NOTE: This page was first published in November 2017. We’ve just reviewed, edited and updated it in December 2018 ready for the 2019 entrance year. Part of our update was to add quick and easy web forms so that you can send a message of interest to the admissions offices so that they can email you further information. After each school, there is a link to click on, and a lightbox will pop up for you to enter a few details.
This article covering the best petroleum engineering schools in the USA is one of the most important on our website. If you’re a regular visitor, you’ll know that we provide some high level, technical assistance to oil and gas professionals. We now want to expand our offerings to help those who are interested in a fruitful oil and gas career, regardless of age and experience level.
We recently published a post entitled ‘The best Universities in Europe for an oil and gas career’ and it was the first in a series. According to our website visitor statistics, we realize that the majority of our readers aren’t European and that the USA has the largest readership.
For the European focused article, we researched, and also reached out to our network. The core team here at drillers.com are British, so we got plenty of ideas, suggestions and points to add to that article.
For an article on the USA, I (hi, Jason here!) realized that I’m not really qualified, and the chance of a mistake and/or omission was high. I have American contacts (howdy!) but not enough to count as a true sample size. So, I asked for help from the Oilpro community who had/have a better handle on the reality in the oil industry than anywhere else that I could find online.
What I did, was research a list of what ‘the internet’ thought should be in the top 15, and then posted the list on (the now closed) Oilpro.
So, after some back and forth, some additions and deletions, I got down to a different list. After quickly checking some of the credentials of my sources, re-researched as I whittled, pruned and manicured to get the definitive list. The whole process was a lot of fun.
As far as rankings go, this matter is subjective, and we’ve placed them roughly in order, with the top 5 being arguably the best. We don’t want to get into a situation where complaints or scuffles break out, so the list is not numbered!
What we didn’t do was include the ‘top 20’ in order to gain extra internet traffic, or for affiliate/profit-making reasons. This is our honest top 10, based on research and networking.
So now, without further ado… We unveil the final drillers.com list of…
The 10 top petroleum engineering schools in the US:
The University of Texas at Austin – Cockrell School of Engineering
So, the Cockrell School of Engineering is right at the top of our list. Whilst this article isn’t strictly numbered in order (who could decide that?), UT at Austin came up most in our research, and networking among industry professionals.
We’d probably go so far as saying the top 5 here are the ‘top 5 in the USA’, that’s as far as we’d go in risking an angry backlash…
Within the region of 7-8000 students studying 9 undergraduate degrees, and 13 graduate programs, this is a substantial school. As we all know, economies come at scale and the quality of resources available to students in unbeatable. This means that as long as you’re smart and dedicated enough, you can achieve more than you ever thought possible at a school like this.
Different reviews over the years tend to rank the Cockerel School of Engineering in the top 1 or 2 in the USA. The Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering department is particularly well respected, often coming first in undergraduate, and graduate programs.
University of Tulsa – McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering
The Internationally acclaimed McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering at UT was another easy decision for the top few spots on this page. This department is the largest and most important on the UT campus.
With an excellent reputation and close industry links, 95% of graduates manage to secure employment within 6 months of leaving.
As with many of the top European petroleum engineering schools, the postgraduate programs have a focus on innovation and technological progress. The research departments work in co-operation with multiple governmental and industry agencies.
One key differential at UT is that undergraduates can also get involved with, and work alongside postgraduate researchers. This fosters an atmosphere of empowerment. It also helps create a backdrop of mutual respect and understanding whatever the level of experience. These qualities are crucial when working in challenging and dangerous environments.
Colorado School of Mines
The Colorado School of Mines, also known simply as ‘mines’ benefits from many of the same situational features of all top petroleum engineering schools. Firstly, the location is close to the industries production, with many geological formations that are actively in production.
Secondly, close industry links enable collaboration, internships and information sharing. Mines has an SPE chapter and benefits from knowledge that is pooled by the most important industry body. The SPE President spoke at the school recently, and these types of events allow immersion into the industry mindset for students.
