How To Get An Online Petroleum Engineering Degree

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Jason Lavis
Jason Lavis
Serial Energy Entrepreneur. Webmaster at Founder of Out of the Box Innovations Ltd. Co-Founder of Natural Resource Professionals Ltd. Traveller and Outdoorsman, Husband, Father. Technology/Internet Geek.

Becoming a Petroleum Engineer…

This post will first cover the question of whether it’s possible to get an online petroleum engineering degree (a bachelor degree). Then we cover a few other online educational options within the subject of petroleum engineering.

As with studying any subject online, there’s a huge potential trade-off to consider. The choice between not working and building up debt/spending savings, or studying at evenings and weekends and risking a lower grade (or failure). You’ll need to think long and hard before going down the online road for a topic as challenging as petroleum engineering.

In general, the choices and options for education are expanding rapidly. Thanks to the internet, there are now thousands of online courses that didn’t even exist a few short years ago. After our recent articles covering the top schools, colleges and universities in Europe and the USA, some people were wondering whether these courses could be done online.

Petroleum Engineers are among the highest earning people in society, and the job itself is challenging and very valuable to oil companies. Online degrees are easier and more cost effective for the student, but in such an important role, you might ask; surely supervision is needed?

For those that are inside the educational system, and choosing a subject, an in-person degree is the most robust choice. The added support structure, and active laboratory and simulation work will make getting a good grade far easier.

There are people who are already working in the oil and gas industry, and might find it impractical, or even impossible to go physically ‘back to school’. These are the people who might consider distance learning. It’s quite possible to study in the evenings and weekends, and still work to support yourself and your family.

Since the internet eliminates distance, this article will cover global possibilities.

The ABET Consideration…

ABET is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, who are the global leaders in giving accreditation to courses in these fields. If you’re a young person still in school of college, and you want to be an engineer, you’ll want to complete a course that’s ABET approved. At the time of writing, it’s hard to find any petroleum engineering bachelor degrees that are ABET certified. In fact, although we found one (see later in the article), it’s not on the list on the ABET website yet…

Spending a few years of your life to get a degree is a huge investment. In an uncertain and competitive job environment, you’ll want to put yourself in the best possible position. For this reason, we can’t recommend an online degree in petroleum engineering for the majority of students.

There are many petroleum engineers who don’t have a petroleum engineering degree. They studied and passed a similar one, and then did a masters degree after. For example, you’ll meet those who got into the job after taking a chemical or mechanical engineering bachelors degree first.

With a bit of research and extra career risk, you could look for an ABET accredited online bachelors degree in a similar discipline. Be aware that you might need to do a postgraduate course after. The good news is that online masters degrees in petroleum engineering are more common and still well respected.

We can recommend online masters degrees in petroleum engineering at places such as the University of Texas, Heriot-Watt or Robert Gordon University. Online Masters degrees in this field are much more common, and we’d suggest starting your search with the top schools and universities in the US and Europe that we covered in other articles. (See the links above in the third paragraph).

We found an online bachelors degree…

The University of North Dakota has an online petroleum engineering graduate degree. The good news is that the course is a BSc and ABET certified as well! It takes 4-6 years to complete. Even this course isn’t 100% online as you’ll need to attend for brief courses and laboratory sessions. These could still fit in with vacation time if your employer is fully supportive of what you’re doing.

There might be others available that we’re not aware of, but it seems that for an undergraduate route, the in-person petroleum engineering degree, or a different engineering distance learning degree are the 2 main options for now. If you’re considering an option like the distance course at UND, then you’d need to contact the school and explain your personal circumstances. You might find a compromise or workaround that you hadn’t considered.

UPDATE December 2018: since publishing this post, we’ve become aware of more opportunities to study online.

Rather than coming back to update this article periodically, and risking our information being out of date, we’ve teamed up with Archer Education/Campus Explorer. The quick and easy web form below will go to the United States University system. You can receive the latest and up to date information about your options.

Even though most degrees are gained in person, some courses can be done online, or in conjunction with a job. If you want to receive information about this, then fill in the form below:

Other options…

The choice of online course depends on your goals. It might be that you think that it’s best to get a bachelors or masters degree in petroleum engineering from a good university. If you wanted to be at the top of your field then an in-person degree will give you the best chance.

There are exceptions, if you have a photographic memory, you might think that attending classes with wastes too much time. Perhaps you’re a lifelong student who enjoys studying, lots of people take courses for future roles, or in subjects that have little or nothing to do with their current job.

For people that fall into the exceptions, there are online options and choices, and these are likely to grow over time.

Here are a few examples:

The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) offer an online petroleum engineering certification. You need to have a 4 year undergraduate degree, although this doesn’t need to be in petroleum engineering, it can be in a related engineering field. In addition, you’d need to be a member of SPE and have 4 years of work experience in engineering. This qualification will offer an opportunity to have a way into the field.

Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston offer an online Oil & Gas Certificate for CPA/accounting. From their website:

A three-course certificate in the area of Oil & Gas/Energy accounting was developed through a joint effort with Oil & Gas/Energy (upstream, midstream, downstream and other energy) companies, CPA firms, and other affected stakeholders in 2009. Only a few schools offer a course in Oil & Gas Accounting and none offer anything like this certificate.

Thunderbird School of Global Management offer online Oil & Gas Management certification. Thunderbird is one of the top business management schools in the world and is highly respected. Whilst not petroleum engineering per se, the latest in oil & gas leadership and managment training would surely be an asset to anyone in an upper executive role in the industry.

Photo by Garrhet Sampson on Unsplash



    • Hi Fianko, usually an engineering degree is required, or in some cases a work history that is a close match. That said, it would be worth contacting colleges and universities directly. You can create one email, and send it to all that offer the programs that interest you.

  1. Am a holder of high school diploma and getting into a petroleum school has always being my dreams. Can it be possible I get into it without the related subjects??

    • Hi Jessy, If you only have a high school diploma, then you won’t be able to start a degree. There are likely to be qualifications that put you in the direction of a Petroleum Engineering Degree, but you need to speak to a careers advisor locally.

  2. I have a BBA degree with 10 years of oilfield experience in the field. Thinking about going back to school to get petroleum engineering degree. Not sure what to expect or how to go about it. Any ideas?

    • Hi Devin, since you have 10 years in the oilfield under your belt AND a degree already, you’d probably be in a better position to answer your own question that most people, including me :).

      Seriously though, the most important considerations will be personal, you need to think about the financial implications of taking a few years out of work. If you go down the online route for additional qualifications while working then self-motivation and an understanding family will be the prime concern.

      Other than that, it makes sense to pick up the phone and call admissions offices, and also start sending some emails to colleges and universities. Cheers.

  3. I am a high school certificate holder hoping to get in to a petroleum school because it has always been my dream to …please can you help me get into an online recognise university so that I can purchase a bachelor degree ? Thanks

    • Hi Ashu, I don’t know of anyone who can “get you in” to a school or college. Turn your dream into reality by research, speaking to a careers advisor and making applications. The more effort you make, the better you’ll understand the process and situation you’re in.

      Oh… You can’t purchase a bachelors degree, you have to take the course and test. You pay for the tuition, not the degree. I also advise proofreading and checking what you’re writing, not just in exams, but in everyday life. Become a better communicator and life will be easier for you. Good luck!

  4. Hi Mr. Jason, I already have a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering in the Philippines but I wanted to practice Petroleum Engineering and be certified on it.

    Any advise on how can I achieve this? I’m hoping an on-line degree in Petroleum Engineering would suffice, what do you think?

    • Hi Joseph, this is a complicated question. Your master’s degree in mechanical engineering would qualify you for taking an online petroleum engineering degree.

      I’d be a little concerned about how this would look to an employer, and whether it would move you down in their estimation of who might be the best person for the job. University degrees from developing countries are looked at differently, as are online degrees. If you were an employer, you’re more likely to have people with an in-person degree in a top economic country in the shortlist pile. Online degrees and degrees from a developing country are more likely to be in the ‘maybe’ collection.

      I know that qualified doctors from the Philippines often have to drop down to a nurse or carer position when they become an OFW. That said, I have a Filipino friend who has a degree in software engineering. When he moved to the UK, he was able to get a job in an equal position to the one he had in the Philippines. So, I’m not so sure about how this relates to petroleum engineering.

      I guess that the critical question is where you plan to live and work. If you get an online petroleum engineering degree, that should get you interviews and a job in an ASEAN country. It could be harder if you planned to go to somewhere like the USA and compete against local engineers who did the in-person degrees in the states.

  5. I have a first degree of engineering in Mineral Processing and am really keen to take up online Masters In Petroleum Engineering. Please advise me.

    • Hi Jonah, we don’t offer personalised career coaching at If you’re interested in an online degree, start sending email enquiries to the places that interest you. Using a search engine and sending emails would be the logical first step. Cheers.

