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Careers in the Oil Industry

The oil industry employs tens of thousands of people. Many jobs are related to the extraction of oil and gas which, in 2010, employed over 155,000 in the United States. The following profiles describe commonly held positions in the oil and gas industries, including those involved in exploration, drilling, extraction, and processing.

Structural Geologist - Structural Geologists study the three dimensional shape and distribution of rocks whose shapes and textures indicate that they have deformed under stress. During burial, rocks that contain hydrocarbons change shape under stress. Structural geologists play an important role in explaining the architecture of potential oil bearing sequences.

Stratigrapher - Stratigraphers study the layering of sedimentary and igneous rocks with a focus towards the age, sequencing, and correlation of layers in different locations through geologic time. Sometimes, they use microfossils to make correlations. Understanding where oil bearing rocks appear in sequences of rock layers is important in oil exploration.

Sedimentologist - Sedimentologists study the formation of sedimentary rocks of all kinds, including: clastic, biochemical, and chemical. They use a range of techniques to examine the properties of potential oil bearing rocks, cap rocks, and the surrounding strata.

Geophysicist - Geophysicists study the Earth using gravity, magnetic, electrical, and seismic methods. Many spend their time outdoors, studying various features of the Earth. Others spend their time indoors using computers for modeling and calculations. Geophysicists play an important role in finding oil.

Well Log Analyst - Well Log Analysts analyze and record the properties of rocks layers in a drill core. Logs may be made directly from samples or by taking geophysical measurements by lowering instruments into a bore hole.

Geological Engineers - Geological Engineers assess the engineering properties of geologic materials. For example, in undersea environments, oil exploration relies on detailed analyses of properties including the strength of rock, the distribution of faults, and the risk of subsidence.

Reservoir Engineers - Reservoir Engineers work to optimize production of oil and gas via proper well placement, production rates, and enhanced oil recovery techniques.

Drilling Engineers - Drilling Engineers manage the technical aspects of drilling exploratory, production and injection wells.

Production Engineers - Production Engineers manage the interface between the reservoir and the well, including perforations, sand control, downhole flow control, and downhole monitoring equipment. They also evaluate artificial lift methods and select surface equipment that separates the produced fluids (oil, natural gas, and water).

Petroleum Geochemist - Petroleum Geochemists apply chemical principles to the study of the origin, migration, accumulation, and alteration of petroleum. They use geochemical models in the assessment of reservoir discoveries because they provide an indication of the maturity of the crude oil and its migration from the source rock and accumulation in the reservoir rock.

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Specialist - GIS Specialists are technicians who organize digital spatial data from different locations using computer technology.

Cartographer - Cartographers make maps, geologic maps and cross sections, which are important tools for showing the geology both at and below the surface. Today, most maps are made using computers.