Petroleum Engineer Vs Chemical Engineer

by Usama Chaudry on April 12, 2022

There might be a thin line of difference between petroleum engineer vs chemical engineer but, petroleum engineers are responsible for the design and development of processes for extracting oil and natural gas from the Earth’s reservoirs.

Whereas chemical engineers are responsible for conceptualizing and implementing new methods to manufacture or use chemicals, fuel, pharmaceuticals, food, and many other items.

Who is a Petroleum Engineer?

Petroleum engineering is one of the highest-paid jobs in oil and gas production. A petroleum engineer engaged in practically every stage of the evaluation, development, and production in oil and gas fields. Their goal is to maximize efficiency in hydrocarbon exploration and address any operational issues.

They must also minimize the impact of drilling on the environment during the extraction process.

The question “Is oil and gas engineering the same as petroleum engineering?” is usually answered uncleanly. Well, oil and gas engineering is also known as petroleum reservoir engineering, that specialization course of Petroleum engineering.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineers can work in several fields. Typical tasks include:

  • Petroleum geologists play a role to discover hydrocarbons using geological and geophysical approaches to analyze subsurface formations
  • Petroleum reservoir engineering, also known as oil and gas engineering, aims to achieve optimal well placement, output levels, and better oil recovery processes. They use computer models to spot threats and predict reservoir capacity
  • Production engineers supervise perforations, sand management, artificial lift, downhole flow control, and downhole monitoring devices
  • Drilling engineers are responsible for both production and injection well drilling. They work in interdisciplinary teams with other engineers, scientists, drilling crews, and builders
  • Understanding well-logging data and predicting future production potential with geoscientists, engineers, and commercial management

Who is a Chemical Engineer?

Chemical engineers design and build chemical manufacturing processes. They use scientific and mathematical expertise to improve chemical processing systems and equipment. In addition to analyzing process data, they design strategies for optimizing plant operations.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineering is involved in almost every aspect of mass production. The following are common responsibilities and roles of chemical engineers:

  • They design and troubleshoot processes for producing chemicals, fuels, foods, medicines, and biologicals.
  • Business and management chemists routinely visit research and industrial facilities.
  • Developing, implementing, reviewing, and adjusting plans to achieve goals.

The question that might be confusing you here is What does a petrochemical engineer do? The answer is: 

A petrochemical engineer develops ways for dissolving oil and petroleum and uses the resulting ingredients to manufacture everyday things like plastic, rubber, and synthetic fibers.

Difference Between Petroleum Engineer vs. Chemical Engineer

Petroleum engineering vs. chemical engineering focuses on solving problems. Their roles and tasks are quite similar, but their duties, education, and pay are vastly different.

1- Difference in Job Duties

While engineering is all about solving issues, petroleum engineering vs. chemical engineering specializes in specific industries, methodologies, and sorts of challenges.

Job Duties of a Petroleum Engineer:

Petroleum engineers perform the duties to design ways for obtaining natural resources such as oil and gas from existing wells and from beneath the Earth’s surface.

Job Duties of a Chemical Engineer:

Chemical engineers develop novel solutions to challenges encountered in the manufacture and usage of a wide variety of chemicals and compounds.

2- Difference in Education

The difference between petroleum engineering vs. chemical engineering in education is not much but still, they are distinct programs.

Education of Petroleum Engineer:

Petroleum engineers are normally required to hold a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or a closely related subject such as mechanical, civil, or chemical engineering.

Petroleum engineering courses include petroleum drilling engineering, petroleum engineering design, drilling and well completion, drilling fluids, energy in the modern world, and petroleum production at the undergraduate level.

Education of Chemical Engineer:

A bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering or a related subject is required to become a chemical engineer. Process dynamics and control, kinetics and reactor design, and chemical engineering design are typical chemical engineering courses.

The question arises here is can a chemical engineer work as a petroleum engineer? As mentioned, chemical engineering courses overlapping with petroleum engineering give the possibility to a chemical engineer to work as a petroleum engineer.

3- Difference of Specialization

Petroleum engineering vs. chemical engineering has a difference in specialization courses.

