Degree meets industry demands
In the Fall 2009 semester the University will, for the first time, offer an undergraduate degree in petroleum engineering in addition to the master’s degree already offered.
‘This new undergraduate degree plan complements UH’s other energy-related programs and strengthens our commitment to produce a highly educated workforce to address the needs of the region and the state,’ UH President and Chancellor of UH System Renu Khator said in a press release.
With industries cutting jobs in today’s tough economy, UH is grooming students for one job market that is on the verge of a drought.
This program was approved Thursday by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and will include courses in economics, energy law and business in addition to the necessary education in petroleum engineering and geosciences.
‘The way the industry has evolved, these professionals cannot operate like before,’ Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, said. ‘You really are not able to work as a petroleum engineer without a background in geosciences.’
Krishnamoorti’s department sponsored the University’s inception of the program.
According to the Society of Petroleum Engineers, 40 percent of their workforce will meet retirement requirements next year, leaving a need for replacements. The petroleum industry has grown and jobs are being created in addition to filling the need for replacements of the anticipated retirees.
Petroleum program director Ray Flumerfelt said the numerous inquiries from companies in the city prompted the University to look into developing an undergraduate program.
‘There’s lots of demand in local industry and there will be for many, many years,’ Flumerfelt said. ‘It’s a very attractive degree because there is so much demand and salaries are high.
‘Petroleum engineers are needed to advance the development of natural gas industry. This is a good field to get into.’
It’s such an attractive degree for potential employers that local companies such as Marathon Oil and Devon Energy have already donated $1.6 million to fund the program. Others are promising to begin donating more, Flumerfelt said, meaning the University will be able to offer a number of scholarships to a high-quality program.
‘ ‘Industry support is essential as the college builds this program,’ Krishnamoorti said.
The program is planning to hire an additional six faculty members over the next three years. Online courses will be added in the future in order to provide for working professionals.
Flumerfelt said that because of Houston’s location, UH’s program is expected to become the best funded petroleum engineering program in the state, surpassing University of Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
‘The B.S. degree is expected to do as well as the masters program,’ Flumerfelt said. ‘About 50 students are expected to enroll for fall 2009 and we will see about 150 a year later. We’re hoping for about 300 to 400 over time.’