Sunday, July 13, 2014

Advice to high school senior

Jul 13, 2014, at 1:55 PM
My name is Ross [----] and I will be a senior at [----] High school in Missouri this year.
 I am considering either geology or geophysics as a major for college. I am specifically looking for guidance regarding the future job outlook for both of these careers in the next 20 years. 
I am also considering majoring in petroleum engineering and need some insight about the advantages and disadvantages concerning this career compared to geology/geophysics. Also, would it benefit me do double major in two of these three careers.
   My final question is regarding colleges.  Currently,  Missouri University of Science and Technology is my top choice. I have also looked into University of Kansas and Texas A&M. What is your opinion on these colleges and are there any other colleges you would recommend for these majors?
  Thank You and could you please email me back at [----]
********* my reply ********
Dear Ross,

I would suggest you go for petroleum engineering at the best school you can get into and afford. If you start in  petroleum engineering and find it not to your liking or too difficult, you can fall back on geophysics or geology. The situation in reverse is generally not true, to change into engineering is quite difficult.

Of the schools you mention only Texas A&M has all 3 degrees: petroleum engineering, geophysics, and geology. Another option if your grades are good enough is the Colorado school mines, which offers all three.

If you wind up majoring in geology or geophysics, I strongly suggest you minor in the other field. The minor is generally a small amount of effort using technical electives, yet increases your chance of employment later.

Finally, petroleum engineering allows you to go to work with a BS degree (but there are very few elective courses). Both geophysics and geology are more flexible but require a masters degree to go to work, which means an extra two years.

Employment outlook in any of the three fields is excellent for the next 20 to 30 years. Despite all the talk about renewable energy sources, over 60% of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels. This is unlikely to change over the career timeframe you're talking about.

Good luck


Anonymous said...

Also I would add - learn to program and take as much of the core computer science curriculum as you can. The better you are with programming the farther you can go in whatever field you choose.

Lyle said...

Having spent a career in oil, one needs to be aware that it does cycle. When I came onboard in 1976 if you could breathe you could get hired. After the price collapse came a 15 year period of downsizing. Going into PE does mean you are gambling that oil production in the US will stay up, basically that is a gamble on the price, as price was what killed the earlier boom. Of course most disciplines do have such gambles involved but its better to know them going in.

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer: I work at Missouri University of Science and Technology in the marketing and communications department. Now that that's out of the way...

I do want to point out that Missouri S&T does offer a bachelor's degree in geology and geophysics (combined, not separate degrees). All of our degree programs are listed at

Andrew Careaga
Missouri University of Science and Technology