Complementing a Petroleum Engineering degree
Written and Edited By Sriniketh Sukumar
When I first arrived at Texas A&M, I made an appointment with Professor McLeroy from the petroleum engineering department and asked her about choosing this major. She told me to do it for the passion, and not just hope to graduate when the oil price curve peaks upon the time of graduation.
With that said, over the past year I have attended multiple events, and now I’m here to share the perspective of many experts with you. We often wonder how we may complement a petroleum engineering degree, but before that, we must first understand why do a PETE degree in the first place.
Why choose Petroleum Engineering?
There’s no denying that PETE is a very niche and specialized field in relation to other engineering disciplines, especially for undergraduates. In addition, working in thr oil and gas lacks the glamour of a high paying, cushy tech job in Silicon Valley. The oil and gas industry are also subject to constant cycles, which makes it a non-ideal choice if you’re looking for a stable career. Indeed, career petroleum engineers have all seen at least two major downturns by their 30 years of service mark. Further, it’s just as easy to become a petroleum engineer with a MEEN or CHEN degree. Finally people perceive oil and gas as a dying field, with renewable resources paving the way for the future.
All said, how can we leverage these facts with our own interests and still be convinced that we are on the right path?
Well, in the words of Prof. McLeroy, our jobs as engineers is to innovate and create designs that have benefit and impact to society in some way. Our interests in the field of energy signifies this, and the cyclical employment tends should never really bother us. If we have good ideas, then that’s all that matters. Further, it is when the oil prices go down that is when the engineers are needed the most to develop solutions that will solve production issues and cut costs to improve efficiency.
The next question is what is the appeal of the BS PETE degree?
MEEN or CHEN may be far more versatile, but at the same time are saturated. Today’s corporate world values individuality, as well as increasing levels of specialization. It is a well-known fact that the college graduates of today are far more skilled, diverse and have a lot more to show on their resume than those of the previous generation. Too many studies have been conducted to confirm this phenomenon.
In Texas, where Oil and gas is so prominent, it makes sense to specialize in this field early on so as to be more competitive for jobs. This is where doing a BS PETE makes a difference as all the courses are geared towards being a petroleum engineer, and can be applied in practice. However, broader majors MEEN and CHEN are more academic in nature and teach scientific principles, but cannot be applicable to any industry as is. For example, a drilling engineer would need to know about drilling fluids, but not about the internal combustion engine.
We need to reconcile our interests with the opportunity costs that we give up. Which isn’t much if you consider that at times of stable/high oil prices, pay is quite high, and that we get to perform a job that we’re really interested in, which is also vital to society and that is one which shapes global geopolitics.
With all this said, how can we complement a petroleum degree at A&M, to diversify our profiles and really stand out?
The opportunity cost of minoring/double majoring
Adding a minor can be beneficial in pursuing our own personal interests, or in adding value to our major. There’s also the benefit of looking more impressive to potential employers. We can minor in just about anything, but the opportunity cost of doing a minor is taking on 15-18 credits more which could be make it difficult to handle extra course work. Depending on the difficulty and rigor of the minor chosen, this can make a significant difference, as this is time that could be better spent doing research, being more active in professional organizations, working a part-time job, or just taking good rest (which is equally important). This difficulty is even more pronounced in case of double majoring, and the general consensus is that it is just not worth it, and in most cases can be considered largely redundant.
Some easy to add minors chosen for value addition by PETE majors are discussed.
- Geology: In theory it is a valuable skillset to add in the upstream oil and gas industry, but more importantly for a PETE major it can be completed with two extra (4 credit) courses. The most common choices are: GEOL 306: Sedimentology and Stratigraphy and GEOL 312: Structural Tectonics, which are both relevant to our field. https://geoweb.tamu.edu/academics/degrees/geology-minor/index.html
- Mathematics: Diff-Eq just wasn’t enough? Why not portray yourself as a quantitative and technically skilled engineer by adding on a math minor? Again, can be completed with two extra (level 3 and 4) courses. It emphasizes an interests in math and portrays you as a quantitative and analytical individual. http://www.math.tamu.edu/undergraduate/minor.html
- Engineering Project Management: Learn how to become an effective project manager through activity-based learning and hands on experience in an interdisciplinary environment with this unique choice for a minor. The college of engineering doesn’t market this one as well as it could, but is in incredibly high demand across all engineering majors, so sign up early for ENGR 333: Project Managers for Engineers and ENGR 380: Seminar Series in Engineering Project Management. More interestingly, most of the minor’s requirements are covered in the PETE degree plan, as well as most other engineering degree plans so it’s a reduced effort to pursue. https://engineering.tamu.edu/academics/degrees/engineering-project-management/minor-in-epm.html
These minors are so easy to add and can create so much value it often reminds me of fast food chain advertisements that can upsize your meal for just 99 cents more!
Needless to say, there are a dozen other options out there to discover. In the coming weeks, we at the Well Log will try to bring you all the most useful information and perspective on interesting yet useful minor choices that can’t be found on the catalog website. Pursing each of these options have their merits, but perhaps what is most important is knowing what your own professional and personal goals are and working methodically towards them. So, pursue your minor in something that interests you, or make productive use of the time you save by not taking the minor. You’re the best judge.