What effect will a falling oil price have on Petroleum Engineering as a career?

History has proven over the years that falling oil prices can have a real impact not just on those working in the industry but also on students who are studying to become petroleum engineers at the university.

The enrollment levels at universities offering these specialist courses, rise and fall in line with dramatic drops or increases in oil prices, which can all make for an unsettling time for anyone thinking of starting out in the industry.

Back before the 1980s oil was considered to be a guarantee for a large salary and job for life, so became a hugely popular course choice for students with no problems finding a job once the course was completed.

However, after the dramatic oil drop in the 1980s, the enrollment levels completely dropped, which has left a potentially large hole in the oil industry jobs market. As the oldest workers start to retire, there aren’t enough experienced professionals to follow in their footsteps.

Enrollment on the courses did start to grow again, but the recent lowering of oil prices and lay- offs at some off the biggest energy firms have left the students currently on these courses considering changing their chosen path, and worried about the state of the industry.

Back in 2014, around 570 students at Texas Tech, were planning to enroll in petrol engineering, but by 2015, that had fallen to only 260, according to recent research. It’s not surprising if you look at the job figures. In 2014 95 per cent of those who graduated with a petroleum engineering degree found work in the industry, but by 2015 that figure had fallen to 64 per cent and this year it is predicted to be far lower. Learn more about the best petroleum engineering schools in the USA.

As a result, many students are either looking to change to a different discipline for their degree if they can, or if not; they are simply seeking work in other related industries because there is more chance of getting a job.

It is fair to say that the oil industry is always a gamble and perhaps the most committed students will understand the market falls and rises, and will wait out the current price issues to see how it pans out by the time they reach the end of their course.

Those who do choose a different career will almost certainly end up receiving a far lower salary than the equivalent role in the oil and gas sector, which is well known for its high remuneration levels.
Meanwhile, some universities have the opposite problem, with students who don’t necessarily have industry awareness, all applying for petroleum engineering degrees because they’ve heard about the high salaries. They then end up with no students if the price of oil has lowered the following year and end up having to close down departments.

The boom and bust nature of the oil industry pricing certainly has a direct impact on those choosing petroleum engineering as a career but those that are set on this career will definitely benefit in the future.