Specialization Options for Petroleum Engineers:

Because petroleum engineering is already a specialist discipline, specialization options may be limited. Petroleum engineering specializes in drilling, production, surface facilities, reservoir, and petrophysical engineering. Chemical engineering is a specialized field of chemical engineering which focuses on turning crude oil and petroleum into usable items like food, clothing, fertilizer, and polymers through chemical processes.

Specialization Options for Chemical Engineers:

Due to the broad scope of chemical engineering, students often choose a specialty. Chemical engineering concentrations include material science, biomedical, premedical, and environmental engineering.

4- Difference in Working Environment

Petroleum vs. chemical engineering has a distinct difference in the work environment.

Work Environment of Petroleum Engineer:

Petroleum engineers have far more fun occupations. Petroleum engineers routinely travel to well and drilling sites and spend time on-site. Oil and gas extraction employs over 30% of the profession.

Work in business and corporate management accounts for 18%, mining support operations for 16%, petroleum and coal production accounts for 11%.

Work Environment of Chemical Engineer:

Most chemical engineers work in laboratories or offices. However, Research and Development employ the most chemical engineers, it only accounts for 10% of the workforce.

5- Average Salary

Chemical and petroleum engineering salaries also differ as well.

Average Salary of Petroleum Engineer:

An average petroleum engineer’s salary is $75,808 per year. However, this varies by region, specialty, educational background, certification, and years of experience.

Average Salary of Chemical Engineer:

The chemical engineering salary in the oil and gas sector is $63,964 on average, though this can vary widely depending on geographic area, education, and experience.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1- Is petroleum engineering better than chemical engineering?

It’s hard to overstate the value of chemical and petroleum engineering. However, if you’re interested in energy generation and geology, petroleum engineering sounds like a great fit!

If you want a broader skillset and enjoy dealing with chemicals, chemical engineering might be a better fit.

2- Can I become a petroleum engineer with a chemical engineering degree?

Students enrolled in chemical engineering can also pursue petroleum engineering, because chemical engineering is a vast field.

3-Are petroleum engineers in high demand?

An average of 2100 jobs for petroleum engineers have been projected annually for the next decade.

4- Is petroleum engineering a dying career?

Petroleum engineers’ jobs are predicted to grow 8% between 2020 and 2030.

5- Which country pays the highest salary to petroleum engineers?

Indiana ($198,170), New Jersey ($183,550), Texas ($172,890), Colorado ($154,210), and Alaska ($150,120) offer the highest mean salaries for Petroleum Engineers.

6- Which country is best for petroleum engineering?

Norway, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and France are among the best countries for petroleum engineering jobs while Cyprus and Malaysia are considered best for the education of petroleum engineering.

7- Why are petroleum engineers paid so much?

Petroleum engineering is a highly-skilled discipline. Each year, only about 1,000 students graduate in petroleum engineering, which makes it highly demanding.

8- Do petroleum engineers have a future?

Petroleum engineers are likely to be in demand for roughly 8% more during the next ten years. The industry expects 40% of petroleum engineers to retire within a decade, creating even more employment openings.


Petroleum engineer vs chemical engineer; both are high-paid professionals. Analytical and problem-solving abilities are required of both chemical and petroleum engineers. Both require good mathematical abilities as well as the ability to work well in teams. It is entirely up to you what you wish to accomplish and, more importantly, what interests you most. It’s hard to select between these two distinctions.

Petroleum engineers frequently rank among the highest-paid professionals. If you’re passionate about studying energy production and geology, and you appreciate working in oil and gas production and occasionally on drilling sites, petroleum engineering may be a good fit for you!

Chemical engineering opens a plethora of career opportunities. If you wish to work in a range of industries, including pharmaceuticals and scientific research, resin and synthetic rubber manufacturing, chemical engineering may be a better fit for you.

Wishing you the best of luck in your future pursuits!

Usama ChaudryUsama is a professional engineer and graduated from the University of Alberta. Computations of electrical and thermal characteristics are among his research interests. Usama's hobbies outside of professional work include reading, playing tennis, and trekking.


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