Drilling engineer in red hat monitors drilling data on a device

How to Become a
Drilling Engineer

Dasha Castillo
By Dasha Castillo - Content Writer
|
Last Updated: April 20, 2023
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This guide contains information and resources on how to become a drilling engineer. Learn about the educational requirements for the job, what the position pays and more. Once you’re fully trained and ready to apply, consider reviewing our resume samples to study how successful job seekers frame their experience and qualifications.

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What Does a Drilling Engineer Do?

Drilling engineers can work on land, offshore platforms or in mobile drilling units. They design, plan and implement measures to drill wells as safely and cost-effectively as possible. They supervise the process from the initial sound design to testing and completion. Drilling engineers extract minerals, metal ores, oil and natural gas across various terrains on land and underwater.

A drilling engineer’s responsibilities can vary depending on the employer, but tasks often include:

  • Administering drilling and service contracts, engineering designs and supervising the drilling crew on site.

  • Partnering with project stakeholders, such as geologists, to monitor the drilling progress, oversee safety aspects and ensure the protection of the environment and any other developments that may impact drilling activities.

  • Assessing the suitability of new and existing well sites by collecting and analyzing data, daily production and extraction.

  • Monitoring and comparing day-to-day operations and financial outputs against quarterly budgets.

  • Designing wells and good directional paths and preparing construction plans, work schedules and comprehensive drilling plans to meet project objectives.

  • Working out cost estimates, assessing risk and preparing construction and operational budgets.

  • Reporting and optimizing operations.

  • Monitoring drill workplace safety and maintenance.

  • Managing the logistics and reporting on the drill site and operations.

  • Calculating the cost of machinery and the construction of rigs, platforms and other structures.

  • Forecasting targeted mineral or resource quantities without additional investment or infrastructure.

  • Providing effective solutions for operational stability, equipment failures and other onsite issues.

  • Ensuring drilling operations comply with statutory and regulatory requirements regarding health and safety, emergency procedures and disaster recovery.

How Do You Become a Drilling Engineer?

Drilling engineers fall under the umbrella of petroleum engineers, as specified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Demand for this category may grow 8% throughout 2031, with an estimated projection of 1,900 job openings yearly. However, oil prices and demand can be significant determinants of employment growth, so keep an eye on oil production and the growth of alternative energy sources like wind, water or solar.

If you’re interested in this career, these steps help highlight how to become a drilling engineer:

1

Graduate high school with your future college education in mind.

As you earn your high school diploma, consider developing essential engineering skills and knowledge by enrolling in advanced placement classes in algebra, trigonometry, calculus, biology, chemistry and physics.

2

Earn a relevant bachelor’s degree or dual degree program.

To enter this profession, consider a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, mineral engineering, geology or earth sciences. Regardless of your degree, we recommend you register for undergraduate trigonometry, calculus, engineering and physics classes.

You can find a list of accredited undergraduate programs via the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). You can also look for schools that offer dual engineering programs where you can earn both a bachelor's and master's degree over five years of study.

3

Consider an engineering internship during college.

Internships and mentoring opportunities are available to undergraduate and recent graduates to gain the necessary experience and professional support of more senior engineers. You can gain valuable work experience under the supervision of experienced colleagues.

4

Pursue a graduate degree in an engineering program.

Prospective drilling engineers can also complete a master's degree in engineering, which can be completed in two years and covers the application of knowledge like reservoir engineering and hydrogeology.

5

Study and apply for engineering licenses, certifications or registrations.

Although the following engineering licenses and credentials aren’t mandatory, they can help impress hiring managers and unlock more job opportunities.

Remember that drilling engineers must maintain their knowledge and meet continuing education requirements to keep their licenses.

6

Apply for a drilling engineer internship or job.

After you complete your education, internships, apprenticeship, license and certification requirements, you can look for open job opportunities. Review our drilling engineer resume samples to see how fellow job seekers describe their extensive training and experience on one page. If you need help writing a concise and detailed resume, consider using our Resume Builder to create a comprehensive, ready-to-submit resume based on your professional experience.

