Long ago, it was common to see oil spurting up from the ground. Now, scientific knowledge and a little luck are helping mechanical engineers locate oil sources. Black gold is often found deep within the earth, and is difficult to extract. Mechanical engineers use high-level skills to find the best locations for drilling, and they oversee the drilling process.
Working as a mechanical engineer in oil and gas is not for someone who's afraid of taking risks. An important job duty is to advise corporate leaders about the best location for an oil well. Often referred to as speculative oil drilling, choosing a site can be challenging. Since oil sources can be as deep as 20,000 feet, mechanical engineers test rocks and collect data to determine the best possible location. Once a site has been selected, a mechanical engineer oversees the assembly of the oil drill, ensures the operation runs smoothly and makes recommendations about the amount of oil that can be extracted. Once oil drilling is finished, a mechanical engineer supervises the deconstruction of the equipment and makes sure that the site is free of residual waste. Long hours, mostly in the field, are common for a mechanical engineer in oil and gas.
A high-level of education is required to become a mechanical engineer in oil and gas. Your academic journey begins with an undergraduate degree in petroleum engineering. In this program, you will learn about fluid and rock behavior, production operations, well completions and stimulation, formation evaluation, reservoir engineering and economic evaluation of petroleum projects. Intensive laboratory time will help you simulate drilling, measure gas reservoirs, measure temperature and pressure, and use specialized computer software. The high level of expertise expected for this position usually necessitates graduate study. Some programs offer a five-year combined baccalaureate and masters degree option. A state licensing exam is required to work in oil and gas as a mechanical engineer. Often, companies will hire graduates to work as an assistant and will allow two years to obtain their licensure.
Mechanical engineers in oil and gas garner the highest wages, among all engineers. In 2017, the median annual pay is $132,280 or, $63.60 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent of all earners in this job position made $208,000.
Longevity in the field is synonymous with increased wages and better work conditions. Newer mechanical engineers spend most of their time in the field handling the grunt work for their seasoned counterparts. Mechanical engineers in oil and gas that have worked for six to 12 years, transition to higher level work, mostly centered in an office setting. Veteran engineers advise organizational leaders and supervise newer staff.
Job opportunities for mechanical engineers working in oil and gas are expected to increase by 15 percent between now and 2026. Higher oil prices drive the need for more engineers, to accommodate additional drilling. If oil production decreases or new synthetics are created, the job market could decline.
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books focusing on customer service, diversity and team building. She serves as a consultant for business, industry and educational organizations. Dr. Meier has written business articles and books for Talico, Inc, Dynateam Consulting, Inc. and Kinect Education Group.Get in Touch with Mechanic