Petroleum Engineers: Salary Overview
Petroleum engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from below the Earth’s surface.
Their job description typically includes designing equipment to extract oil and gas from underground reserves, developing drilling plans, and ways to inject water, chemical, gases, or steam into the oil reserve to force out more gas.
They also have to make sure that oilfield equipment is installed and maintained properly and evaluating the production of wells.
However, their job responsibilities vary depending on their specialty.
Completion engineers decide the best way to finish building wells so that oil and gas will flow from the underground.
Drilling engineers try to find the best way to drill oil or gas wells while production engineers take over wells after drilling is completed.
Reservoir engineers estimate the quantity of oil and gas that can be extracted from underground deposits.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for petroleum engineers was $137,720 in May 2019 which means that half of all workers in this profession made less than this amount while half earned more.
Salaries vary based on a wide range of factors, including experience level, education, and the industry of employment.
The top 10 percent earned more than $208,000 while the lowest 10 percent made less than $79,270 per year.
Petroleum Engineer Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, petroleum engineers held approximately 33,500 jobs in the United States in 2018, most of them working in the field of oil and gas extraction, in the management of companies and enterprises field or for companies that provide support activities for mining.
The average annual salary reported by petroleum engineers in the oil and gas extraction field was $155,250 while those who worked in the industry of management of companies and enterprises reportedly earned $188,810 per year.
The mean annual wage was $139,550 for petroleum engineers who worked in the field of support activities for mining and $147,990 per year for those who worked for companies in architectural, engineering, and related services.
Petroleum engineers who worked in the field of petroleum and coal products manufacturing reportedly earned $143,300 per year, on average.
According to the BLS report, the highest-paying industry for this occupation was the field of employment services, a sector where the average annual wage reported by petroleum engineers was $214,750.
However, this field hires only a few petroleum engineers so job openings may not occur very often.
Salaries also vary depending on other factors including the level of education and certification.
Petroleum engineers need at least a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or a related field but those who also have a master’s degree in the field may have better employment and earnings prospects.
Earning a Professional Engineering license is another way of getting a pay raise.
This license can typically be earned after having at least 4 years of experience and passing two exams.
A PE license will qualify you for positions that require supervising other workers and will give you a higher degree of independence.
As a professional engineer, you will also be allowed to sign off on projects and to provide services directly to the public.
Experience is also an important factor in determining a petroleum engineer’s salary.
As an entry-level employee, you will typically work under the supervision of a more experienced engineer and your salary will most likely be closer to the minimum for this profession.
After earning a few years of experience you may advance to a supervisory position that comes with additional responsibilities and a higher salary.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for petroleum engineers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2018 to 2028 but employment growth is highly sensitive to fluctuations in oil prices.
Demand for petroleum engineers is expected to be especially high in the field of support activities for mining.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Petroleum Engineers. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.