Oil and Gas Engineer

The Job and What's Involved

Engineers are involved in all stages of oil and gas production. They evaluate sites that contain oil and gas, calculate the amounts that can be recovered, and specify and supervise operations until a well is exhausted.

Two of the main types of oil and gas engineers are:

Reservoir engineers, who estimate how much oil and gas could be taken from a reservoir's rock. Their work includes:

  • Using mathematical and computer models to simulate the size and shape of a reservoir.
  • Drawing up plans that will allow as much oil and gas to be extracted as possible.
  • Deciding on the best locations for production wells to maximise profit.
  • Working closely with operational staff to monitor and amend production schemes during the life of a reservoir.

Drilling engineers, who are responsible for the drilling of wells. They provide engineering support for all stages of oil and gas extraction. This includes:

  • Planning and drawing up the drilling programme.
  • Designing and selecting equipment.
  • Formulating requirements for drilling mud (the fluid mixture that removes the displaced bits of rock), drill bits and cement.
  • Co-ordinating the work of the drilling team.
  • Providing on-site support.
  • Monitoring safety.
  • Making sure that environmental standards are met.
  • Analysing drilling performance and factors affecting cost and efficiency.

Oil and gas engineers work with geologists and geophysicists who locate new field reserves of oil and gas and assess the prospects for producing oil or gas in new or existing fields. Some geologists also work as mud loggers, looking for hydrocarbons in the rock. Engineers also liaise with specialist contractors.

Oil and gas engineers work mainly in offices. New graduates gain some offshore experience, but senior engineers are mostly based onshore.

Onshore engineers work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. When engineers are offshore the working pattern is normally 12 hours on and 12 hours off for two weeks, followed by two or three weeks' leave ashore.

Working offshore is demanding and takes place in all weather conditions. It can be wet, cold and noisy. Engineers wear protective clothing. When offshore they share their living quarters with colleagues (between 30 and 200 other men and women, depending on the location) and there are usually two people to each cabin.

Engineers may work anywhere in the world.

New graduate engineers earn between £26,000 and £29,000 a year. Engineers working offshore receive extra allowances.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The oil and gas extraction industry employs around 20,000 people on about 200 UK offshore installations. It employs a further 300,000 people onshore.

There are around 6,000 employers in the UK oil and gas industry. They include:

  • Operating companies (usually major oil companies) that operate production platforms.
  • Drilling companies contracted to do the drilling work.
  • Service companies, eg seismic exploration firms, well service firms, drilling mud suppliers, cementing companies and well-testing specialists.
  • Engineering contract companies and consultancies.

Jobs for engineers in the UK are mainly available in the north-east of Scotland, East Anglia, Humberside and the Liverpool Bay area. Engineers also work in oil companies' headquarters throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Many jobs are overseas and there are a lot of opportunities for international postings.

The fortunes of the oil and gas extraction industry fluctuate according to the price of oil and gas. There is high demand for new entrants to the industry at present, particularly in major oil companies.

Vacancies are advertised in higher education careers services, national newspapers, specialist sector publications, and on websites such as www.oilcareers.com, www.monster.co.uk and www.insidecareers.co.uk.

Education and Training

Entry to this work is usually with at least an upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject. Employers often also require a relevant postgraduate qualification.

Relevant honours degree subjects include petroleum engineering, offshore engineering, chemistry, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, mineral/mining engineering, physics, geology, geophysics, geochemistry, mathematics, computer science, marine engineering, structural engineering and chemical or process engineering.

Entry to a first degree course is usually with at least five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) including maths and English, plus two or three A levels/four or five H grades, often including maths and science subjects.

Alternative qualifications may be accepted for entry to a first degree, either on their own or in combination with A levels/H grades. They include relevant BTEC national diplomas, BTEC/SQA higher nationals, Scottish Group Awards (SGA), the International Baccalaureate and Access qualifications. Exact entry requirements vary between degree courses, so candidates must check carefully.

A Diploma will help you make a more informed choice about the type of learning that best suits you and about what kind of work or further study you may want to do afterwards.

Many universities offer relevant honours degree courses. They usually last three or four years. Some include one year's practical placement.

A number of universities offer relevant postgraduate courses. They usually last one year full time. Some are also available part time over a longer period. Many universities offer one-year foundation courses to students without the necessary background in science and maths. These courses can lead to a relevant honours degree course.

Relevant postgraduate courses include petroleum engineering, oil and gas engineering, petroleum geology, drilling and well engineering, and offshore engineering. Entry is with a relevant first degree.

A number of employers offer a range of placements for undergraduates. These can be very helpful for students who may be considering a career in the oil and gas industry.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Engineers joining large employers usually work through graduate training programmes. These can include practical offshore experience and in-house and external courses. All engineers have to undertake an offshore survival course before going offshore. The course includes helicopter safety and underwater escape, emergency breathing systems, first aid and fire fighting.

Engineers are usually encouraged to gain chartered engineer status. To achieve this they must:

  • Have an accredited MEng degree, or an equivalent qualification in a relevant engineering subject.
  • Complete a period of initial professional development that includes formal and informal training and professional engineering experience.
  • Successfully pass a professional review with an interview.
  • Gain corporate membership of a relevant professional body, e.g. Energy Institute, Institution of Mechanical Engineers or Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is important for engineers to develop their knowledge, experience and skills. They may work towards chartered status. They may also undertake short courses and attend seminars and conferences.

Featured Job Guide - Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.

Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.


Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An oil and gas engineer should:

  • Have a scientific approach to the work.
  • Be able to take responsibility and use initiative.
  • Have problem-solving skills.
  • Be able to lead a team and work well within it.
  • Be able to explain ideas and activities clearly to others.
  • Have computer skills.
  • Be prepared to work away from home.
  • Not be afraid of travelling in a helicopter.
  • Be reliable, responsible and safety-conscious.
  • Be fit and healthy.
  • Have self-confidence and sound judgement.
  • Keep up with advancing technology.
  • Be able to live in compact living quarters with a wide range of people.

Your Long Term Prospects

Oil and gas engineers may progress to senior technical positions.

Experienced engineers may move into senior management positions within the industry in the UK and overseas.

Self-employment as a contractor is possible.

Get Further Information

Energy Institute, 61 New Cavendish Street,
London W1G 7AR
Tel: 020 7467 7100
Website: www.energyinst.org.uk

Engineering Council UK, 246 High Holborn,
London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500
Website: www.engc.org.uk

Engineering and Technology Board
Website: www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

The Institute of Marine Engineering,
Science and Technology (IMarEST),
80 Coleman Street, London EC2R 5BJ
Tel: 020 7382 2600
Website: www.imarest.org

Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3),
1 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DB
Tel; 020 7451 7300
Website: www.iom3.org

Offshore Petroleum Industry
Training Organization (UK) (OPITO),
Minerva House, Bruntland Road,
Portlethen, Aberdeen AB12 4QL
Tel: 01224 787800
Website: www.oilandgastechnicians.com

Oil & Gas UK (England): 2nd Floor,
232-242 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 1AU
Tel: 020 7802 2400
Website: www.oilandgasuk.co.uk

Oil & Gas UK (Scotland): 3rd Floor,
The Exchange 2, 62 Market Street,
Aberdeen AB11 5PJ
Tel: 01224 577250
Website: www.oilandgasuk.co.uk

Other Related Jobs

Additional resources