Posts tagged ‘Texas A&M’

January 12, 2015

Dropping oil prices create concern for petroleum engineering students

by Grace

Plunging oil prices have raised the level of anxiety among college students pursuing petroleum-related degrees.

When Daniel Forero left home in California to pursue a petroleum engineering degree at Texas A&M University, he thought his career prospects were strong.

As the energy sector flourished, many around him pointed to a petroleum engineering degree as a surefire ticket to success in the age of the American oil boom.

But as oil prices continue to plummet – they reached five-year lows last week – Forero, now a senior, is quickly getting a harsh lesson in the cyclical nature of the energy business.

“What I kept hearing was ‘there’s plenty of jobs in this industry,’ ” Forero said. “Now that I’ve gotten to this point, it doesn’t seem that way.”

Well, two years ago Texas A&M was warning petroleum engineering students about the “sustainability of the entry level job market” given the explosive growth in the numbers of students in that field.  The price of oil was not guaranteed to keep rising forever, and smart people could have predicted this turn of events.

“They talk about oil prices going down, enrollment going up, and say ‘you’re in engineering – you do the math,’ ”

The bad news keeps coming.

Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar hinted at job cuts in an email telling employees that “2015 is going to be a tough year.” A week earlier, the company — which counts on oil producers as customers for its oil-field services — announced 1,000 layoffs in the Eastern Hemisphere.

BP, the London-based international integrated oil company, already has said it will cut an unspecified number of midlevel supervisors in its oil production and refining businesses, as well as some back-office jobs.

Meanwhile, big independent producers including Marathon, ConocoPhillips and Apache say they’ll cut their 2015 capital budgets. While those budgets don’t include salaries, the figures are a sign of a more conservative approach.

Engineers and others with strong experience are less at risk for losing jobs, but new college graduates may find it tough to snare high-paying jobs.  Anxious students will be looking closely at hiring patterns over the next six to ten months.

… as oil prices fall and enrollment rises, some students are considering pursuing master’s degrees to avoid entering the workforce when companies are scaling back. Others are looking into sales or surveying positions – jobs that would get them into the industry but wouldn’t necessarily take advantage of their engineering degrees.

The boom and bust nature of the oil business is very familiar to me.  I was working as an exploration geologist during the oil bust of the 1980s, and left the industry to make a career change that turned out well.  Many others did too.  Even though current conditions provoke anxiety among students aspiring to lucrative oil industry jobs, chances are they have skills that will transfer to other fields.  Although it’s disappointing now, it’s helpful to take the long view.


Ryan Holeywell, “Campus anxiety rises as crude price falls”, Houston Chronicle, December 12, 2014.

Ryan Holeywell, “With oil layoffs likely, it helps to be experienced and tech-savvy”, Houston Chronicle, December 26, 2014.

February 19, 2013

A warning to petroleum engineering students

by Grace

In the wake of a one-year jump of 55% in the number of U.S. petroleum engineering freshman students, it was reported that Texas A&M sent a letter to incoming students advising them to be realistic about future job growth.

Dear Admitted Aggie PETE Applicant,

The Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering, Texas A&M University, is pleased that you applied and were admitted to our top ranked petroleum engineering program. If you pursue a degree in petroleum engineering, our program is committed to providing the highest quality education available.

Recent data suggests that some concern about the sustainability of the entry level job market during a time of explosive growth in the number of students studying petroleum engineering in U.S. universities may be prudent.

Our advice is that you become aware of graduation projections and petroleum industry employment outlook for people with petroleum engineering degrees. For example, between fall 2011 and fall 2012, the number of freshmen in petroleum engineering programs in the U.S. increased from 1,388 to 2,153, a 55% jump in one year. Based on the many inquiries and applications TAMU is receiving for the petroleum engineering major, the number of U.S. students in petroleum engineering will probably continue a strong upward trend, as long as the employment market remains stable. These days, a very large number of people are already studying in petroleum engineering programs (see attachment, showing data made available through the Society of Petroleum Engineers, SPE), at a time when: the number of recent graduates, who began their studies several years ago, is already at about historical highs and growing rapidly (see attachment); our program’s board of industry advisors are recommending that we “do not grow” our undergraduate program at this time; and oil and natural gas price projections and expectations of U.S. governmental policy influences are viewed as not particularly encouraging by the U.S. petroleum industry.

We are not trying to discourage you from a career that we think is among the most fascinating, dynamic, challenging careers that exist. However, we also want you to know that the Aggie PETE program is doing the right thing by providing you with information that could end up being important to your future.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2010 annual median pay for a petroleum engineer was $114,080, while the number of jobs in the ten-year period ending 2020 is expected to grow 17%.

Rig count numbers track oil well activity and serve as an indication of petroleum industry jobs.


I graduated with a degree in geology in 1977, which turned out to be accidentally fortuitous timing.  And it’s no surprise that I left the business around 1986, as did many geologists, petroleum engineers, and other industry workers.

Related:  Don’t pick a college major based on today’s hot jobs (Cost of College)

December 13, 2012

Growth in luxury apartments for college students

by Grace

As housing has become a bigger factor in college selection, more schools are featuring luxury apartments instead of traditional dorms.


Instead of bunk beds, cinder-block walls and communal showers, these newly built dorms off campus resemble apartments and offer a wide range of amenities, such as walk in-closets and custom-designed furniture. Everyone usually gets his or her own bedroom and bathroom, so the only sharing is in the high-end kitchens that often feature granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances….

These upscale living arrangements typically cost $1-2,000 more per year than dorms, and the boom in college attendance has made investing in these college apartment complexes profitable for some companies.

Developers are profiting from this imbalance. Residences for more than 30,000 beds are estimated to be under construction around campuses nationwide, though the industry’s fragmentation makes an accurate count difficult. These builders rely on amenities to stand out. At the Lodges of East Lansing near Michigan State University, the pool is heated year-round, and there’s an ice-skating rink just for students. During the week, a private shuttle bus takes students to class. On the weekends, they’re driven to and from night-life hot spots.

These amenities make me want to go back to college!

Michigan State University Among the amenities at the Lodges of East Lansing:

  • Indoor/outdoor fireplaces
  • Coffee house
  • Cybercafe
  • Dog park
  • Ice-skating rink
  • Outdoor grills
  • Gym, pool and sauna
  • Tanning bed
  • Private shuttle

University of Central Florida At University House, amenities include:

  • Tanning rooms
  • Putting green
  • Barbecue grills
  • Pool with cabanas and club house
  • Gaming room with multiple flatscreen TVs
  • Internet bar with PC and Mac stations

Texas A&M At the Cottages of College Station, amenities include:

  • Tennis and sand-volleyball courts
  • Pet-washing station
  • Tanning beds
  • Horseshoe and cornhole pit
  • Walking and fitness trail
  • Poolside jumbo screen
  • Fitness center with yoga studio

Arizona State University When it opens next year, the District on Apache will have:

  • Outdoor movie screen
  • 300-foot-long lazy river
  • Steam room
  • Golf simulator
  • Outdoor kitchen

Students should probably enjoy this taste of luxury living while they can.

“Most of these kids are going to have a step down in lifestyle when they have to enter the working-world environment after they graduate,” says John E. Vawter, principal of Capstone Collegiate Communities, which developed the Lodges and the Cottages.

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