Employment of petroleum engineers is expected to grow 17 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Oil prices will be a major determinant of employment growth, as higher prices lead to increasing complexity of oil companies’ operations. Additionally, job prospects should be highly favorable because many engineers are expected to retire.
Because oil and gas extraction is the largest industry employing petroleum engineers, any effects of rising oil prices will likely be noticed here first. Higher prices can cause oil and gas companies to drill in deeper waters and in less hospitable places and return to existing wells to try new extraction methods. This means that oil drilling operations will likely become more complex and will require more engineers to work on each drilling operation.
Demand for petroleum engineers in support activities for mining should also be strong, as oil and gas companies find it convenient and cost-effective to seek their services on an as-needed basis. This is partly because petroleum engineering is one of the higher paying occupations in the economy. Experienced petroleum engineers also may start their own companies and provide services to larger oil and gas companies.
Job prospects are expected to be highly favorable because of projected growth and because many petroleum engineers retire or leave the occupation for other reasons.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition