Oilfield engineers often divide their time between the work site and the office. Also called petroleum engineers, they typically work long hours when commuting to and from the drilling rig as supervisors. When they must travel to distant operations, they often work on rotations, similar to firefighters. An oilfield engineer needs at least a bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering or a related subject. After graduation, oilfield engineers earn top salaries.
The average wage for an oilfield engineer was a hefty $70.90 per hour in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For workers on salary, this comes to $147,470 for a full-time year of 40-hour weeks. By way of comparison, civil engineers, who often do the structural work for drilling operations, earned an average 2012 wage of $40.45 per hour. With overtime, oilfield engineers could potentially earn even more than the yearly estimate. Many work 50 to 60 hours per week and more when stationed at remote job sites, according to the BLS.
The lowest-earning 25 percent of oilfield engineers earned $47.05 per hour or less in 2012, according to the statistics bureau. The mean wage was $62.64 per hour, and the top 25 percent earned at least $88.23 per year. In contrast, the top 25 percent of civil engineers earned $48.24 per hour or more.
More than half of oilfield engineers work for the oil and gas extraction industries, where they earned an average wage of $77.43 per hour in 2012, according to the BLS. Those working for petroleum and coal manufacturing earned $64.57 on average, and those working for general pipeline transportation earned $59.76 on average. Other oilfield engineers worked in mining support, averaging $54.68 per hour, and pipeline transportation of natural gas, averaging $59.71.
Texas was the boom state for oilfield engineering work in 2012, employing 21,580 oilfield engineers at average pay of $74.11 per hour, according to the BLS. However, the top-paying jobs were found in Oklahoma, where hourly wages averaged $76.97, and in Alaska, where engineers earned average pay of $76.46 per hour. Oilfield engineers in Virginia also earned an average of $74.43 per hour.
The prospect for new oilfield engineering grads will be favorable between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts a 17 percent job increase. This is only marginally more than the average increase for most jobs, but the bureau expects many older engineers to take retirement, opening up more slots for new workers.