  6. I have high school diploma DAE ( diploma of Associate engineer) in petroleum engineering . I have been working in petroleum industry for four years. now I am looking for a graduate degree in petroleum engineering( online) I am a Pakistani national working here in Qatar. can I get graduate degree in petroleum engineering? thanks

    • Hi Saeed, you’ve got a specific set of circumstances and we aren’t able to offer personalised coaching or advice at A high school diploma isn’t enough to do a graduate degree. You don’t say what job you’ve been doing these past 4 years, that makes a difference as to whether your experience would help you get enrolled. There are plenty of online courses that don’t require a degree. The best thing to do would be to speak to the HR department at the company that you’re working at, to see how you can rise in the industry. If you don’t want them to know, then contacting places that offer the courses directly is the best step. Good luck.

  7. Dear,
    Im an offshorian. I have diploma in mechanical engineering DME . I have been working in petroleum industry for the last 14 years as a process plant operator in upstream oil and gas processing facilities. now I am looking for a graduate degree in petroleum engineering( online) can I get graduate degree in thanks

  8. I have master degree in geology (stratigraphy and fossils) can I attend to an online postgraduate program for petroleum engineering. and which university ?

  9. Hello,
    I recently applied to UND to take the petroleum engineering online BS courses. I have been in the oilfield for 17years now. Seven of those years I have been working as a Drilling Consultant. Should or will any of my field time go to my credits?

    • Hi Derek, you need to ask course questions directly to the people at UND. I just checked in Google and they have a telephone number. I could call them for you, but I won’t 🙂

  10. Hey Jason lavis, I currently work oversees in Saudi Arabia. I have been working on drilling rig for over 12 years, and I am thinking about taking course online to further my career all I have is experience on drilling rig . Thinking something like a petroleum degree or some sort in that field. I work a rotation on 35 days in Saudia and 35 days off . I also have abundance of time to study at work online . And also at home. But the problem is I have to work I can’t quit to chase a degree. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Brandon, my advice would be to send the same questions directly to admissions offices in schools that offer the courses that you’re looking for. Be sure to mention your previous level of education and qualifications gained. There are ways that you can study and continue working – especially with online courses. I expect that some places that you contact will tell you that you need to be available on particular dates that clash with your work rotation. Other courses will be more flexible. There’s no substitute for contacting them directly though and explaining your specific circumstances. Good luck.

  11. Hi, Abe, i have an undergraduate in Analytical Chemistry, can I take a master’s degree in petroleum engineering ( reservoir engineering)

  12. Hello there,
    I was hoping you would help me with the following dilemma as i feel lost and don’t know what steps to take in life to help me go on.
    P.s this is going to be a long post. Kindly be patient and bear with me. Thank you

    I’m an Egyptian BEng graduate of Well Engineering (dealing with oil and gas wells from the design stage to production without and deep knowledge of reservoir engineering or any other branch of the petroleum engineering as a whole jusy the drilling and production branches) of the University of Central Lancashire in the UK (only final year, the other 3 years were taught in Oman). Graduated top of 2016 class in the UK and had to come back to Oman in search of a job (couldn’t and still can’t go back to Egypt due to the unstable conditions of the country). Didn’t get a job till the end of 2017 where I worked as document controller for an EPC company for 2 years and got laid off at the beginning of this year due to the coronavirus. Can’t find a job (due to Omani localisation) so i started learning programming to search for a job in that field but not quite skilled yet. I can’t stay useless for any longer so i applied for different courses. Recently i have got accepted to do reservoir engineering masters degree in Norway and I’m so scared as i have very little work experience in my field (2 months internship with Schlumberger since 2014 and) and i have almost forgotten everything i knew (lack of practice specially in the math department).

    How to prepare for such a masters degree in reservoir engineering and should i even bother going there or it is time to do a career shift altogether and forget about any prospects in the oil and gas industry?

    Appreciate the time, i really do and thank you for advice beforehand

    • Hi, This an incredibly hard question to answer, for many different reasons. There are so many variables involved, and I don’t think that anyone would know the answer better than you do. Without seeing the future of the industry, and of your future motivations, opportunities and even luck… We’ve all been in this situation in our lives, and its part of the challenge and joy of being human.

  13. Hello Mister Jason,
    hope you are doing well and thank you for your answers for questions above.

    I have an associate professional degree in petroleum engineering (2 years university ) and almost 3 years experiences in oilfield. I would like to continuous but online. Where can i follow Bachelor program?? Is it possible To follow a Msc program directly?

    • Hi Rommel, I researched and wrote this article a few years ago, and believe that there’s no substitute for fresh research. If I were you, I wouldn’t rely on asking me – I’d roll my sleeves up and get busy with research. Start with Google, and then send emails and make phone calls. I don’t think there’s an easy substitute for that. Good luck.


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