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Can a Felon Become a Petroleum Engineer?

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When it comes to getting a job after their release from prison, many felons may find it challenging. Jobs they once had are lost, and careers may be gone. Felons may think no one will hire them, but there are resources available. Many employers have discovered that felons make good employees, although felons may have to be creative and willing to learn a new trade or start a different career.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become a petroleum engineer.

  • What is a Petroleum Engineer?
  • What Education/Training Does a Petroleum Engineer Need?
  • How Much Does a Petroleum Engineer Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Supporting a Felon in Becoming a Petroleum Engineer


What is a Petroleum Engineer?

An engineer is a person that applies the principles of mathematics and science in developing an efficient solution to a technical problem. Many engineers develop new products while others improve on an existing one. An engineer tests, produces, and maintains systems by using a computer to produce and analyze designs.

A petroleum engineer is trained in the area of exploration, extraction, and production of oil. Typically, a petroleum engineer evaluates oil and gas reservoirs for their potential profitability. He or she evaluates future drilling sites for the safety and efficiency of potential oil wells and monitors current sites’ operation and equipment. Each petroleum engineer specializes as a reservoir, drilling, completion, or production engineer and is involved in a specific area of the oil field.

There are certain skills necessary to be successful as a petroleum engineer:

  • Analytical skills to understand the concepts of a new or existing product
  • Visualization/spatial skills to see how a structure will look after completion
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Logical decision-making abilities
  • Creativity to design a safe, efficient structure or system
  • Communications and interpersonal skills to explain ideas and work with clients and various trades
  • Organizational skills to keep track of the steps and components of a project
  • Time management ability to maintain a strict schedule to complete a project on time

What Education/Training Does a Petroleum Engineer Need?

While a license isn’t required to be an engineer, since 1907 the Professional Engineering designation has been used to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. A Professional Engineer license is required to sign and finalize engineering plans and to offer services to the public.

In order to obtain a petroleum engineering degree, one must obtain a bachelor’s degree for an entry level position in the field. Many colleges offer a degree, either associate or bachelor’s, in petroleum engineering technology. This plan allows an individual to work on practical design and production work but won’t be eligible to be licensed as a Professional Engineer yet.

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) approves college and university petroleum engineering programs. Graduation from one of these programs is typically required to be licensed.

Admission requirements for a petroleum engineering program include a strong background in math and science. Common coursework in petroleum engineering focuses on:

  • Advanced Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Engineering Principles
  • Geology
  • Thermodynamics
  • Writing

Most petroleum engineering programs take four to five years to complete. For some specialties in the petroleum field, a Master’s degree may be necessary, although an entry level position does not have this requirement. All states require licensure for a petroleum engineer performing services directly for the public.

After completing an accredited program, an individual takes an exam called the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (PE). This allows him or her to be called an engineer in training (ET). Typically, after four years of related work an entry level engineer is eligible to take the licensing exam, the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam.

How Much Does a Petroleum Engineer Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are approximately 22,800 practicing petroleum engineers in the U.S. This occupation is expected to show a 8% growth by 2031 with the above-average increase due to demands in the oil industry and retirement of many current petroleum engineers.

The median salary of a petroleum engineer in 2021 was $130,850 annually. This is the salary at which half of petroleum engineers earned more and half earned less. The lowest 10% earned less than $73,000 and the highest 10% earned more than $208,000.

Experience will make a difference in how much a petroleum engineer earns every year. The area of the country in which a petroleum engineer works also makes a difference in their earnings. Those in Texas, Louisiana, Alaska, and Colorado typically earn more than a petroleum engineer that works elsewhere.

An Opportunity for Felons?

A felon can pursue any degree they want. While as many as 60% of colleges consider criminal history in their admissions process, there is no standard policy regarding a background check in place.

Any felon wanting to get a degree can find a college that will accept them. The challenge is in obtaining a license as a petroleum engineer and a job after graduating.

While the requirements for felons becoming a petroleum engineer differ somewhat depending on the state, typically, the regulations indicate certain factors. These criteria will be considered as to whether a crime relates the occupation of a petroleum engineer:

  • Nature and seriousness of the crime
  • Relationship of the crime to the responsibility to work as a Professional Engineer and protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public
  • Relationship of the crime to the competence, ability, capacity, fitness, or professional judgment required to perform the duties and responsibilities of a petroleum engineer
  • Outcome of the judgment, penalty, or punishment whether completed or ongoing
  • Date of completion and resolution of the terms of the terms of any judgment, penalty, or punishment
  • Extent to which an engineering license might offer for further criminal activity

It is important to be honest in filling out an application for licensing as a Professional Engineer. If a felony isn’t disclosed but found on a background check, this constitutes fraud and is a punishable crime. For anyone considering not being honest about their felony, it is a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful in this pursuit, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. They are already working with negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a petroleum engineer. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

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It is a big challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to become a petroleum engineer. Giving him or herself the best chance for success by having his or her record expunged and also documenting any programs, education, or training completed could be critical.

Having support from family, friends, counselors, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a petroleum engineer with a felony? What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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