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Petroleum or Aerospace Engineering? I'm torn.

  1. Dec 9, 2011 #1
    I'm currently a transfer student with about freshman equivalent credits. I'm taking all the basic classes required for most engineering degrees (Calc I-III, Chemistry, English, Physics, etc). I am now at the point where I NEED to decide which one I want to do.

    I have a deep love for space and space travel. It thrills me. Being a part of NASA or another space exploration company would be a dream come true. However, the future is looking bleak in that area. I've heard many predictions of continued and escalated economic despair. The ignorance of many politicians and the general public will lead to further cuts for NASA if things get worse. Many of the private companies rely heavily on NASA so that could mean goodbye for them too (SpaceX etc).

    Nevertheless, the need for oil hasn't been greater. Crude prices continue to rise leaving a oil companies nurtured and flourishing. I cannot see this stopping anytime soon (can you?). A job as a Petroleum Engineer will give my mathematical brain the stimulation it needs while leaving me completely comfortable and flexible monetarily.

    If I was a religious man I would say something cheesy along the lines of "the Devil and God are raging inside of me."

    What are your thoughts PF? Should I take the risk of pursuing my passion that has an uncertain future or should I go towards the $$? Obviously most people are going to suggest the previous, but with the way things are headed, is this even reasonable?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2011 #2
    you couldnt pick two fields that are more different. petro is based in ChE and aero in MechE. which of those two would you rather major in?
  4. Dec 9, 2011 #3

    i used to be in petro and that is not true
  5. Dec 9, 2011 #4
    at my school the departments are connected. . .
  6. Dec 9, 2011 #5
    I do. The reserves are surely one day going to get low causing slowed down production. As far last time I heard from some random mouth, petroleum sector is not experiencing any growth at all. It's just static. Aero industry depends on the orders from customers for e.g Boeing says thousands of jobs in America will be created from Emirates' order for 90 777-300ERs
  7. Dec 9, 2011 #6
    cool story bro
  8. Dec 9, 2011 #7
    it's also the first school with a petro engineering department (from 1910) so i imagine i know what they are doing.

    the cracking furnace used to break down crude oil is a chemical process, why do you think petro is unrelated to chemical engineering?
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2011
  9. Dec 9, 2011 #8
    i agree they are related but the coursework for petroE and chemE are very different at least in my experience.

    http://www.pe.tamu.edu/Current-Students/Catalogs/PETE_curriculum_133.pdf [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  10. Dec 9, 2011 #9
    wooooooooooooow, you guys take a lot of specialized and applied geology courses which is awesome, but i cant believe you dont have to take organic chem -- something that crude oil is.

    i guess a lot of the ChE process and core classes are covered in the applied classes like reservoirs, etc.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  11. Dec 9, 2011 #10
    At my university Petroleum engineering is focused on drilling and pumping the oil out, it's a lot more geology and mechanics, it doesn't focus at all on petroleum refining.
    The refining part, cracking and all that is for us Chemical engineers.

    The overlap is mainly in the part of mass and heat transfer and thermodynamics(but we see things like equilibrium with chemical reactions that I don't think they do), especially the property of fluids, equations of state, phase diagrams...
    But Petroleum guys don't learn anything about chemistry and we don't learn anything about drilling for petroleum in the ocean.

    Oh, about the job market, I don't know anything about aerospace so i can't talk, but about petroleum it has been booming where I live, thousands of jobs, new off shore platforms, new refining centers and the petrochemical industry is also growing at an alarming rate, especially since the discovery of the pre-salt layer. But I don't know about the USA.
    One thing for sure, people will love to talk how petroleum is going to end just to find another big reserve.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2011
  12. Dec 9, 2011 #11
    probably so

    btw sorry if i seemed hostile with my previous responses; i was in a bad mood

    (finals stress nawmean?)
  13. Dec 9, 2011 #12
    lol, i had the same problem with someone last week. . . my 3 finals are tues/weds.
  14. Dec 11, 2011 #13
    Nope. Not in our life times. Nice try though.

