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:
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.