Petroleum Engineering Salary in the USA

petroleum engineering salaryPretty much every table of ‘jobs with the best salaries’ is topped by Petroleum Engineer. People living in states rich with and enriched by oil know all about the lifestyle this career can lead to, but others around the country might not be so familiar with the rewards the job offers – both psychological and monetary.

Why are Petroleum Engineers so well paid?
Petroleum Engineers are the ones who determine how to extract oil from the ground. The methods that they create for extracting oil from all sorts of wells determines exactly how valuable a particular oil well will be for the oil company. They also spend time devising ways to make older wells more productive in the amount of oil that they produce.

This site offers clear, simple Petroleum Engineering salary data
On this page we’ve gathered as much useful data as possible regarding salaries and bonuses nationwide and on a state level.

Last updated: August, 2016

Petroleum engineering salaries are very high due to the fact that the engineer can have a huge impact on a company’s profitability.  You can improve on your potential income by attending one of the top Petroleum Engineering colleges – pop your zip code into the box on the right of this page to find the best course for your needs.


SPE Salary Survey: Executive Summary

Every year the Society of Petroleum Engineers surveys its members and produces a report about the current state of compensation in the oil industry.

The figures for 2015 were broadly good, though lower bonuses were paid (not surprising, given the low oil price).

  • The average total compensation (base salary plus bonuses) was $206,020.
  • Almost 60% of the Petroleum Engineers in the survey reported an increase in base pay.
  • The average bonus fell from nearly $58,000 in 2014 to just under $53,000 in 2015 (still nearly a year’s salary in most professions).
  • The USA was the region with the highest total compensation.

Total Compensation by Job Category (USA)

2015 Salary + Bonus
Executive/Top Management $429,052
Manager/Director $298,088
Supervisor/Superintendent/Lead $237,784
Professional/Individual Contributor $201,605
Technician/Specialist/Support Staff $154,651

Highest Paying States for Petroleum Engineering

Texas tops the list of best paying states with an average of around $164k. The average salary of petroleum engineers in the top 10 states all pay well over $130k. For the entire list, please see the petroleum engineering salary by state or click on the map below.

Salary by State

The following chart shows the highest salary in states with more than 200 petroleum engineering jobs.

highest petroleum engineering salary by state

Of the states with fewer than 200 jobs, Washington ($141,500) Alabama ($140, 490) and Michigan ($134,050) saw the highest salaries paid.

The following table shows the top 10 states with the highest petroleum engineering salaries.

RankStates# of JobsMonthly SalaryAnnual Salary

As you can see, Texas leads the way in all metrics.

Compared to data from a few years ago, the average nationwide is higher and while some states like Oklahoma have slipped down the list, the trend is towards higher salaries in a higher number of states.

A full version of this table (with 26 states) is right down at the bottom of this page.

Job Outlook for Petroleum Engineers

Employment in petroleum engineering is expected to grow 10% by 2024. This is comfortably more than the rate of all jobs, and substantially above similar engineering disciplines.

Note: this table uses the most recently available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Percentage Change in Petroleum Engineering Employment, Projected 2012-2022 
Employment, 201435,100
Projected Employment, 202248,400
Expected Employment Difference:3,400
Percent Change:10%
Total, All occupations7%
Industrial Engineers1%
Aerospace Engineers-2%
Materials Engineers1%

The last few entries in that table show some other engineering jobs – compared to which, petroleum engineering not only pays much better but will have vastly higher growth in job opportunities.

States with the Highest Number of Employed Petroleum Engineers

The next table shows the number of petroleum engineers employed in various states, plus a comparison with the rankings in 2012. Texas and Louisiana lost a few petroleum engineering jobs, while Oklahoma, California and Colorado added a few thousand.

10New Mexico400

Petroleum Engineering Salary by Percentile

These values help us to get beyond starting salary and headline salary levels and get a real picture of the spread of salaries in this industry. Take the first value – 10% of workers in this industry earn 74,880 or less – meaning that 90% of workers earn more than that.