Other special relationships include the:
- American Rock Mechanics Association
- American Association of Drilling Engineers
- U.S. Geological Survey
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Students are also encouraged to take part in field operations in the summer break while being guided by postgraduates. An exchange program allows one semester swaps with the Petroleum Engineering Departments of the Mining University of Leoben, Austria. The same applies to the Technical University in Delft, Holland. (Both of which appeared on our list of the top oil and gas universities in Europe). Mines also has the exchange arrangement with the University of Adelaide in Australia.
University of Oklahoma Norman Campus
The Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering (MPGE) at the University of Oklahoma has appeared on most top lists over the years. Students graduating from MPGE consistently achieve employment rates of over 90% year on year.
As with most of the other entrants on our list, the Petroleum and Geological Engineering programs are among the oldest in the country. In the workforce, graduates from MPGE are very well represented because of the numbers of successful graduates each year, and the ease of which they obtain work.
This is partly down to the quality of the research departments here. MPGE have distinct departments that solve different industry problems. The departments are as follows:
- Integrated Core Characterization Center (IC3) that includes a complete Amoco Rock Physics Laboratory
- Integrated PoroMechanics Institute (iPMI)
- Well Construction Technology Center (WCTC)
- Institute for Applied Surfactant Research (IASR)
- Unconventional Shale Gas Consortium (USGC)
As well as the sheer number of graduates in the workplace, MPGE alumni are numerous at high levels in companies. This also applies to the recognized industry associations such as the Society of Petroleum Engineers of which seven have served as president.
Texas A&M University: Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering
The highly respected U.S. News & World Report ranks the Harold Vance department first in the USA for undergraduate, and third for graduate studies.
Why is Texas A&M so strong in the sector? It’s quite natural for a state to focus on its natural expertise and environmental assets. Texas is ‘oil country’ and always has been.
In a similar way to Aberdeen, Stavanger or Dubai, Texas is in the heart of an oil industry hub. When multiple leading oil and gas companies have head offices, and hundreds of smaller companies live and work in a location, there are benefits to students. The closeness between academia and industry fosters strong relationships that lead to internships, innovation and the overall betterment of the industry. Internships that involve working in the same area as you study and live make complete sense. Once suitably impressed, a company is likely to put you at the front of the queue to achieve a job upon graduation.
The USA is the leading country in the oil and gas industry and is likely to remain so. Qualifications from one of the best petroleum engineering schools, from the leading country, is likely to maximize your career potential!
The Louisiana State University
Like other entrants on our list, Louisiana is very much an oil state, featuring in the top four in the United States for the last half a century. The oil and gas industry has been responsible for approximately half of the revenue of the state during this period.
When we consider the importance of the O+G industry, the close proximity of exploration and production of hydrocarbons, it makes sense that the offered programs are cutting edge.
The fact that LSU is the flagship university in the state adds to the importance of being among the top schools in the country.
Another reason why LSU made it into our list, is because of their Petroleum Engineering Research & Technology Transfer, or PERTT, Laboratory. This is a full scale, hands-on training facility for students to understand borehole technology. If you’re not impressed by this, you might like to know that this is the only facility of its kind in a university in North America!
It’s not surprising that the oil and gas industry loves to recruit LSU Petroleum Engineering graduates and postgraduates. As well as the PERTT lab, LSU invests large resources in a number of research departments. Research areas of expertise include well control & blowout prevention, enhanced recovery, and downhole water sink technology. Alumni will leave LSU armed with strategies that can help make a difference in the field.
Pennsylvania State University
Pennsylvania State is steeped in oil and gas history, in fact, it was on August 27, 1859, that Edwin Drake first struck oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania. This discovery, in turn, led to the first super giant oil field in Bradbury.
The first official course in petroleum engineering was offered in 1907 at Penn State entitled “Prospecting and Well Drilling”. Over the last 110 years, Penn State has stayed at the top of the rankings national and international rankings, not just for oil and gas, but for engineering in general.
The technique known as waterflooding was first developed at Penn State. There’s also a solid online learning program available, something that we’ll be covering in a future article.
