Recently I was approached by a Penn State student (via Career Services) as an Alumni, for some advice on job prospects within the Oil and Gas industry. He asked about stability of the oil and gas industry and whether a petroleum engineering degree would be a versatile asset, or too specialised of a degree.
Here was my advice:
If you are serious about petroleum engineering, you should understand that the oil price is cyclical. As the oil price goes up, the industry booms and as the oil price comes back down, the industry shrinks. I don’t personally have a PE degree, however I have worked in the oil industry for the last 10 years or so in various roles. I interviewed for my first job while the oil price was high, and then by the time I was supposed to start the oil price had crashed – they tried to delay my start date , but I was able to talk them out of it. And then I watched many people get laid off during my first few months on the job.
But things got busy when the oil price rose and things were great. The last 10 years have been an amazing time to be in oil – I left to become an Investment Analyst in the Finance and Banking industry but still covering Oil and Gas as well as other alternative energies. I can say that in the next 50 years I expect many new forms of transportation utilizing alternative fuels, as well as power stations moving away from oil – but gas will still be important. Oil may become less important.
However, the skills you learn in Petroleum Engineering can be applied in other ways. As long as you are intelligent and flexible you will be able to find an interesting job. As well, once you get a few years experience you will start becoming more marketable in other areas. Remember – related areas can include IT, Banking, Environmental applications, and Management Consulting – so you are not locked in to working at an oil company.
Do I think you will be unemployed when you graduate? I have no idea. Have you done any internships? Have you taken advantage of the opportunity to work for an associated research centre at your campus? Have you started thinking about writing a thesis – try to make sure it is applied and perhaps even sponsored by an oil company? Have you entered any engineering competitions sponsored by oil companies?
The above are all ways to start making contacts in your industry or companies of choice. They are also good ways to understand if you have chosen the right major for yourself.
Good Luck and let me know if you have further questions