How to become a Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers plan and manage the recovery of oil and gas from petroleum reservoirs. The petroleum engineering profession offers a number of specialisations, with the major areas including drilling engineering, formation evaluation, production engineering and reservoir engineering.

Personal requirements of a Petroleum Engineer

  • Enjoy technical and engineering activities
  • Willing to contribute and adhere to the safety requirements of an operation
  • Able to identify, analyse and solve problems
  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Aptitude for computing and design
  • Practical and creative
  • Able to work without supervision
  • Able to accept responsibility

Education & Training for a Petroleum Engineer

To become a petroleum engineer you usually have to study engineering at university with a major in petroleum engineering. You may also consider related specialisations such as chemical, civil, mechanical or mining engineering. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, chemistry and physics are normally required. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Additional Information

Graduates may be eligible for membership of Engineers Australia. Visit their website for more details. Registration or licensing may be required. Contact the Society of Petroleum Engineers for further information.

Duties & Tasks of a Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers:

  • study geological and geophysical information to determine what type of drilling equipment and method of drilling would be the most efficient and cost effective, as well as plan the locations for drilling
  • assist in estimating the economic potential of oil and gas reserves by directing the testing of boreholes
  • identify the liquids or gases contained, the rate at which they can be recovered and the temperatures and pressures that need to be dealt with
  • determine the best way to develop oil and gas reserves and to maximise recovery and profit
  • determine methods of controlling the flow of oil or gas from wells and keep records of production
  • plan ways to transport the oil and gas reserves from the seabed, including the use of downhole pumps and gaslift systems
  • study operating equipment, environmental problems and the treatment of oil to remove sediment and water
  • conduct operations and activities in accordance with environmental policies and codes
  • work safely and use any equipment provided for health and safety purposes
  • monitor the necessary safety procedures and facilities for personnel working on the project.

Working conditions for a Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers work closely with people from other disciplines such as geologists and geophysicists. They may work in remote areas.

Employment Opportunities for a Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers are employed by oil and gas production companies and oil industry service contractors. Employment opportunities for petroleum engineers exist with major oil and exploration companies, contracting firms and government. Petroleum engineers may work on site in oil fields, production centres and in the head office of companies that are based in metropolitan areas. They may also work as consultants to the industry. Petroleum engineers may rise to managerial positions in the oil and gas industry.

Avg. weekly wage:


Future growth:


Employment by state:


NSW NSW 7.4%

NT NT 0.7%

QLD QLD 17.8%

SA SA 11.2%

TAS TAS 2.1%

VIC VIC 10.2%

WA WA 50.5%

Hours worked:



Average unemployment

Gender split:

Male 89%

Female 11%

Education level:

Highest qualification is secondary school: 20.7%

Highest qualification is a Bachelor degree: 45.7%

Highest qualification is a Postgraduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 33.7%

Age brackets:

15-19 - 0%

20-24 - 4.7%

25-34 - 32.3%

35-44 - 24.6%

45-54 - 22%

55-59 - 13%

60-64 - 1.9%

65 and Over - 1.3%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.

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