Petroleum engineers are involved in all parts of the oil and gas production process.

What does a petroleum engineer do?

Petroleum engineers are involved in all parts of the oil and gas production process, from field evaluation through to exploration, extraction and development. Petroleum engineers are divided into a number of different roles:

  • reservoir engineers – engineers who decide where to place an oil well.
  • production engineers – engineers who manage how the well and oil rig work together.
  • drilling engineers – engineers who manage the process of drilling for oil.

You’ll often be operating complicated machinery and computing systems, so good numeracy and analytical skills are really important. 

What do I need to do to become a petroleum engineer?

You’ll need an undergraduate degree in engineering. Many companies also expect you to have a postgraduate qualification specialising in petroleum engineering. To work offshore, you must pass an offshore survival and firefighting course – also known as emergency response training, or basic offshore induction and emergency training (BOSIET).

To get on to a relevant degree course, you usually need three A levels, with maths and/or physics preferable. You also need five GCSEs A-C, including maths, English and science. 

Level 3 vocational qualifications in engineering are accepted by some universities – check with them for details. 

Related skills

  • Teamwork
  • Technical ability
  • Problem solving
  • Physical fitness
  • Organisation
  • Numeracy
  • Communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Analytics
  • Discipline
  • Mechanical knowledge
  • IT

Academic route

  • Three A levels, maths and/or physics preferable

Vocational route

  • Level 3 vocational qualification in engineering

Related subjects

  • Chemistry
  • Design technology
  • Maths
  • Physics

Essential qualifications

  • Engineering degree
  • Offshore survival training

Desirable qualifications

  • Postgraduate degree in petroleum engineering

Where to find out more

Where could I be working?

You’ll normally be working offshore, to a shift pattern. You will also work with other professionals such as geologists, geophysicists and specialist contractors.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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