As the demand for energy expands, graduates of the petroleum engineering program at the University of Missouri-Rolla are reporting record starting salaries.
Dr. Shari Dunn-Norman, an associate professor of petroleum engineering at UMR, says there is an increasing demand for petroleum engineers in the United States. Only 17 universities in the United States offer degrees in petroleum engineering. Those programs had a combined enrollment of about 1,500 students in 2004, graduating fewer than 250 students.
“With so few graduates in the pipeline, employment has been assured for good students,” Dunn-Norman says. “UMR graduates are fielding offers of more than $70,000 per year – plus signing bonuses – to go to work in the oil and gas industry. Summer offers are approximately $4,000 per month, and many companies are also paying for summer accommodations.”
The oil and gas industry will need nearly 30,000 new petroleum engineers by 2009 to replace aging employees and account for rising demand, according to Hart’s E&P Magazine.
As the price of oil has gone up, reservoirs that were not economically viable in the past are now available to smaller, independent producers. Dunn-Norman says both the bigger and smaller companies are in the market for talent.
UMR is one of a few universities offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees in petroleum engineering. About 50 students are currently enrolled in petroleum engineering classes at UMR, and officials are looking to grow the program moderately.
“Petroleum engineering doesn’t have a high profile at UMR because the campus is not located in the middle of the oil industry,” Dunn-Norman says. “Students come here knowing they’re going to do engineering, but they’ve never thought about petroleum engineering before.”
UMR’s petroleum engineering program, which belongs to the department of geological sciences and engineering, plans to make three new $8,000 scholarships available to high-performing students next year. For more information about the program, call 341-4616.