English: Petroleum Engineering students in the field (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
3. Petroleum engineer
Median Salary: $93,516
Change in salary (2006–2012): +17%
Total employees: 11,900
Petroleum engineering encompasses three sub-specialties of the oil and gas sector: drilling, production and reservoir engineering. The job requires a detailed understanding of chemical systems, geological formations and computer modelling.
How to qualify: After completing an engineering degree, the majority of petroleum engineers receive technical and soft-skills training when they begin their careers with integrated oil and gas companies, service firms or in consulting outfits. Co-op programs may give job candidates an edge, since employers value hands-on learning.
Money: According to a survey by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, total compensation rose 9.3% last year. While the median salary is $93,000, it’s not uncommon to make $230,000 or more.
Opportunity: Following the intense skills shortages of the mid-2000s, Canadian demand for petroleum engineers is expected to slow somewhat, according to Engineers Canada. Global demand, however, is robust, especially in the U.S., with the continuing shale oil boom, and as many as 40% of the world’s petroleum engineers are expected to retire within a decade. Growing areas of demand: skills geared to unconventional sources, such as deep water, enhanced or improved oil recovery and heavy oil.
What it’s like: Ramez Hanna Alla, a petroleum engineer with EnCana, works at a natural gas field in northeast British Columbia. “This job has such a global impact,” he says. “That’s what excites me about it.” But the hours can be long: on-site days can last 16 hours, he says, though he’s encouraged to take time off when his schedule permits.