What Will the Oil and Gas Industry Do This Time? - Guest Editorial

What Will the Oil and Gas Industry Do This Time?

Stephen A. Holditch, SPE, Department Head, Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering, Texas A&M University

From 1972 to 1982, the enrollment in petroleum engineering departments in the United States increased substantially. We are currently seeing a similar increase in enrollment in petroleum engineering schools.
Fig. 1 shows the total US petroleum engineering enrollment from 1972 to 2009. The enrollment peaked at just over 12,000 total students. In 1972, there were 1,362 undergraduate students in US universities. By 1983, the number had increased to 11,014. By comparison, in 2003, there were 1,673 undergraduates, and by the start of the fall semester 2008, the number of undergraduates had increased to 4,199. As can be seen in Fig. 2, the growth trend in undergraduate student enrollment from 2003 to 2009 is similar to the growth trend from 1972 to 1978.

The Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University in 2003 only graduated 35 students with BS degrees and 46 students with MS or PhD degrees. In 2004, the oil and gas industry asked all the departments of petroleum engineering in the US to increase enrollment and graduates, and the universities have responded to that request. This year, the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M will graduate more than 100 students with BS degrees and more than 50 with graduate degrees.

Now the oil and gas industry must do its part and hire these graduate engineers. Such a request seems almost silly if one has been reading all the articles during the past few years about the shortage of engineers in the oil and gas industry, and attending all the panel sessions at all the meetings to discuss what the industry needs to do to fill the age gap that exists in most companies, especially US domestic companies that do not hire an international work force. However, with the current economic downturn and the unexplainable increase and decrease in oil prices from a high of USD 147/bbl to the current price of around USD 40/bbl, some students are starting to ask questions about their job prospects and their career choice in general.
 
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