As with all of our featured top schools, the Penn State research facilities are state of the art and highly regarded. Facilities available to students include a multi-phase fluid flow system laboratory and a drilling rig simulator.
Missouri University of Science & Technology (formerly Missouri-Rolla)
Then in 1963, the school was known as the University of Missouri at Rolla. (Rolla being the name of the area which is famous for lead and zinc mining).
As well as mining, energy has held an equal focus. Missouri’s first operational nuclear reactor was commissioned at the school in 1961. Now in the modern day, there’s a strong drive towards alternative energy, including a solar house and car project.
Oil and gas engineering has, of course, also been a focus throughout the history of the school. Many links to major oil companies have thrived for decades, with Exxon Mobil having strong links. MU also has a respected SPE chapter as well. A focus on exchanges and internships help students move towards an international oil and gas career, with available trips to the UK, Greece and Egypt.
Texas Tech University Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering
The faculty are all very experienced, with a minimum of 15 years each, and Texas Tech has one of the largest Petroleum Engineering departments in the USA. The recently booming Permian Basin receives more than their fair share of graduates every year.
One of the biggest attractions of studying here is the new Terry Fuller Petroleum Engineering Research Building which was opened in 2014 and entirely donor funded. As is the case with all top schools, Texas Tech works closely with industry. The oil and gas industry invested $22.8 million, with money coming from Apache Corp, Pioneer Natural Resources, Linn Energy, Chevron, Anadarko and Oxy Petroleum. This is a classic case of voting with chequebooks!
Take a look at the department:
Another reason why Texas Tech appears in our top 10 is that they have the largest (on campus) test well. A Petroleum Engineering Advisory board helps students to stay up to date with industry best practices.
West Virginia University – Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering & Mineral Resources
West Virginia University (WVU) is situated close to the mighty Marcellus Shale geological formation. The Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering (PNGE) Department at WVU has great access to research opportunities, and industry players.
As with all of our top picks, the PNGE department boasts state of the art research facilities, with 4 distinct departments. These are the core analysis, drilling fluids, gas measurement labs and rig floor simulator.
The most frequently mentioned and famous research is probably the Marcellus Shale research department. Here, topics such as porosity and structure are examined, and enhanced extraction techniques are formulated.
High volumes of published technical papers and a 100% job placement rate on graduation show that the faculty, researchers and students all practice what they preach.
What about all the other schools in the USA?
We’ve picked the drillers.com top 10 schools in this article, but the next 10-20 will also offer great opportunities for you. We all know that personal motivation, discipline and suitability are at least as important as the right school. In fact, many of the most respected people in the oil and gas industry worked their way up from low-level positions, and don’t have a degree. (Perhaps honorary ones!)
It might be that you need to study close to home for personal or family reasons. Perhaps you’re the type of bright student that will thrive wherever you are? The top 10 picks all had a link to a submission form to the corresponding university. Below, we have a web form for you to submit your details and get plenty of extra options to consider.
So, at the time of writing, we’re fairly confident that we’ve nailed the top 10 Petroleum Engineering schools in the USA.
You might be reading this a year or two later, are these still the best colleges and universities in the USA for getting into oil and gas? Are there any missing? Should one or two be deleted, because they aren’t quite major league? Any specific examples, reasons or facts will also be appreciated. For example, new patents and technologies created by students or professors, close ties with major companies etc.
We’re happy to keep this page updated as things change, the recent downturn has affected the numbers of new students looking to enter the industry. Salaries for Petroleum Engineering graduates have remained robust throughout good times and bad.
One other thing to consider is that most graduates are employed by around ten major oil companies. These companies foster relationships with the best engineering schools in order to have their pick of the best and brightest. This happens in other industries too, but especially so in oil and gas. This means that you ought to set your sights high and study hard to get into your first choice school.
Serial Energy Entrepreneur. Webmaster at drillers.com. Founder of Out of the Box Innovations Ltd. Co-Founder of Natural Resource Professionals Ltd. Traveller and Outdoorsman, Husband, Father. Technology/Internet Geek.