Thursday, February 21, 2008

Engineering Grads Hit a Gusher

With energy prices soaring and oil-company ranks graying, petroleum-engineering graduates have become a hot commodity.

As a result, students are swelling the ranks of college engineering programs, positioning themselves for energy-industry jobs with salaries that make tenure-track professors envious. Top-ranking petroleum-engineering graduates this year can expect starting pay of $80,000 to $110,000, plus signing bonuses and other perks.

It is a sharp reversal from the 1990s, when students mulling career options recoiled from anything oily. Then, the memory was still fresh of the major oil bust in the mid-1980s, when the price of oil sank to $12 a barrel and tens of thousands of industry professionals lost their jobs. Between 1986 and 2000, the American petroleum industry slashed its work force 60%, according to a report by the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission.

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