At the start of your career, the average starting salary for petroleum engineers will be much closer to the 10th and 25th percentiles. As you gain experience and become a manager, you can expect to earn a salary well into the 75th and 90th percentiles.

This data doesn’t include bonuses.

Hourly Wage$36.00$47.78$62.49$88.97>$90.00
Annual Salary$74,880$99,390$129,990$185,050>$187,200
Change from 2012-120+1490-350+1550=

Highest Paying Petroleum Engineering Industries

As one would expect, the top paying sector in the petroleum engineering industry is company management, with various specialist technical roles making up most of the top paying roles. Oil and gas extraction comes in with a healthy average annual salary of $156,990.

RankIndustries# of JobsHourly WageAnnual Salary
1Company Management4,200$82.53 $171,670
2Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services1,900$79.46$165,270
3Management, Scientific and Related Services1,090$79.40 $165,150
4Scientific Research and Developmental Services760$78.95 $164,210
5Oil and Gas Extraction13,560$75.48 $156,990

Highest Paying Metropolitan Areas for Petroleum Engineering

To no-one’s surprise, the top paying metropolitan cities are mainly located in Texas. Dallas, Plano, and Irving have a combined average salary of $176,900. That is in the top 75th percentile of petroleum engineering salaries.

Dropping out of the top 10 since 2012 were Oklahoma City, College Station (Texas), Virginia, Arlington, Tulsa (Oklahoma), and Oxnard (California).

The 10th placed salary is more than $5,000 higher than in the previous data set.

RankMetropolitan Areas# of JobsHourly WageAnnual Salary
1 (7)Texas: Houston, Sugar Land, Baytown10,810$83.31$173,290
2 (-)Colorado: Denver, Aurora, Lakewood1,460$81.81 $170,170
3 (1)Texas: Dallas, Plano, Irving1,430$80.22$166,860
4 (-1)Mississippi: Jacksonn/a$78.34$162,950
5 (=)Alaska: Anchorage510$75.97$158,020
6 (-)Texas: Midland1,670$75.51$157,070
7 (10)Texas: Austin, Round Rock, San Marcos230$75.14$156,280
8 (-)Colorado: Greeleyn/a$74.31$154,560
9 (4)Texas: Fort Worth, Arlington580$74.04$154,010
10 (-)Louisiana: New Orleans-Metairie830$72.67$151,160

Highest Paying Non-Metropolitan Areas for Petroleum Engineering

Surprisingly, there are non-metropolitan areas that pay nearly just as well as metropolitan cities despite the lower cost of living. This is usually to compensate for relocation and to give incentive to petroleum engineers to work in less populated locations. Topping the list, the average annual salary in beautiful Northeast Oklahoma is $154,300.

RankNon-Metropolitan Areas# of JobsHourly WageAnnual Salary
1 (-)Northeast Oklahoma450$74.18$154,300
2 (-)Northwest Colorado60$72.93$151,700
3 (4)Northwestern Oklahoma470$62.99$131,030
4 (-)Alaska regions330$62.87$130,780
5 (-)Southeast Oklahoma220$62.87$130,770

Note: for a definition of ‘Alaska regions’ look for ‘Balance of Alaska’ here.

Typical Starting Salary for Petroleum Engineers with a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree

When a prospective student looks at a career, becoming a petroleum engineer is likely one of the highest starting salaries of any profession. Not only does this field pay extremely well compared to others, but the job market looks to remain steady in 2016 and in the near future. Petroleum engineering starting salary with a bachelor’s degree is going to pay on average $75,000 and $95,000 depending on the company and location.  This is one of the best starting salaries that a college graduate could hope to get and it looks to remain strong for the near future.

A point in the favor of new joiners to the industry is the impending retirement of more senior petroleum engineers. This will add to the shortage of petroleum engineers, and will inevitably drive up starting salaries to well over $100,000 to entice prospective students. This is why the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of petroleum engineers will grow 26% over the next decade.

