87, 89, 93.
Recognize those numbers? You have probably seen them every week since you were a teenager. Give up?
That's right—they're numbers that go with the "regular," "super," and "premium" gas options at your local gas station. Now, this article isn't about what exactly those numbers really mean or which one you should choose for your sweet ride. We'll leave that work to the petroleum engineers, who specialize in producing the fuels that run our lives.
What kind of Petroleum Engineering degree should you get?
The main thing we want to know, like you, is the bottom line: how much is this going to set me back? That's why we've narrowed down this list to only the most affordable petroleum engineering degrees in the country.
The schools on this list vary. Some are state schools while others are regional institutions. Some feature concentrations and specialized tracks while others focus on mastering the fundamentals. But the one thing in common is the fact that none of these schools will break the bank.
What can you do with a Petroleum Engineering degree?
Petroleum engineers are a lot of different things. At any given time, they are geologists, physicists, engineers, chemists, and environmentalists.
Their profession requires them to be well versed in all these disciplines so that they can extract raw fossil fuels from the earth responsibly, safely, and sustainably and turn them into the stuff that powers our cars, airplanes, farm tools, and other machines.
This is easier said than done! Locating, drilling, extracting, refining, and transporting these resources is a costly, complex, and in some cases risky endeavor, and the training involved in order to do so is extensive.
Most petroleum engineers specialize in one of three primary areas—drilling, production, or reservoir engineering. These are all necessary steps in transforming raw materials into usable products.
How much can you make with a degree in Petroleum Engineering?
The demand for petroleum engineers is expected to not only remain steady but in fact increase over the next several years. The median wage for a petroleum engineering 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.
What are the best degrees in Petroleum Engineering?
For those of you interested in this exciting career path, we've compiled a list of the 10 most affordable petroleum engineering schools (and also an entire list dedication to the most affordable online colleges).
So we've based this list exclusively on the cost of attendance. Don't worry though—we've done our homework, and these are all top-quality schools that will point you in the right direction for your career!
So what'll it be? 87? 89? 93?
See our rankings methodology page.
University of Texas of the Permian Basin
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.
You’ll earn a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering at UTPB. 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. Classes include:
- Reservoir Rock and Fluids Properties
- Drilling Engineering
- Petroleum Resource Economic and Valuation
- Well Testing
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.
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
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. Courses include:
- Surveying for Mineral Engineers
- Mechanics of Materials
- Fluid Mechanics
The program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology 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.
University of Wyoming
Located in Laramie, Wyoming, the University of Wyoming is a public land-grant university founded in 1886 and is known, among other things, for its extensive “outreach” programs that make university-level education available to adults, nontraditional students, and the general public. The Outreach School offers more than 40 degrees and programs online and through satellite campuses throughout the state.
Petroleum engineering at UW is pursued through the engineering department, whose graduates enjoy excellent success and placement rates in multiple engineering specialties. Students pursue a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering, and their program progresses from general science and math preparation in the first and second years. A sampling of courses includes:
- Fluid Dynamics
- Heat and Mass Transfer
- Petroleum Engineering Computing
At the end of the second year, students take an introduction to petroleum engineering course. Upon successful completion of it, they may proceed to 3000- and 4000-level courses, which include training in thermodynamics, drilling engineering, reservoir engineering, well operations, economics, geology, and engineering design.
Texas A&M University Kingsville
Texas A&M University Kingsville is a public research university that excels in engineering, agriculture, and wildlife. Founded in 1925, it carries a long legacy of academic research and student body diversity. It was recently named one of the top 25 Hispanic Serving Institutions in America.
The Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering is home to both undergraduate and graduate degrees in petroleum engineering. Undergraduate students learn both the basics of engineering and dive into the world of fluid flow, subsurface resources, and more. Highlight coursework includes:
- Petroleum Engineering Numerical Methods
- Reservoir Fluids
- Well Testing
This degree blends together all the crucial elements of an engineering career: research, modeling, production, and writing. Junior and senior students participate in research contests, simulations, and technical presentations in order to be prepared for the working world.
University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota, a public research university located in Grand Forks, North Dakota, is the largest higher education institution in the state. It is regularly recognized nationally for its excellence as a large, public research university and its highly active research culture. These areas, along with energy, environmental, and engineering studies, constitute UND’s primary areas of strength, and it encourages excellence in these areas through a number of centers and institutes across campus.
The petroleum engineering program at UND, like its medical and legal programs, is the only program of its kind in the state. It exposes students to all aspects of the petroleum engineering industry and balances application, research, and problem solving skills through its comprehensive program.
- Reservoir Rock Properties
- Well Logging
- Drilling Engineering
- Well Testing
In an effort to train its graduates to be not only experts in their discipline but also leaders in their careers, UND educates its students to both traditional and nontraditional methods of reserve recovery. It utilizes the nearby Bakken Formation as a training ground as well as numerous laboratories to prepare its students for real-world problems.
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Based in Socorro, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology was founded in 1889. It features over 30 different undergraduate degrees in engineering and technology. Even though it is a small school by enrollment, it makes a big impression in the world of science. NMIM has been recognized by the National Science Foundation and others for its excellence in engineering.
The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology features an undergraduate petroleum engineering program that enrolls around 240 students annually. In addition to prerequisite courses in mathematics, physics, and chemistry, students will take numerous upper-level courses in relevant subjects such as:
- Well Completions
- Petroleum Fluids
- Reservoir Engineering
- Well Design
The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology doesn’t just stop at an affordable tuition rate. Students interested in petroleum engineering also have the chance to apply for numerous merit-based and need-based scholarships to offset their education costs.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
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.
The Department of Petroleum Engineering provides training through both research and applied expertise. Through the BS in Petroleum Engineering, students acquire experience in oil drilling, natural gas extraction, well design, risk evaluation, and geology. Some of the stand-out upper-level courses for juniors and seniors include:
- Drilling Fluids
- Transport Phenomenon
- Phase Behavior
- Petroleum Formation
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.
Montana Tech / University of Montana
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.
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 extensive training in subjects such as:
- Resource Recovery
- Environmental Issues
- Industry Economics and Trends
Montana 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.
West Virginia University
Located in Morgantown, West Virginia, West Virginia University is a public research university that also operates the West Virginia University Institute of Technology in Montgomery and the Potomac State College of West Virginia University in Keyser. Enrollment for all its campuses, which offer nearly 200 degrees, exceeds 32,000 students, the majority of which study at the main campus in Morgantown. It has produced numerous scholars of national recognition and pursues an aggressive research agenda.
Petroleum engineering students at WVU have exposure to training in both the petroleum and natural gas industries. Its program is one of only three ABET-accredited programs in the country to feature training in both disciplines. Students interested in either industry receive training in all aspects of the field, from design, application, discovery, production, processing, and transport. Classes include:
- Production Engineering
- Stimulation Design
- Drilling Engineering
This degree is also one of the few programs that offers training up to the doctoral level, and the department features particular expertise in extraction technology. Students receive training in science, engineering, communication, computer technology, drilling, production, and reservoir engineering.
University of Oklahoma
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.
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 the following areas:
- Drilling Engineering
- Production Engineering
- Reservoir Engineering
Students are also trained in real-world problem solving and leadership skills. The Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering also offers masters degrees in petroleum engineering, natural gas engineering, and geological engineering.