Best Petroleum Engineering Degrees

Are you ready to find your fit?

There’s that light on your dashboard again; it always seems to come on when you’re running late! 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.

What kind of degree in petroleum engineering should you get?

Undergraduate programs and doctoral degrees generally lack significant differentiation, with most schools offering only one program at these levels.

Petroleum engineering degrees at the master’s degree level, however, can be master of science or master of engineering degrees. While broadly similar, these programs will serve students with different professional needs.

A master of science in petroleum engineering will focus on performing research. Students’ coursework helps to improve their familiarity with either petroleum engineering theory or research methods they can use to improve the quality and efficiency of their research.

A master of engineering in petroleum engineering, meanwhile, builds skills for engineering practice. These programs often involve an engineering project, enabling students to demonstrate the skills they have learned over the course of the program. Some such programs allow students great flexibility in the courses they take, allowing them to improve their familiarity with petroleum as a business or other disciplines that will improve their career prospects.

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What can you do with a degree in petroleum engineering?

Petroleum engineers have many different titles depending on which aspects of the extraction process they specialize in. Common specializations include completions, drilling, and production.

  • Completions Engineer – Completions engineers look at how wells should be built to extract as much oil as possible. They use tubing, hydraulic fracturing, pressure control, and other techniques to optimize extraction.
  • Drilling Engineer – Drilling engineers find reliable, cost-efficient ways to drill down to reach oil. They must also account for safety and environmental impact.
  • Production Engineer – Production engineers oversee the work done at completed oil wells. They monitor current extraction rates, and recommend changes or maintenance if a well fails to produce as much as expected.

How much can you make with a degree in petroleum engineering?

Petroleum engineer salaries came in at more than $100,000 per year in 2018, translating to an average hourly pay of just under $50, according to Payscale.com. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows even higher salaries, close to $140,000, for a median pay of about $65 per hour.

Growth prospects in petroleum engineering also look positive for the foreseeable future. The field should add about 5,000 jobs over its 2016 numbers by 2026, showing growth that significantly outstrips the national average. Changes in oil prices, however, could significantly alter this figure.

The best petroleum engineering degrees

The rankings below highlight some of the best programs we’ve found in petroleum engineering. Each program offers high academic quality and return on investment, and students report high satisfaction. These programs typically have solid ratios of students to faculty, and graduates report incomes that justify the cost of the program.

Several sources provided the information used in these rankings. Some data comes from a poll by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. This polling information has been combined with data from publicly-available sources, such as U.S. News and World Report, the National Center for Education Statistics, and PayScale.com.

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
    Location

    Socorro, NM

    Tuition

    $19137

    Overview

    New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology offers numerous bachelor of science degrees in science and technical fields in addition to masters and doctoral level programs. While it is a smaller institutionapproximately 2,000 studentsit is consistently ranked among the best engineering schools in the country.

    Program Features

    The schools 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. Some highlight classes include:

    Well Design Reservoir Engineering Production Engineering Lab Well Completions

    Notables

    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
    Location

    Golden, CO

    Tuition

    $34828

    Overview

    The Colorado School of Mines is a public university located in Golden, Colorado. The schools 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. Colorado School of Mines has enjoyed expansion in recent years, with the completion of a new student center, computer center, and even a supercomputer.

    Program Features

    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.Members of the departmentboth professors and studentsare involved in some of the following organizations:

    Society of Petroleum Engineers American Association of Drilling Engineers American Rock Mechanics Association

    Notables

    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.

  3. Stanford University
    Location

    Stanford, CA

    Tuition

    $46320

    Overview

    Stanford University in Stanford, California, needs little introduction. Consistently recognized as one of the worlds foremost institutions of higher education in virtually any field of study, it also boasts a leading engineering program. Stanford raises a revenue 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.

    Program Features

    Stanfords 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. Highlight courses include:

    Well Log Analysis Partial Differential Equations in Engineering Enhanced Oil Recovery Geostatistics

    Notables

    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 Stanfords program enjoy some of the best placement records of any program in the country.

  4. Texas a & M University
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Tuition

    $26356

    Overview

    Texas AM University, originally Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, is a public university in College Station, Texas, and the flagship school of the Texas AM 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 AM is no stranger to higher education rankings, and its engineering program in particular is internationally recognized for excellence.

    Program Features

    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 engineering such as:

    Drilling Production Transportation Methods

    Notables

    Many students from this program continue their education in graduate programs, while others are placed in positions throughout the energy industry. The curriculum at AM 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
    Location

    Rapid City, SD

    Tuition

    $14230

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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 degreesthe B.S. in Geology and the B.S. in Geological Engineering. Coursework includes:

    Petroleum Drilling and Production Engineering Chemical Engineering Fluid Mechanics Thermo Fluid Dynamics Upstream Oil and Gas Processing

    Notables

    TheDepartment of Geology and Geological Engineering 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
    Location

    Austin, TX

    Tuition

    $34836

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    Prospective petroleum engineers will study in UTs Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, which is staffed by leading theorists and practitioners in the field and offers both undergraduate and graduate training. Students will major in either Petroleum Engineering or Geosystems Engineering and Hydrogeology. A sampling of some coursework includes:

    Engineering, Energy, and the Environment Engineering Communications Petrophysics Drilling and Well Completions

    Notables

    Thisprogram is known for its competitiveness. It only 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.

  7. University of Louisiana at Lafayette
    Location

    Lafayette, LA

    Tuition

    $19348

    Overview

    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 offers bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in both arts and sciences, and is well known for its programs in computer science, engineering, and architecture.

    Program Features

    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. A sampling of a few stand-out upper-level courses include:

    Thermodynamics Transport Phenomenon Reservoir Fluid Flow Natural Gas Engineering

    Notables

    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
    Location

    Missoula, MT

    Tuition

    $20152

    Overview

    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 degreesmining engineering and electrical engineeringand now enrolls approximately three thousand students and offers 73 different undergraduate degrees, 18 minors, and numerous other certification and pre-professional programs.

    Program Features

    Montana Techs 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 three different concentrations. These include:

    Reservoir Engineering Drilling Engineering Production Engineering

    Notables

    Montana Techs 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.

  9. University of Pittsburgh
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $28958

    Overview

    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 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.

    Program Features

    Pitts petroleum engineering program has much to be proud of. 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. Youll take classes like:

    Reactive Process Engineering Transport Phenomena Dynamics and Modeling

    Notables

    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
    Location

    University Park, PA

    Tuition

    $31346

    Overview

    Pennsylvania State University 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. It enrolls nearly 100,000 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs across its several campuses.

    Program Features

    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. Key classes include:

    Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations Physical Geography Oil Well Drilling Applied Reservoir Engineering

    Notables

    Penn States program in petroleum and natural gas engineering prepares students for any number of career and education paths upon graduation. 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.

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