The special focus of petroleum engineers is devising ways to bring up gas and oil from deep inside the earth. Similar to other engineers, they need a minimum of a bachelor's degree, preferably in petroleum engineering. Nonetheless, some engineers qualify for the job with a bachelor's in chemical or mechanical engineering, especially if they have related work experience. Most engineers are well-paid, but petroleum engineers typically earn more than other engineers.
New Bachelor's Degree Graduates
Taken together, 2013 engineering grads in all specialties reported an average beginning salary of $62,062 a year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. This was higher on average than any other group of majors. New petroleum engineering grads commanded an average of $96,200 per year, higher than any other engineering or non-engineering major.
Median and Average Salaries
As of 2013, petroleum engineers at all stages of their careers earned a median annual income of $132,320, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their average salary was $149,180 per year, which indicates that some engineers had very high earnings. In fact, 25 percent of petroleum engineers received $186,520 or more in annual income. Over the course of their careers, petroleum engineers typically remain the highest-paid in the profession. For example, their 2013 median pay was in top position, followed by that of computer hardware engineers, aerospace engineers and nuclear engineers. All of these other disciplines reported median pay under $105,000 annually.
Major Industry Pay
More than half of the 34,910 petroleum engineers nationwide worked in the oil and gas extraction industry in 2013, according to the BLS. They received average annual pay of $162,860, the highest among major employers. Mining support had 5,060 workers, in second place for jobs, but the average pay was $115,910 per year. Two other industries reported more than 2,500 positions each. These were petroleum and coal products manufacturing, where pay averaged $135,400 per year, and architectural and engineering services, reporting $144,980 annually.
Oil-rich states reported the highest average annual salaries for petroleum engineers in 2013, according to the BLS. In Alaska, wages averaged $160,340 per year, while they averaged $159,340 a year in Texas. Texas also had 19,660 positions, the most of any state, and boasted the top-paying metropolitan area. In Dallas, petroleum engineers averaged $179,040 per year. Jackson, Mississippi, reported average annual incomes of $170,170, the second-highest among the cities.
The BLS predicts 26 percent job growth for petroleum engineers between 2012 and 2022, more than double the 11 percent average for all jobs. The rising price of oil will make more advanced methods of oil and gas extraction economically feasible, increasing the need for petroleum engineers. The BLS expects additional openings to replace retiring engineers, resulting in a highly positive job outlook for petroleum engineers.