    Very well put. ChemEs deal with the refining and cracking along with chemical production. PEs deal with the engineering of getting the oil out of the ground.

    PEs make a great deal of money, but the job is somewhat less glamorous with much of the bonusses earned with shifts on off-shore oil rigs. Especially earlier in your career.

    ChemEs, IMO is one of the most flexible degrees (behind MechEs), and can work in most of the energy field.

    Personally, if I were you, I would get a degree in Mechanical Engineering. You can work in the space industry (building rockets, etc.), or the oil industry (pumps, pipes, oil rigs, etc). Whatever you decide, do not allow $ to motivate you. You will only regret it later if it's something you don't enjoy.
  15. Dec 12, 2011 #14
    Yes, the early career of a PE is hard. In the company a friend of mine work, if you want to get well paid you need to work off shore and the routine go as follows:
    3 weeks in the offshore rig, 1 week at home.
    Oh nice you may think, 1 week of vacation per month...guess what, try to maintain a family staying 3 weeks far from them, your wife isn't going to like it.
    Sure, if you are young and single it may be a nice adventure, and you will grow in the company so you won't need to do that anymore, but it will be strenuous in the beginning.
    Another thing staying off shore is a daunting experience, many people get depressed after staying so much time far from the rest of the world. Accidents are also common.
    But yes, you can make a nice amount of money, so much that some engineers can retire early after working for 10 years offshore(the main company in Brazil also gives bonus if you work in the offshore for too long, things like health insurance, they will finance your house for very low/zero interest rates...)

    About the flexibility, ChemE are flexible in theory but most end up working in the petrochemical industry(if they keep being engineers). I've worked in the petrochemical industry making polymers and the fertilizer industry, with phosphates, personally.
    Although the food and biotech industry has been hiring many chemical engineers.
    Ethanol production is a big business in Brazil(and in the USA, the two greatest manufacturers) and they need tons of chem engineers.
    If biofuels ever become dominant, chem engineers will be on heavy demand.

    One cool thing about ChemEs is that almost no other engineers know much chemistry, while almost every engineer knows some mechanics.
    But on the other hand MechE's are the MOST flexible as you said, they have a broader education and they are needed in almost any industry.

    That's of course from the perspective of where I live but I'm sure some of it applies to the rest of the world.
  16. Dec 12, 2011 #15
    Agreed. It's strange, who would've thought that two ChemEs would think alike :biggrin:?

    One thing the OP may need want to look into is the difficulty of the degree. The ChemE program at my school (pretty well respected engineering school in CO) is almost overwhelmingly considered the hardest engineering degree, and the second hardest, with Physics being the worst (and most painful) in the school. It's just something to think about. I'm sure Aerospace may be hard, it depends, but ChemEs - as I'm finding out have a very painful course load, no matter where you go.
  17. Dec 12, 2011 #16
    ChE is brutal by nature, no two ways about it . . .
  18. Dec 12, 2011 #17
    I take it you're a ChemE....How far away from your degree are you?
  19. Dec 12, 2011 #18
    I was sort of in a similar position as you a couple years ago. Like you, I've always sort of wanted to work in aerospace or with NASA or something like that. I went into mechanical because I figured if it turns out aerospace wasn't my thing I could still get a job in another industry. Since then I've developed an interest in energy and am slowly carving a career path in that direction. I've had a couple of internships and kept up good grades, so I'm really not worried about finding a job after graduation.

    So I guess my suggestion is look at MechE or ChemE because of the wide opportunities there. With PE I feel you might be a bit limited. With the other two you can still go for the relative stability of the energy sector if aerospace doesn't pan out.
  20. Dec 12, 2011 #19
    -2 years
  21. Dec 12, 2011 #20
    Personally, that's the very reason why I didn't major in it.

    Ah so you haven't had the great stuff that most Juniors get to experience like ChemE thermo (finally done with it), Mass/Heat transfer (next semester for me), etc.
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