Engineering Career Resources

Petroleum Engineer Job Description

Petroleum Engineer Job Description

Petroleum engineers' jobs typically involve research and production of natural gas and crude oil. More specifically, their job is to apply their knowledge of oil and gas, and how these hydrocarbons behave at a high pressure, in order to estimate the recoverable volume of the hydrocarbons, and maximize the recovery of the resources from subsurface reservoirs.

There are several types of petroleum engineering jobs: reservoir engineering, drilling engineering, and production engineering jobs.

Reservoir engineers are in charge of tasks related to well placement, oil recovery, and production rates, and they work to improve the production of oil and gas. Their job is to apply their knowledge of how oil and gas flow through rocks and what forces are involved in order to forecast the performance of reservoirs, set up well-drainage patterns, and improve the overall production efficiency.

Drilling engineers deal with the technical tasks of drilling production and injection wells. They design drilling techniques, choose safety and casing equipment and decide on the direction of the operations.

Production engineers evaluate lift methods, choose the equipment used to separate oil, water and natural gas, and are in charge of managing the interface between the reservoir and the well. Their job typically begins after the well has been completed. They manage and measure the fluids, design storage systems, and supply pipeline companies with oil and gas.

Petroleum geology is another subdiscipline in the field of petroleum engineering, one that deals with analysis of subsurface structures for the purpose of finding hydrocarbons.


An excellent technical capability and knowledge of geophysics, economics, drilling, well engineering, reservoir engineering, and petroleum geology is a must. Petroleum engineers must understand different types of rocks and how they behave under pressure. Since petroleum engineers usually work alongside geologists and other experts from related fields, good teamwork and communications skills are essential.

Problem solving and analytical skills as well as the ability to think creatively and solve complex problems are key to career success. Petroleum engineers often organize and oversee the machinery and materials used in drilling operations, so management and negotiation skills are a definite career advantage in the long term.


Petroleum engineers can enter the field with a degree in engineering, mathematics or applied sciences. Some of the specific disciplines that give job candidates a competitive edge are chemical engineering, earth engineering, petroleum engineering, astrophysics, civil engineering, and mechanical engineering. The Institute of Petroleum Engineering at Heriot-Watt University offers master's degree courses and has the largest research program in the UK.

Candidates with an HND or foundation degree alone usually cannot find employment in the field, as most companies have recruitment policies that are very specific about graduate or postgraduate qualifications.


Day-to-day duties of a petroleum engineer include analyzing well-logging results, meeting with reservoir and production engineers, and other experts, and forecasting production potential, selecting equipment to be used within the well, creating pumps and other systems that help the well to flow, making recommendations on ways to enhance well flow, liaising with contractors to discuss issues related to health, safety and environmental performance, and supervising the team and operations at the well site.