According to a May 2012 report by National Public Radio, the booming oil industry in the U.S. is struggling to fill jobs. Ranging from actual oil field work on rigs and derricks on land and at sea to engineering-type activities, oil field employment can be lucrative. Many oil industry jobs generally fall into what the industry calls oilfield-related positions as well as into professionally oriented work in business and engineering specialties. True oilfield jobs also tend to involve labor-intensive outdoor work.
Oil Industry Workers
The oil industry belongs to what the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calls the petroleum and gas industry. Oil and gas workers carry out the drilling plans designed by engineers, and their work is physically demanding. The BLS says that 2010 median pay for an oil and gas worker was more than $37,600 annually, or $18 hourly. NPR notes, though, that oil and gas industry workers in some regions can earn from $80,000 to more than $100,000, depending on experience levels.
Several states, including North Dakota, have joined Texas as rich sources of oilfield employment. In North Dakota, oilfield jobs include sales positions, roustabouts, truck drivers, electronic technicians, crane operators and clerical workers. Minimum age restrictions for oilfield jobs exist and most workers must be at least 18 to 21 years of age to apply. Typically, oilfield employment requires a clean driving record and regular drug testing.
Petroleum engineers are key professional workers within the oil industry or oil field. The BLS says that in 2010 the median pay for petroleum engineers was $114,080 per year, or nearly $55 hourly. A bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline is the typical professional education requirement to enter the petroleum industry as an engineer. And though petroleum engineers typically work in an office environment, they must also spend time at drilling sites, frequently for long periods.
The industrial nature and pace of work in an oilfield does bring an element of physical risk. For instance, "The New York Times" reported in May 2012 that the long hours many oilfield employees spend on the job may be contributing to a higher rate of work-related driving accidents and fatalities. In 2012, North Dakota became the second-leading state in crude oil production behind only Texas. Unfortunately, since 2004, North Dakota oilfields have also seen an increase in on-the-job injuries and fatalities.
A November 2012 story by ABC News reported a shale oil-based find in Utah and Colorado that dwarfs oil reserves held by many other nations. North Dakota's oil fields are also running at high capacity and workers are eagerly sought. BLS estimates oil and gas worker employment growth at 8 percent through 2020. The Job Service North Dakota website states that oilfield workers also benefit from significant overtime pay. BLS expects petroleum engineer employment to grow by 17 percent through 2020 as well.
2016 Salary Information for Petroleum Engineers
Petroleum engineers earned a median annual salary of $128,220 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, petroleum engineers earned a 25th percentile salary of $97,430, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $179,450, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 33,700 people were employed in the U.S. as petroleum engineers.