Drilling Engineer Skills

Drilling is a 24/7 business, so expect to work long shifts. Drilling engineers need to be flexible about travel or relocation to somewhere else in the world. When working on offshore rigs, drilling engineers and their crew sleep, eat and spend all their free time on the rig. Accommodation and meals are provided.

Interpersonal skills may be underestimated for drilling engineers. The following soft skills, however, can help you successfully conduct your duties:

1Team building and communication skills to help work with various people.
2Problem-solving and finding the best person for different problems are skills vital to a drilling engineer.
3Analytical ability to deconstruct issues and develop solutions.
4The ability to work under pressure.
5Critical thinking is ideal for quickly identifying and adapting to drilling plan problems and avoiding costly delays or service disruptions.

Helpful hard skills:

1Knowledge of multiple languages is an added advantage, primarily if overseeing the construction or maintenance of an international drill.
2IT skills to help troubleshoot drilling software.
3Strong math skills, especially in algebra, trigonometry and calculus.
4Grasp of scientific concepts such as geology, thermodynamics or physics.
5Strong grasp of engineering fundamentals.

Insights from a Drilling Engineer

For a better understanding of what to expect in this industry we asked professional Drilling Engineers and here's how they feel about their job.

What is the common career path for a Drilling Engineer?

The first step to becoming a drilling engineer is to earn a degree from an accredited university. A related degree can be one in petroleum engineering which covers all the basic scientific and mathematical principles related to the field. Although not required petroleum engineers may also be interested in acquiring a master's degree in petroleum engineering. A good option would be to pursue an internship before graduating so you have some sort of experience when you graduate and can get a job quicker after passing the drilling engineer license program.

What should someone consider before becoming a Drilling Engineer?

If you have the ability and health to work long erratic hours and at spontaneous times then you should be good. Some drilling engineers have reported working 80 hours at a time. Another thing to consider is that Drilling Engineers work in hazardous environments where nothing is certain.

What type of person excels in this job?

Skills or personality traits related to success in this industry are people open to new experiences and with high consciousness. People who are organized and diligent with regards to problem-solving and analytical thinking, surely excel in this industry.

What are some of the most important skills for Drilling Engineers to have?

People interested in this industry should be able to communicate and maintain a great relationship with their peers. Other important skills are a good understanding of scientific college classes such as geology, physics, maths, and chemistry. Great analytical mind and the ability to think through complex problems and generate solutions to those problems. Initiative and drive should be something innate as well.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Drilling Engineer?

Most drilling engineers will travel a lot at the beginning of their careers. So if you like to travel this is an excellent opportunity. Another important aspect is that the demand for drilling engineers is expected to double in the years to come. Apart from that, drilling engineers earn an annual median salary of about $125,000 (in 2016).

How Much Do Drilling Engineer Get Paid?

Drilling Engineers are typically paid on an hourly basis, with the median hourly wage in the United States being $72. The lowest-paid Drilling Engineers make about $36 per hour, while the highest-paid can earn equal to or more than $90 per hour. The bulleted list below will include BLS data for the top 10 states for median wage from highest to lowest.

Top 10 States for Drilling Engineer Salary

Drilling Engineers in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.

    Texas

    $79

    Colorado

    $75

    Alaska

    $70

    Washington

    $68

    Alabama

    $67

    Louisiana

    $66

    California

    $64

    Michigan

    $64

    Oklahoma

    $64

    Indiana

    $63

    Drilling Engineer Resources

    If you are looking for more information, we have put together a list of additional resources to help you as you continue to explore a career as a Drilling Engineer.

    On the Web

    Oilandgastraining.com
    for online training and competency development

    Next
    offers courses and immersive learning programs

    Industry Groups

    International Association of Drilling Contractors
    fosters education and communication for the oil and gas drilling industry

    American Association of Drilling Engineers
    consistently providing technical exchange specifically for Drilling Engineers

    Drilling Engineer Books

    Drilling Engineering
    explains the fundamentals and field practices in drilling operations

    Advanced Drilling Engineering: Principles and Designs
    multidisciplinary information to help in the design and planning of complex wells