Why Should A Petroleum Engineer Become A Licensed Professional Engineer?
Licensed professional engineers can be found in all engineering disciplines. However, it is far more common in some disciplines than in others. Civil engineers, for example, routinely pursue a P.E. license. Aside from prestige and increased credibility, civil engineers often pursue licensure because failing to do so can be very limiting to their career development. At its core, a professional engineering license is a mechanism to protect the public by ensuring that licensed engineers have a minimum standard of experience, education, and competency. Compared to other engineering disciplines, civil engineering projects more often involve projects that directly impact the health and safety of people. It is because of this that civil engineers so often pursue licensure.
Petroleum engineers, on the other hand, have historically worked on projects that do not directly impact public health and safety. Therefore, it is not all that common for petroleum engineers to pursue licensure. One may ask, why should a petroleum engineer become a licensed P.E.? There are several reasons, a few of which are described below.
1. Standing out amongst the crowd
The very fact that most petroleum engineers do not pursue licensure makes for a unique opportunity. In a field that is often saturated with experienced engineers, it can be difficult to differentiate yourself from the crowd. By becoming a licensed professional engineer, you can quickly demonstrate your value. The professional engineering license provides a level of instant credibility that sets you apart from unlicensed petroleum engineers who have comparable education and experience. In a tight job market, it can be the difference between a job offer and failing to even get an interview. For those already employed, it can lead to accelerated career progression.
2. Unique opportunities
A career in petroleum engineering can be very dynamic and offer opportunities to perform a variety of tasks and job functions. For those interested in offering engineering services as a consultant or planning to consult as an expert-witness, gaining professional engineering licensure should be a top priority.
It was previously mentioned that petroleum engineers historically do not work on projects that directly impact public health and safety. While the scope of petroleum projects hasn't changed much, the perception of the petroleum industry has changed drastically in the past decade. With growing concern for topics such as global warming, there is an increasing movement towards reducing/eliminating emissions from oil wells and oil storage facilities. Controlling emissions is a complicated task that requires a great deal of engineering and operational expertise. In addition to emissions, the protection of groundwater aquifers is another top priority. Whether justified or not, the public perception that hydraulic fracturing contaminates groundwater is a very real concern that the petroleum industry must address. Both controlling emissions and protecting groundwater are rapidly becoming issues that most believe impact public health and safety. Although not yet required, increased scrutiny of the petroleum industry may one day make a professional engineering license every bit as valuable for a petroleum engineer as it already is for a civil engineer. The petroleum engineers who proactively seek licensure will not only raise the standard of quality for their non-licensed colleagues but will also position themselves for career advancement opportunities as scrutiny of the petroleum industry continues to gain momentum.