Petroleum engineers are responsible for designing equipment and developing methods for extracting oil and gas from the earth. These individuals work alongside other professionals, such as sub-surface surveyors and geologists, to find oil and gas deposits below the surface of the earth, analyze the ground that must be drilled, design the proper equipment for the task, and determine the best methods for extracting the oil or gas in the safest and most efficient way possible. Licensure is available for petroleum engineers in every state, though it is not required in most cases. Obtaining a petroleum engineering license usually involves first earning a bachelor's degree, gaining a certain number of years of engineering work experience, and then passing state licensing exams. Work experience can be earned through internships and apprenticeships with engineering firms. Once you have your license, you must maintain it with continuing education and license renewal exams in most cases.
“It is important for any engineer, not just petroleum engineers, to become licensed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public when they are providing those engineering services to the public.
Angeline Kinnaird LinnProgram Director for the Colorado Board of Licensure for Architects, Professional Engineers, and Professional Land Surveyors
Getting Petroleum Engineering Licensure and Certification
Earning a degree will equip you with the knowledge you need in the field, but completing the steps for getting a license will ensure that you know how to apply that knowledge. Engineers must be licensed if they offer their services to the public directly, but must petroleum engineers do not. "A petroleum engineer is not required to be licensed because they often work for a corporation or other clients one step removed from the public," said Ken Leonard, the senior manager of the Global Training Program for the Society of Petroleum Engineers.
However, extracting oil and gas from the earth is dangerous work, and the men and women working on the rigs put their lives in your hands when they use the equipment you design and the methods you develop. For these reasons, many petroleum engineers seek licensure anyway, despite the fact that it’s not mandatory. "It is important for any engineer, not just petroleum engineers, to become licensed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public when they are providing those engineering services to the public," said Angeline Kinnaird Linn, the program director for the Colorado Board of Licensure for Architects, Professional Engineers, and Professional Land Surveyors. For these reasons, states want to make sure their petroleum engineers have extensive knowledge and are highly skilled before they are granted a license.
"Licensure in engineering in the U.S. is a voluntary activity administered by the states where an engineer chooses to take an exam to demonstrate mastery of a technical field, and suitable experience to justify awarding the license," said Leonard.
To be considered for licensure, whether the nature of your work requires it or you choose to get one voluntarily, most states require you to have an engineering degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology to guarantee that your education is of high quality. You must then pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (FE) , which allows you to start working under the supervision of licensed engineers as an engineer-in-training. The amount of time varies by state, but on average, you will need to earn about four years of work experience. Once you gain enough experience, you will be eligible to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam (PE), which will earn you a professional engineering license and the title of professional engineer. The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) offers a < a href="http://www.spe.org/training/courses/RPP.php#redirected_from=/career/educ_training/tc/RPP.php">review course for the exam, as well as a guide book for petroleum engineering licensure that can help you prepare for the PE.
You may also choose to obtain a Petroleum Engineering Certification, from the SPE. Certification is not required, but according to the SPE, it will give you recognition in the petroleum industry, demonstrate that you are committed to petroleum engineering, and help you learn more about your industry. Much like getting a professional engineering license, you must have at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited engineering program, complete at least four years of engineering experience, and be a member in good standing with the SPE. You must then pass an exam demonstrating your thorough understanding of petroleum engineering, after which you'll earn your certification.
Maintaining Petroleum Engineering Licensure and Certification
Technological advancements and new discoveries in the petroleum industry are being made almost on a daily basis. For this reason, petroleum engineers need to constantly keep up with the changes in the field and understand how to apply new tools and knowledge to their own work. Your petroleum engineering license, whether you were required to get one or chose to do so voluntarily, is only good for a certain amount of time, depending on your state's regulations. To ensure that all petroleum engineers remain current with the latest developments, licensure must be maintained and renewed on a regular basis, with continuing education in most cases.
An option to consider for continuing education fulfillment is online learning. Online continuing education is rapidly gaining popularity because of the flexibility and convenience it offers to working professionals, such as petroleum engineers, who might have a hard time trying to make it to a classroom.
Each state establishes its own standards and requirements for maintaining a petroleum engineering license, so check with your local engineering board for more information. For example, Montana requires their engineers to renew their licenses every two years. "The Montana Board requires 30 Professional Development Hours (PDHs) to be obtained in each renewal period," said Cecelia Whitney, Application Specialist, Montana Board of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors. "Online continuing education courses are accepted as long as proof of completion of the course can be obtained."
The renewal requirements are different in Colorado. "A professional engineer is required to renew their license every two years by payment of a fee," said Linn. "Continuing education is not required for renewal."
California, likewise, does not require continuing education for engineers to maintain their state licenses. "The Board encourages its licensees to maintain their professional competency," said Michael Donelson, the senior registrar for the California Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists. "However, there are currently no laws requiring professional engineers to complete continuing education in order to maintain their license, and the Board and the Legislature are not currently considering enacting such requirements."
The SPE requires continuing education if you want to renew your certification. Even though this certification is not a requirement, most people choose to retain it. "Certification confers recognition of technical knowledge. That knowledge changes on almost a daily basis," said Leonard. "Requiring continuing education means that a person can only keep his or her certification if an effort is made to keep up to date as the profession changes."