Oil prices affect students’ career plans

Oil prices affect students’ career plans

LARAMIE, Wyo. — The downturn in oil prices has some petroleum engineering students at Wyoming and Colorado colleges rethinking their career choice.

A year ago, petroleum engineering students were anticipating six-figure starting salaries for a bachelor’s degree. But now that the oil price slide has turned to an oil price slump, jobs in the field are suddenly drying up.

Evan Lowry was among those who enrolled in the University of Wyoming’s petroleum engineering program based on job prospects at the time. He had originally thought about a chemical engineering career.

“(I) switched just based off of the outlook for petroleum engineers,” Lowry told KUWR.

And just a year ago, the idea of working for a lower-paying government regulatory job was not a consideration for Lowry.

Now, with oil prices at half what they were in June and companies laying off thousands of people, his perspective has changed.

“Currently I’m just applying to any job that’s open,” he said. “I think I’m at 35 or 36 right now.”

In fact, he is enrolling in a chemical engineering master’s degree program in case none of those petroleum engineering jobs pan out.

At the Colorado School of Mines, associate teaching professor Carrie McClelland said many of her students are facing the same problems with finding work after graduation.

McClelland said that some seniors have had offers rescinded and many students are considering graduate school.

She said the issue isn’t just low oil prices, but there are too many students pursuing petroleum engineering degrees.

“I think the demand has already leveled off even though the number of students continues to increase, and we’re going to see a lot of students that end up with a petroleum engineering degree but have to go find a job in a different industry,” she said.

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