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Petroleum engineer

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Summary of occupation

Petroleum engineers plan, design and oversee the operation of petroleum extraction facilities such as oil and gas rigs. They study and map geological formations to determine where petroleum deposits are located and how they should best be extracted. They plan and design ways of extracting and transporting petroleum from deposits beneath the seabed or underneath the earth's surface. They determine at what rate deposits can be extracted, and the most cost effective ways of controlling the flow of oil and gas. Petroleum engineers may work in mining company offices, which are located either in Perth on in regional centres, or on oil and gas rigs off the coast of the state.

ANZSCO description: Plans and directs the engineering aspects of  locating and extracting petroleum or natural gas from the earth.  Registration or licensing may be required.
Alternative names: Offshore Engineer
Specialisations: Mud Engineer, Petrophysical Engineer, Production Engineer, Reservoir Engineer
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A petroleum engineer needs:

  • an interest in the petroleum industry
  • creativity and lateral thinking skills
  • problem solving skills
  • analytical and conceptualisation skills
  • a logical and methodical approach to their work
  • strong oral and written communication skills
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Working conditions

Petroleum engineers may work in the offices of petroleum mining companies, or they may work on petroleum mining rigs. Those working in offices usually work regular hours but may be expected to work longer hours when necessary. Those working on oil and gas rigs usually stay on the rig for extended periods, working and living in close proximity to other staff. Weather conditions on the rig may be harsh.

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Salary details

Graduate petroleum engineers, classified under mining engineers, can expect to earn approximately $1 442.30 per week ($75 000 per year), depending on the organisation they work for. With experience their earning potential may increase substantially. 

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Tools and technologies

Petroleum engineers usually work with computers, especially computer-aided design (CAD) software, as well as word processing, data management and mapping software. They also use other office equipment. Although they do not operate it directly, they need to understand the way in which petroleum extraction, storage and transportation equipment works.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a petroleum engineer you usually need to complete a degree in engineering with a major in oil and gas, or petroleum engineering.

Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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