A student with a master’s degree can expect to make an even higher petroleum engineering salary. A master’s degree will be required for many research jobs in the petroleum industry. These careers are going to be even more to start out because it is a specialty that is specific to the industry. It has been estimated that the typical beginning salary for a petroleum engineer with a master’s degree will be more than $94,000 per year. With the larger oil companies, many even start with 6-figure income.  Comparing that to other engineering specialties and it becomes obvious that getting a job on the front lines of the petroleum industry is going to be one of the more lucrative career choices that a student can make.

Typical Mid-Career Salary and Potential Max Salary

petroleum engineering salariesPetroleum engineers are going to get paid at a higher and higher rate as they prove themselves through the course of their career. Each year the pay is going to be raised to a more significant level. Those who are working with just a bachelor’s degree are going to be on a lower pay scale as they learn to use math and science to develop economical solutions to all of the technical problems of drilling for oil in a safe and efficient manner.

As a petroleum engineer works for a few years and has a proven track record of success, their annual salary with a bachelor’s degree is going to be well into the six figures and can vary depending on the success and experience that they have.

For a petroleum engineer with a master’s degree that is working in the research portion of the industry, the compensation can be anywhere between $150, 000 and $200,000 annually per year. This makes the petroleum engineering job one of the best compensated.

When you consider the types of decisions and techniques that are being developed each year by petroleum engineers, it is no wonder that this is the case. The more efficiently that oil can be drilled for, the more profit there is for the company that they work for. The salaries that petroleum engineers receive, pays off for the oil company many times over as they are able to drill for more oil and do it in a manner that costs less and is more efficient all around.

Salary of Petroleum Engineers from Top Companies

Petroleum Engineering is exciting and lucrative and there is great demand for those who can make it through the schooling. There are many companies in the petroleum industry that are hiring including places like:

  • Chevron is always looking for engineers to solve integrated water management problems among many others. This great company has a headquarters in San Ramon, California and they employ over 5,000 people worldwide.
  • Sclumberger Limited is a leading oil field service company that hires people to contribute to their oil exploration. This company is based out of Houston, Texas and employs thousands of people every year. This great company is looking for talented fresh minds to help make the process of drilling for oil more cost effective. They are one of the leading oil field service companies in the world, and is home to many talented petroleum engineers.
  • Then there is the Quantum Reservoir Impact Company which is a value-creation company for the oil and gas industry. Talented individuals are required to create higher hydrocarbon recoveries, greater production performance from existing oil and gas wells. They are looking for capable petroleum engineers who can contribute to their making their entire operation more efficient and safer for the long run. They are based in Houston, Texas and employ thousands all over the world.
  • Engineer Petroleum Measurement is another company that works for the oil industry assisting in hydrocarbon measurement operations around the world. These talented people help find the reservoirs of oil around the world and help determine the best manner in which to extract the oil, what company controls the rights and the application of industry standards to the operation. These petroleum engineers are making sure that all is ethical and safe. This company is located in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Petroleum Engineering Salary – Other Useful Info

All students who have an interest in engineering should take the time to investigate becoming a petroleum engineer. There is an opportunity to work on developing new products for the oil industry. The engineers spend time seeking out the precise designs that will be most effective in cost and function to complete the drilling process. These people are not only going to make more money for oil companies but they are going to keep the conditions as safe as possible. Beyond this, a petroleum engineer may also spend their time working in testing, production and maintenance. This is another huge factor in making the process more profitable as the existing operations are maintained and kept at their peak performance creating a safer environment.

These are some of many reasons why companies offer competitive and high paying petroleum engineering salaries to the few that are qualified. If you are one of those, expect to be well-compensated.

Full List of Petroleum Engineering Salary and Number of Jobs by State

This table shows all the salary and employment data for the most recent financial year – use it to get an idea of what salary you can earn in each state, how many jobs you might find there – just remember to factor in the various costs of living in each state. 130k in Utah might go even further than 160k in Texas.

RankState# of JobsMonthly SalaryAnnual Salary
13North Dakota170$10,420$125,040
14West Virginia250$10,171$122,050
22New Mexico400$9,067$108,800
26New Jersey300n/an/a

Source: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); Currency in US Dollars (USD) if not stated