Petroleum engineers develop techniques and equipment to get gas and oil from deep in the earth, helping reduce costs and increase the amount of fuel recovered. The job requires strong abilities in math and science, with a minimum of a bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering or a related field. The skills and education required allow petroleum engineers to command a much higher salary than average.
Average Wages and Range:
The average annual income of petroleum engineers was $138,980 as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The government study includes 30,880 petroleum engineers nationwide, whose yearly income ranged from $69,850 at the 10th percentile to at least $187,199 at the 90th percentile.
Pay by Industry:
The largest employer of petroleum engineers in the 2011 government report was the oil and gas extraction industry. The 15,720 engineers in this field averaged $150,890 per year, the top pay. The second-largest employer was mining support activities, which had 4,450 engineers earning an average of $111,400 per year. Petroleum and coal products manufacturing and architectural and engineering services each employed more than 2,000 engineers, at average annual salaries of $132,400 and $135,420 respectively.
State Job Distribution:
Three states had more than 2,000 jobs each for petroleum engineers in 2011, according to the statistics bureau report. Texas had the largest number of jobs by a wide margin, with 18,060 engineers earning average pay of $147,070 per year. Oklahoma had 3,090 jobs paying an average of $146,770 per year. In Louisiana, 2,440 engineers earned an average of $120,720 annually.
As of 2011, three metropolitan areas stand out for high salaries among cities with more than 500 jobs for petroleum engineers. The greater Dallas, Texas, area had 1,940 jobs paying an average of $162,520 per year, according to the government study. In Oklahoma City, petroleum engineers averaged a similar $162,010 per year, and in the greater Fort Worth, Texas, region, engineers averaged $157,460 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts "highly favorable" prospects for petroleum engineers until at least 2020. The bureau expects a 17 percent increase in the number of jobs between 2010 and 2020, up to a total of 35,300. The price of fuel will be a large determining factor in the jobs picture because rising prices increase the incentives to recover harder-to-extract fuels. In addition, many highly paid petroleum engineers will retire, opening up jobs for newcomers.