Petroleum Engineering Career: Job Areas, Salary & Education

Petroleum engineering student in lab

Petroleum engineering is a dynamic and exciting subject, and university graduates have a global impact. By choosing to study a petroleum engineering degree you can look forward to lots of career opportunities around the world, as well as the option to continue your studies at postgraduate level.

What is petroleum engineering?

Petroleum engineering is a very important field of engineering that manages the extraction of crude oil from the ground. Petroleum engineers ensure that the world has enough oil and gas to maintain people’s everyday lives, while also working to improve the industry’s efficiency and environmental sustainability.

What does a petroleum engineer do?

As well as overseeing the extraction process, petroleum engineers must also consider economic and environmental factors, and maintain high levels of safety for workers. This means that petroleum engineers are involved throughout the extraction process, from exploring for new drill sites, to optimising existing oil recovery techniques.

Fields of petroleum engineering

After completing a petroleum engineering degree, you could specialise in one of these areas:

  • Drilling Engineering – Design and select the type of drill, taking into account the various geological factors of the site.
  • Production Engineering – Manage the equipment used in the drilling process, ensuring excellent well performance is maintained.
  • Reservoir Engineering – Use cutting-edge technology to analyse reservoir behaviour and propose production optimising operations.

What skills will I develop from a petroleum engineering degree?

A university degree in petroleum engineering shows employers that you have excellent technical abilities and numeracy skills, and a keen awareness of the industry as a whole.

Alongside that, you will also gain project management skills and valuable petroleum geoscience knowledge. These abilities are very attractive to global energy companies, and having them will give you an edge in a competitive job market.

Petroleum engineering salary

Due to their specialist skills, petroleum engineers are usually well paid compared to workers in other fields. The average base salary of a petroleum engineer in the UK is £52,311, which is much higher than the average UK salary.*

*Glassdoor, 2020

Tutor and student in engineering class wearing lab coats

Where do petroleum engineers work?

Petroleum engineers are sought-after across the globe. Those in the industry often work for oil, gas and energy companies. These brands vary in size, from national to large multinational corporations.

Roles can be located on or off shore. Off shore jobs will involve working on oil rigs at sea, from the Middle East to South America. On shore jobs in petroleum engineering usually require more experience and are based in offices.

What to do after a petroleum engineering degree?

After completing your degree, you may wish to begin your job search. Larger organisations sometimes recruit candidates on to graduate training programmes. You could also look for internships, or work placements as this will improve your CV for employers.

Alternatively, you could continue your academic career. This could mean continuing your studies at postgraduate level. Some employers may require you to have a Masters degree to be considered for the job. You may also want to look for research opportunities in the field. At the University of Aberdeen, there is a Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering Research Group that could be perfect for you if you are a potential PhD student.

If you haven’t got your degree in petroleum engineering yet, the University of Aberdeen International Study Centre is a great place to start. By studying on one of our pathway programmes, and upon progression to the University, you will have access to dedicated careers support.

After your graduation from the University, you will also be able to work in the UK for up to two years with the new Graduate Immigration Route. Learn more about the post-study work visa here.

Petroleum engineering careers

A petroleum engineer graduate’s career path is often very varied. Within the fields mentioned before, there are a range of unique jobs that offer exciting opportunities in the industry you may like to pursue:

  • Completions Engineers design plans for new wells, and monitors well installations.
  • Field Engineers provide testing, repairs and services on specialist equipment in the field.
  • Geoscientists study the structure of the ground to discover new oil and gas reserves.
  • Mudloggers monitor drilling activity and provide detailed feedback about the efficiency of the well site using rock samples.
  • Petroleum Engineers have a wide range of responsibilities, from developing scenarios and carrying out risk assessments for oil field projects, to giving talks at conferences.
  • Well Engineers develop solutions for designing the well with expertise in engineering processes and standards.
  • Wellsite Geologists examine samples of rock from inside the well to advise drilling direction.

There are other careers you could pursue, that aren’t directly related to your degree:

  • Energy Engineer
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Mining Engineer
  • Offshore Drilling Worker
  • Quarry Manager

Study petroleum engineering abroad

Entering the world of work with an engineering degree from a respected UK university is a useful asset, as they are renowned around the globe.

Study in Scotland

By studying in Scotland, you will be able to improve your English language levels by practising in your day-to-day life, as well as while you study. Improving your English skills will give you a number of career advantages, such as being able to network with more people, boosting your confidence and showing employers you are willing to go out of your comfort zone.

If you are interested in starting your career in petroleum engineering, the University of Aberdeen is the ideal place to earn your degree. The University has a unique history with engineering and sciences, and is the only university in Scotland that offers an undergraduate petroleum engineering degree.

Alongside the University’s academic excellence, the city of Aberdeen is the centre of the UK’s national oil and gas exploration and production activity. The city is well connected with the local, national and international energy industry. By living and studying in Aberdeen, you will get the opportunity to experience the industry through insightful guest lectures, company visits and networking events.

How to study petroleum engineering abroad in the UK?

At the University of Aberdeen International Study Centre, we offer pathway programmes for international students to progress to one of the UK’s oldest universities. On both our undergraduate and postgraduate level programmes, you will develop the necessary academic and English language skills for your studies at the University of Aberdeen, while settling into life in Scotland. At the International Study Centre you will also receive academic, career and welfare support from our excellent staff.

An international student's perspective

We our spoke to Alisher, from Kazakhstan, who studied the Undergraduate Foundation Programme in Physical Sciences and Engineering at the International Study Centre. Find out how the programme prepared him for undergraduate study at the University of Aberdeen.


To study petroleum engineering abroad at undergraduate level, you will need good high-school qualifications and English language skills. For students that need some more support, an Undergraduate Foundation Programme in Physical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Aberdeen International Study Centre is a great option.


If you already have a good degree in a relevant field and want to study at postgraduate level, the Pre-Masters Programme in Science and Engineering is specially designed to prepare international students for a Masters degree at the University of Aberdeen.

From either our undergraduate or postgraduate level programmes, you can progress to a range of degrees in the fields of petroleum engineering and oil and gas engineering, including BENg Petroleum Engineering, MSc Oil & Gas Engineering and many more.

You can find out how to apply to the University of Aberdeen International Study Centre here.


Is petroleum engineering a good career?

Petroleum engineering is a versatile degree that allows graduates to work in a number of fields. A career in petroleum engineering means having task variety that keeps your day-to-day work exciting. There are also many different fields of petroleum engineering you can work in.   

What are the job opportunities for a petroleum engineer?

Engineering is an interesting and complex industry that has a lot to offer for graduates. Some of the roles you could work in for your petroleum engineering career are: 

  • Petroleum geologist
  • Reservoir engineer
  • Completions engineer
  • Drilling engineer
  • Production engineer

What salary can a petroleum engineer graduate expect?

The starting petroleum engineering salary in the UK is within the region of £25,000 to £35,000. With more knowledge and experience, petroleum engineers can expect to earn £55,000 to £95,000+ (Prospects 2023).