Oil Careers Certification

As with other professions, careers in the oil industry may require certifications for specific jobs. Most of these certifications are voluntary, or not required by law, and some are offered by professional societies like the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) and American Petroleum Institute (API). As the API Web site states:

“API's Individual Certification Programs offer a means to improve your skills and enhance your overall job performance. Simply, easily, and effectively.

API Individual Certification Programs are designed to promote self-regulation, health and safety, improved inspection capabilities, and improved management control and environmental performance. Certified inspectors are recognized as working professionals who are fully knowledgeable of industry inspection codes, and who are performing their jobs in accordance with those requirements.”

Certifications can definitely help those who wish to work in the oil industry by giving them a competitive edge. For current oil industry professionals, certification can improve career advancement and opportunities. Oil companies often encourage or require certification before employment, and some also pay for the necessary classes. People interested in oil careers should research the types of certifications available in various fields.

Oil Careers Certification

What Certification Is

Some certifications for the oil industry are voluntary and enable the industry to regulate itself, rather than having governmental agencies impose more regulations. For example, SPE offers voluntary certification for members. According to the SPE Web site, the purpose of its certifications is to “bring increased recognition of the recipient’s high professional standards and commitment to the profession. The SPE Petroleum Engineering Certification Program requires that applicants demonstrate a minimum level of technical knowledge to be certified. This is established through a four-step evaluation of each applicant.”

The SPE criteria include (1) an undergraduate engineering or related science degree from an accredited university; (2) an examination, which may be waived for applicants who passed a written examination qualifying them to practice as licensed petroleum engineers; (3) approximately four years of experience; (4) ethics demonstrated by professional peer references; and (5) membership in SPE.

API certifications are also voluntary, and according to its Web site, are intended to promote health and safety and improved inspection capabilities, management control, and environmental performance. The API Web site says, “API’s Inspector Certification Programs are based on industry-developed standards that are recognized and used with confidence worldwide. These standards have also provided a uniform platform that serves as a model for many state and government regulations. These API programs emphasize professional credibility and process integrity.”

Like SPE certifications, API certifications require a combination of education, specific experience (i.e., in inspection or supervision), and passing a written exam. API qualifications vary depending on the level of education required and the type of oil industry job. For example, people without a high school diploma must have five or more years of experience in this field, those with an associate’s degree must have two years, and those with a bachelor’s degree in engineering must have just one year. API offers numerous certifications including:

  1. Pressure Vessels Inspector Certification Program
  2. Piping Inspector Certification Program
  3. Aboveground Storage Tanks Inspector Certification Program
  4. Refractory Personnel Certification Program
  5. Tank Entry Supervisor Certification Program

Other certifications are required by agencies like the Department of Transportation (DOT) for pipeline operators. According to the DOT Operator Qualification Web site, “This Web site is designed to provide information to regulators and pipeline operators on the Operator Qualification (OQ) Rules (49 CFR Part 192, Subpart N; and 49 CFR Part 195, Subpart G). This information is structured around a flow diagram depicting the eight elements the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) believes an operator needs to address to satisfy the requirements of those Rules.”

Pipeline operators are required to document their program plan, identify covered tasks, identify persons performing the tasks, and evaluate and qualify persons performing covered tasks, including contractors. They also must conduct periodic evaluations, monitor program performance and look for improvements, maintain program records, manage any changes, and be subject to periodic evaluations themselves.

Some state agencies also require certification, including the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA). The International Code Council reported on the PSCAA Web site that it had finalized new certification exams for gas station testers and installers working in the Puget Sound area, stating, “The installer and tester exams were developed to improve the knowledge and training of the persons who conduct vapor recovery equipment testing, installation, and repair work in our region.”

Preparation for Certification

The first step test takers can make to prepare for certification in oil careers is to apply to the appropriate agency for permission. They should be sure they meet the criteria required to take the test before applying. For example, those trying to obtain the SPE certification need to become an SPE member and meet the education, experience, and ethics requirements. Once they are approved to take the exam, they have a limited window of time to complete the test, so it is best to study well ahead of the test date.

Some students may want to take an examination review class, which can help them develop the discipline to study, while others may benefit from self-study guides and courses. No matter which method they choose, students are advised to practice solving test problems, to write essays, and to use timed practice tests to prepare for these exams.

Because many current exams are computer based, students might not be able to go back and check their test answers, so they should take the time to make sure they understand each question. With multiple-choice questions, students should first rule out the incorrect answers and then choose the best one remaining rather than simply guessing.

Before taking the exam, students should make sure they get enough rest to be alert on the test day. During testing, students are usually allowed to take short breaks and are advised to stand up, stretch, and drink water if possible to remain alert. If students become anxious during testing, they need to take some deep breaths and focus on answering the questions they do know. Sometimes a later question may help them to remember an answer for an earlier question, which can work to their advantage if they can review earlier sections.

For essay questions and word problems, students should be sure to review their answers for spelling, grammar, and mathematical errors. Communication skills are important, so test takers need to avoid making such simple errors.

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