technology are just a few of Pittsburgh’s alumni contributions. Pittsburgh ranks No. 9 in the nation for federal science and engineering funding. They are also a best-value college, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
This Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering program is for those who already possess an MS degree. Throughout the program, students will undergo a variety of experiences until the culmination of the dissertation. Students can expect:
- Two-term teaching practicum
- Graduate seminars
- Oral examinations
The Chemical and Petroleum Department is proud to host a variety of research topics. Some areas include materials, catalysis, and biotechnology.
University of Houston
College Choice Score: 85.04
Average Net Price: $15,664
With over 46,000 enrolled students, the University of Houston is an empowering campus in one of the state’s major cities. UH offers 46 doctoral degrees and 29 on-campus research centers. The university was founded in 1927 and transformed higher education for students, particularly during World War II. Today, many of UH’s programs are recognized nationally. The U.S. News & World Report awarded UH the honor of being recognized as one of the best engineering schools in 2019.
UH’s Petroleum Engineering Ph.D. program is a challenging, but rewarding degree for future high-level professionals or researchers. Students can either apply after completing their undergraduate degree or as an MS holder.
- Part-time internships
- Fall and spring terms
- Assistantships, fellowships, grants, and financial aid available
There are specific scholarships available for Petroleum Engineering students. Visit the department’s online site to learn how to apply!
The University of Oklahoma
College Choice Score: 83.88
Average Net Price: $20,003
Join the Sooner family by enrolling at the University of Oklahoma. Nicknamed the “Oklahoma Sooners,” the name has its roots with the university’s Native American heritage. OU was founded in 1890 by the state’s territorial legislature to serve the needs of the state. Currently, more than 30,000 students are enrolled on this large campus which is located only 20 minutes from Oklahoma City. In 2019 the U.S. News & World Report ranked OU’s graduate Petroleum Engineering No. 7 in the nation.
OU’s Ph.D. program in Petroleum Engineering is composed of 90 credit hours. Students must also complete at least 36 hours of dissertation. Before graduation, students will have published a paper and presented their thesis to the department board.
- Limited number of teaching assistantships available
- Five Petroleum and Geological Engineering-specific research centers and institutes
- Program-related student organizations
Other than teaching assistantships, OU also offers research assistantships. In both cases, students will receive a stipend.
Louisiana State University
College Choice Score: 82.36
Average Net Price: $19,224
Louisiana State University is the state’s premier flagship university. It was founded originally as the Agricultural and Mechanical College. Today the university has grown to 14 schools and colleges. LSU’s College of Engineering is home to exciting research opportunities and has been part of the university since the early 20th century. Currently, LSU is chiefly known for its affordable programs, offering about $300 million worth of financial aid and scholarships annually.
Those who already hold an MS in Petroleum Engineering are eligible to apply for LSU’s Ph.D. program. Those who have a similar and related MS degree may also be eligible to apply. The Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering offers this degree.
- One-year residency
- Interdisciplinary – must take courses outside department
- Fall and spring terms
Assistantships are offered only to exceptional students. Interested applicants must indicate on their application that they would like to apply.
West Virginia University
College Choice Score: 81.17
Average Net Price: $11,486
West Virginia University operates several campuses, with its main one located in the city of Morgantown. WVU is considered an R1 research university according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The Morgantown campus currently enrolls nearly 27,000 students who hail from all 50 states and over 100 different countries. WVU is known for its academic excellence, with several of its graduates earning prestigious scholarships.
WVU offers a Ph.D. program in both Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering. This interdisciplinary degree is ideal for excellent students highly interested in academia. Sample courses include:
- Advanced Secondary Recovery
- Environmental Issues in Petroleum Engineering
- Fluid Flow in Porous Media
Some areas of research include the application of artificial intelligence, drilling and completion, as well as reservoir modeling and simulation.
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
College Choice Score: 80.72
Average Net Price: $13,741
Looking for a school that focuses on STEM programs and research? The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology is the right place for you! NMT was established in 1893 in a booming mining town, hence its current name. Although the school grew slowly, NMT saw a boom after the Great Depression due to people needing higher education. The school saw a demand for Petroleum Engineering, and created programs and even a research center in 1977. PayScale ranks NMT the No. 9 best school on their list of public universities in the nation for return on investment.
Those who already possess an MS with a thesis can apply to NMT’s Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering. This program requires at least 60 credit hours, with 30 of them composed of level 500 courses. Other program features are:
- Four-member committee that oversees each student
- Industry workshops
- Option to join professional societies
There are five basic subjects that students must master: Petroleum Economics, Production Engineering, Reservoir Evaluation, Reservoir Engineering, and Drilling and Completion Engineering.
The University of Kansas
College Choice Score: 79.16
Average Net Price: $18,365
With 13 academic schools and more than 350,000 alumni, the University of Kansas is the state’s flagship institution of higher education. KU aims to be more than just a research university – they are also a community known as the Jayhawks. The Jayhawk spirit values the power that research and education have on individuals. KU currently operates five campuses as well as online programs through distance learning.
KU’s Ph.D. in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering is an advanced program that requires a total of 60 credit hours. This degree is suitable for Master’s holders. Students are expected to maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 during the entire program.
- 30 credit hours of research hours
- Work in the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis laboratory
- Participate in the Tertiary Oil Recovery Program
Master’s holders may be able to waive some of the Ph.D. requirements, but unfortunately, no transfer credit is offered.
University of Wyoming
College Choice Score: 78.94
Average Net Price: $13,441
Live among the beautiful scenery of the West by enrolling at the University of Wyoming. UW students can be found hiking in the mountains, biking along the trails, or skiing – among several other academic activities of course! The College of Engineering and Applied Science is where the school’s Petroleum Engineering students take the majority of their classes and perform research. Alumni of the university work in prominent businesses throughout the country.
UW’s Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering prepares adults to be the next leaders in the industry and academic world. Students will complete research and work in several laboratories.
- 72 credit hours
- No internship required
- Publication of dissertation upon passing
Students have access to the campus’ energy innovation laboratories which include the Peabody Energy Advanced Coal Technology and the WPX Drilling Simulator.