Ask the Careers Editor: Grad Degrees; Industries Attracting Oil, Gas Talent

Ask the Careers Editor: Grad Degrees; Industries Attracting Oil, Gas Talent
In this installment of 'Ask the Careers Editor,' we answer questions about master's degrees and what industries are snatching up oil and gas talent.

Ask the Careers Editor is a platform in which our readers can get answers to all their employment-related questions in oil and gas. Questions are generated by readers or are common industry questions we’ve heard in the past. Through this series, we hope to equip you with knowledge that will help you be successful in your job search and subsequent employment.

Valerie Jones
Valerie Jones, Careers Editor, Rigzone
Senior Editor, Rigzone

Q: I am currently working as a senior drilling engineer for a service company. I was accepted to a master’s program in petroleum engineering. My dilemma: if I quit my job and go back to the university, then I will spend my savings in postgraduate education. In this current downturn, it seems to be a waste of money. Do you think a postgraduate degree in Petroleum Engineering will pay off the investment or should I just rely on experience and company training? Will it be better to choose a postgraduate degree in a more general area such as business or sustainability?

A. I can’t really tell you whether or not to pursue a graduate degree or which one to pursue, as that is a personal decision. However, salary potential for petroleum engineers is on the high side. According to Payscale’s 2016-2017 college salary report, petroleum engineers who hold bachelor’s degrees have the highest salary potential of any degree in the U.S. at 96,700 for early career and $172,000 for mid-career (those with more than 10 years of experience). Of course, master’s degree holders stand to make a bit more, but some studies have shown that the pay differential is not prevalent until mid-career. You mentioned that you are currently employed in industry. As hiring for drilling engineers has not yet picked up to the rates of say, a few years ago, I would suggest you carefully consider your ROI on pursuing a graduate degree before quitting your job. Best of luck to you!    

Q: I was wondering for ex oil and gas people who no longer want to be part of it, what types of industries have they moved on to? Does Rigzone have any worldwide stats on the subject matter?

A: Actually, we do. Rigzone just published results from its recent global worker exodus survey in which we explore which industries laid off oil and workers migrated to. Though these figures are based off of respondents who left the industry after being laid off, it still provides insight to your question. According to the survey, the majority of oil and gas workers went to the following industries:

  • Construction (23.6%)
  • Manufacturing (10.1%)
  • Sales (5.8%)

You can read more about all the industries here.

If you are looking for a job in oil and gas, currently working in oil and gas or have even retired from the industry and have an employment-related question, send them to me at Please include “Ask the Careers Editor” in the Subject Line.

All responses are given in good faith. It is your responsibility to ensure any particular role or course of action is suitable to you. Rigzone does not guarantee employment of any kind. For full details of our terms under which you agree to be bound, please see

Valerie is an experienced writer and editor dedicated to providing useful and relevant career news about the oil and gas industry. Email Valerie at


Click on the button below to add a comment.
Post a Comment
Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
Nicole | Sep. 2, 2017
W.R.T. The query regarding whether it is worthwhile to quit an engineering position to pursue a masters in Petroleum Engineering: I think I can, from personal experience, give a pretty strong argument against this course of action. I have several years experience as a drilling engineer (not quite senior level) and have reverted to studying an MSc in Petroleum engineering as a response to redundancy from company layoffs. It sounds like you have more real life experience in drilling engineering than me, and as such you wont learn anything new or useful from this. 2/3 of the way through the course, I can confidently state that its really just an expensive and time consuming hoop I have to jump through just to get 3 letters on my CV in order to get it through the screening process. The examples and methods they teach are outdated, and will have limited or no use to an experienced professional. I learned more in my first two weeks offshore in my first job with a service company. I wouldnt advise this unless you are desperate to move companies, or feel you have absolutely no choice in the matter, as I did. If you are happy enough in your current job, but dead set on obtaining the qualification, I would suggest the distance learning option offered by several universities which can be completed in your own time. I fully understand there is some pressure to have this degree from certain circles, (however misguided, it does exist) but it really doesnt even come close to equalling any kind of real first hand experience and doesnt remotely live up to the importance some people seem to credit it with. Sorry for the lengthy tirade, but this is something I now feel very strongly At the end of the day its entirely up to you whats important for your own situation, but believe me when I say people with this degree certainly dont know anything past you. At your stage in your career it really IS just an expensive piece of paper to help get you an interview in the first place.


Our Privacy Pledge

More from this Author
Valerie Jones
Senior Editor | Rigzone
 -  Women's Panel Shares Career Struggles,... (Sep 22)
 -  Survey: Maritime Leaders Weigh In On T... (Sep 18)
 -  Web Platform Launches to Match Oil, Ga... (Sep 13)
 -  Q&A: Three Women Detail Life Working O... (Sep 12)
 -  US Jobs Report: Support Activities Gai... (Sep 1)

Most Popular Articles

From the Career Center
Jobs that may interest you
Administrative Assistant
Expertise: Secretarial or Administrative
Location: Lenorah, TX
HR Business Partner (Contract)
Expertise: HR - General
Location: Houston, TX
Billing Specialist | Full-Time | Houston, TX | Immediately
Expertise: Accounting|IT - SAP / ERP|Payroll
Location: Houston, TX
search for more jobs

Brent Crude Oil : $56.86/BBL 0.76%
Light Crude Oil : $50.66/BBL 0.21%
Natural Gas : $2.959/MMBtu 0.30%
Updated in last 24 hours