Economy has slowed need, but Petroleum Engineer students still in demand

Over the years the petroleum engineering field has had its ups and downs. Right now, it’s somewhere in between.


Dr. Robert Chase, head of the Edwy R. Brown Department of Petroleum Engineering and Geology, believes the field is in a transition period going from being oil driven to natural gas driven.


“There is an incredible natural gas rock formation located in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York,” Chase says.

The formation is called Marcellus and is one of the largest natural gas developments in history. It is estimated it will put $13 billion into the economy over the next 20 years and create 175,000 jobs.


“Our graduates are going to be in an absolute great position,” Chase says.


Chase adds the appeal for natural gas over oil comes down to the price of importing it. He says biofuels will become more attractive because they are imported less, which means spending less money.


“The beauty about natural gas is that we have enough to meet energy needs for the next 75 to 100 years,” Chase says.


However, while this formation will offer opportunities for graduates in the near future, this year’s graduates are still having some difficulty finding job placement due to the economy.


“It has definitely had an impact on the job market,” Chase says.


Out of 23 graduating petroleum majors this year, all but three have been placed in full-time positions and one student elected to go on for a masters degree. Last year, all 22 graduates were successfully placed. Chase says the recession has slowed down the placement process, but students are still finding really good jobs in the industry. He also adds that enrollment remains strong.


“Enrollment of students has increased over the last five years,” Chase says.


Jesse Tunnell ’10 (Parkersburg, W.Va.) is one of the petroleum seniors who already has a job secured after graduation. “After the market fell last year I did worry about not getting a job, however I did end up getting a job in Houston, Texas, with Southwestern Energy,” Tunnell says.


Tunnell first interviewed with Southwestern Energy while it had representatives on the Marietta College campus. The company flew him to their Texas location for an onsite interview where he competed with 32 other people. He was one of six to receive a position with the company.


Tunnell agrees the petroleum field is changing and credits technology as the driving force behind the changes and improvements.


“With better technology we are able to find and produce more complex reservoirs, and since they are more complex we are having to change the way we do some things,” Tunnell says.


Ellen Schott ’13 (Caldwell, Ohio) also believes the industry is ever changing—although she has a slightly different perspective on it.


“Yes I do think that the petro field is changing but I’m not sure in which ways. I do know that from looking at the past and seeing how jobs were preformed then and how those same jobs are preformed today, the industry has changed,” Schott says.


Schott came to college with no prior knowledge of petroleum engineering, simply an interest and a passion to learn more about it. “It was something that interested me and I learn something new in class every day,” Schott says.


She has already secured her first internship for this summer at Anadarko Petroleum in Wyoming through interviewing on campus with the help of the Career Center.


“I am really looking forward to getting to Wyoming and finally gaining some first-hand experience,” Schott says. “I know that I will be able to apply what I'm learning in the classroom to my job this summer.”


Although the recession is taking its toll on the job market, Chase believes there will always be a need for petroleum engineers and says their department is just where it needs to be right now with around 200 people in the major. “As long as the demand is there we will turn out graduates.”