Degrees Needed for Oil Careers

People who wish to prepare for an oil career have a variety of programs to choose from, ranging from an associate’s degree to a doctorate. Students can major in subjects such as geology, chemistry, math, environmental engineering, engineering, civil engineering, or other physical sciences.

There are as many different types of schools for future oil career professionals as there are different degrees or majors. Students can find these programs at four-year universities, some of which offer graduate degrees, at community colleges, or at online schools, which have grown in popularity ever since the advent of high-speed Internet.

Regardless of which type of institution they choose, students need to do their homework to make sure they receive a quality education. While many of the traditional universities are considered high-quality, their class sizes tend to be larger, which means less individualized instruction may be difficult to obtain. Online schools enable students, especially those who are working, to study at home when it is convenient. One drawback of online schools is that students might have limited access to their instructors when they have questions or need clarification on assignments or test instructions.

Degrees Needed for Oil Careers
  • Associate’s Degree
    Community colleges and some universities offer an associate’s degree in applied science or a related technology, which is necessary for jobs like geological and petroleum technician. Students who need to work while in school may consider an associate’s degree a good starting point. This degree typically includes courses in science, math, and technology as well as general-education classes such as English and history.

Certain universities also offer online courses leading to an associate’s degree. It is important for students to research each school to ensure the quality of the education and to ask questions, such as whether the school has recognized accreditation. If not, the credits students earned are unlikely to transfer to another university. Also, degrees from unaccredited schools could hinder graduates’ future job opportunities, as employers look not only at the degree itself but also at the institution that conferred it.

Nevertheless, an associate’s degree is ideal for people who want to get started on their oil career as they continue their education. The types of jobs for which they are qualified tend to be technical in nature, such as collecting and testing geological materials or determining petroleum content and mineral characteristics.

  • Bachelor’s Degree
    Most students can earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, completing academic courses such as English, math, science, and history in addition to courses related to their major. Most universities require a high school degree or General Educational Development (GED) test for admission as well as acceptable scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or American College Testing (ACT) test. Students who wish to major in engineering or geology will need to take math, science, and technology courses.

Since different degrees require different courses, it is important for students to know which courses are necessary for a career in the oil industry. Geology majors need to take courses in environmental science, geochemistry and geophysics, statistics, and calculus as well as geography. Engineering majors need to take math classes like statistics and calculus in addition to physics, computer science, chemistry, general engineering, technical communication, and environmental science. Bachelor’s coursework in applied geophysics would cover topics such as electrical conductivity, magnetization, material density, and the transmission and reflection of propagating waves—all techniques that are used to measure the physical properties of rock and soil.

No matter what their major, all students would benefit from learning how to use the latest computer software as well as mainframe computing.

  • Master’s Degree
    Some universities offer master’s degrees in fields such as petroleum or gas engineering, oil and gas management, and environmental studies. It takes about two years to complete a master’s degree, although some schools offer an accelerated program to enable students to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in just five years. While a bachelor’s degree is generally required for graduate school admission, applicants will also need to earn proficient scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

Several different degrees provide graduates with an opportunity to explore oil careers. For a master’s in petroleum engineering, students take advanced courses in rock mechanics, petrophysics, enhanced oil recovery, oil field management, well drilling, well completion, and stimulation. Other coursework may include reservoir, natural gas, and geological engineering. For the master’s in oil and gas management, students take courses in environmental science, marine biology, and geology, as well as business management, leadership, finance, and economics.

Environmental studies generally focus on applying biological, chemical, and physical principles to abating and controlling environmental pollution. Most graduate programs require master’s candidates to write a thesis and then present it to a graduate committee.

Master’s degree coursework usually requires a great deal of individual study and research projects emphasizing theory and problem solving.

  • Doctorate
    Most doctoral programs admit candidates who already have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Doctoral degrees take approximately three years to complete after a master’s degree, though some programs are accelerated. Graduates who earn doctoral degrees are usually qualified to teach at the university level and those below.

Doctoral candidates must conduct original, specialized research and then present their findings in a lengthy dissertation. Before beginning the research, candidates must first present their study proposal for approval by the doctoral committee. The candidate then designs a research methodology, conducts the research, and prepares the findings. Once the doctoral committee has approved the dissertation, the candidate is granted the doctorate.

Both private companies and governmental organizations hire people with doctoral degrees for specific types of oil careers. For example, those with a doctorate in environmental studies may be hired by the EPA to inspect oil and gas operations or to draft new regulations. Some larger oil and gas exploration companies may hire doctoral graduates with specializing in fields such as geophysics or petroleum engineering, which definitely gives them a competitive advantage in this industry.

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