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What does a Petroleum Engineer do?

According to the online news source, Newser, “To Rake in the Dough, Major in Petroleum Engineering” – basically, become a petroleum engineer. ¬†The article points out that petroleum engineers can expect to make $4.8 million over the course of a 40-year career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) concurs that the career can offer high salaries.

If you are interested in digging up gas and oil for a living, there is more great news: the BLS projects 18 percent job growth for petroleum engineers. Job growth, in fact, is expected to be greater than the number of petroleum engineering graduates.

Excellent pay and excellent job prospects can make for an excellent career, right? But what, exactly, does a petroleum engineer do?

The work of petroleum engineers

Petroleum engineers search high and low (okay, mostly low) for oil- or gas-filled reservoirs. Once the jackpot location is found, the job of the petroleum engineer is varied and might include any of the following tasks:

  • Coordinating with geologists to determine the rocks’ geological formation and properties
  • Determining drilling method, and then monitoring drilling and production
  • Designing equipment and processes (this is done before drilling, too)
  • Using computer models to simulate reservoir performance

petroleum engineer

Petroleum engineers are continually perfecting their oil- and gas-recovery techniques. This means that not all work is done on the field. Some petroleum engineers spend some or even most of their time in offices, researching and developing new technologies. Some current recovery techniques include injecting oil reservoirs with water, chemicals, gases or steam, to force out more of the oil, and operating computer-controlled drilling.

Travels of petroleum engineers

Many petroleum engineers travel extensively for their jobs. Oil companies often have offices and sites in multiple countries and transfers are common. Some petroleum engineers spend most of their time in the field; others work in offices. For instance, consultants usually spend most of their time in offices. To consult successfully, though, it is usually required to spend some years in the field, first. Higher degrees, such as masters’ and PhDs, are common among consultants. Teaching college courses is also a possible career choice for those who pursue graduate degrees.

Petroleum engineering degrees

You will need a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering to be considered for entry-level jobs in the field. These degree programs waste no time to get you prepared for your career, and for good reason: you have a lot to learn in four years. Your program should include the following material:

  • Engineering-focused mathematics, chemistry and geology
  • Materials’ mechanics
  • Reservoir fluids
  • Thermodynamics
  • Petroleum production systems

In addition to highly-focused coursework, your program might include one or more internship experiences, which will provide you first-hand experience in the field.

What does a Surveyor do?

Simply put, a surveyor measures the earth. Surveyors measure everything from a quarter-acre residential property to entire mountain ranges. A surveyor also measures airspace, often for airports, and some surveyors map the floor of the ocean.

The job requires a great deal of special training and attention to detail. As a surveyor, you’ll spend a lot of time outside, measuring distances and angles with specialized equipment. You might have to haul that equipment on your back up a steep hill, or you might have to stand by the side of a road for a long period of time to take measurements.

The job can be physically taxing, but is intellectually demanding as well. In addition to fieldwork, you might find yourself in courthouses and assessors’ offices researching legal records and verifying the accuracy of others’ map work.

You’ll learn the most sophisticated applications of the Global Positioning System (GPS), which utilizes satellites to pinpoint precise locations, and Geographic Information Systems, which are used by surveyors to pull together and analyze survey data in digital formats.


Educational requirements for surveyors

High school students thinking about a career as a surveyor should take courses in math, including algebra, trigonometry and geometry, as well as courses in drafting, mechanical drawing and computer science.

In the old days, surveyors started out as members of a survey crew and learned on the job, working their way up to become licensed surveyors. These days, however, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, although some community colleges and vocational schools offer one-, two- and three-year programs.

In any event, you still need a state license to work as a surveyor. After passing the first exam, you have to work four years under the tutelage of veteran surveyor before taking a second exam that leads to licensure. Most states have a surveyor licensing board that requires you pass one of their exams as well.

Those without a bachelor’s or associate degree can find work as apprentices, but to move up and earn higher pay and better surveyor jobs, you will likely need some additional schooling.

Surveyors can advance in their careers through experience, moving up from surveyor to senior survey technician and even to what’s called a “party chief,” which is the head of a survey team. A survey team includes surveying technicians, who adjust and operate the survey equipment, enter data into a computer and make sketches of areas being surveyed, as well as a party chief who provides day-to-day leadership.

Industries that need surveyors

Companies that provide architectural or engineering services hire most of the country’s surveyors, although surveyors can also find work with government agencies. The demand for surveyors goes up when there is a lot of construction activity, and the demand goes down during recessions.

Still, surveyor jobs are expected to increase faster than average in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is an increasing demand for geospatial data among emergency planning, security, marketing and urban planning firms. The BLS also notes that many surveyors are approaching retirement age, and fresh, young surveyors may be needed to replace them.

What does a Wind Turbine Technician do?

The increase of wind farms across the Unite States as viable sources of renewable energy is creating the opportunity for a new job Рthe role of a Wind Turbine Technician.  Usually located on large plots of land, farms consist of strategically placed turbines that generate electricity through wind power. As a wind turbine technician, you would be responsible for inspecting machinery, diagnosing problems, and making complicated repairs so that the turbines remain functional at all times.

Becoming a wind turbine technician

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that because the wind energy industry is relatively new in the United States, there are no established educational requirements to becoming a wind turbine technician. However, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is in the process of creating a Seal of Approval wind turbine technician program that will identify the skill sets needed for the job, define a core curriculum and accredit the most effective training programs.

wind turbine technician

Another way to become a wind turbine technician would be to begin your training as a technician or electrician in another industry. After familiarizing yourself with turbine functions, you could move into the wind industry as a technician.

Working as a wind turbine technician

Wind turbines are highly complex machines that require a detailed knowledge of a turbine’s complex functions. Moreover, technicians are expected to not only understand the mechanics of a turbine but the entire production line of the farm.

As a wind turbine technician, you would work in a dynamic work environment, with your job frequently taking you outside to the turbines themselves. Wind farms are usually running at all hours, so turbine technicians can work irregular hours; if a turbine malfunctions in the middle of the night, technicians are expected to be there to fix it.

There are also safety issues when working with large machinery, as well as physical demands of climbing and crawling onto and into equipment. Wind turbine technicians typically work in rural areas. According to the AWEA, the states with the top wind capacity installed are Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota and Washington.

The projected growth in the wind industry could create a high demand for trained wind turbine technicians in the future.