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Too old to start as Pete Eng?

Too old to start as Pete Eng?

(OP)
Hello, I'm new to this site and found it while doing a search for info. I am currently in the USAF and will be retiring soon. I have been accepted to and I'm currently working towards my degree in Pete Engineering. But I will be 46 years old when I enter the job market. With oil prices hitting the lows they are and hearing about new grads having issues getting jobs I am wondering if I should changing fields. I have 20 years experience in aviation maintenance and worked 4 of those years in a job along side engineers. So I know this is a field I want to enter. But I'm just concerned about the job prospects after graduation. Any advice anyone is willing to give would be great! My second choice is Electrical Engineering. I appreciate any and all help!

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

All industries are cyclical. Oil and Gas cycles just make the news more often. People that started a Pet Eng program in 1982, 2004, 2011, etc to graduate during the disaster of 1986, the Global Economic Crises of 2008, or the current price collapse did have difficulty finding employment. There was still some hiring going on, but it scaled back to the best Pet Eng schools (Texas A&M, Colorado School of Mines, University of Tulsa, University of Texas, Texas Tech, etc.) and slowed way down or stopped at programs that didn't have the track record of the top tier schools.

I have always thought that the people who entered Pet Eng programs during the various collapses were the smart ones. Nothing lasts forever, and the need for petroleum products is only increasing, so if I was a 42 year old with my 20 in I would consider both my age and the current downturn to be positives and go for it.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

(OP)
Thanks for the reply. After doing some research Pet Eng seems to be a growing field. But entering later in life with little direct experience is a little nerve racking. I'm retiring back to Alaska and will be attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Not sure where they rank among the other schools though. I know the oil industry pumps a lot of money into the school. So I am hoping it will be a good place to go and start the next chapter!

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

It isn't a school that you hear about in the top tier, but Alaska is so remote, that I would be shocked if there wasn't an "indigenous peoples" mindset (i.e., anyone you hire in Fairbanks doesn't have to be moved from the lower 48) that we see all over the world.

I know when Amoco had a district office in Anchorage (working the offshore wells in the Cook Inlet off the Kenai Peninsula) it was the hardest district to get transferred to. I was working in the General Office back then and I had no problem traveling from Tulsa to London, Calgary, Trinidad, or Argentina, but I had to submit a request to an executive VP before I could go to Anchorage. Fairbanks may be a very good choice, I just don't know.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

(OP)
I guess I have a little more research to do on job availability up in AK. I would like to find something that keeps me in the state. But I know things are shaky up on the slope right now. I guess only time will tell, thanks again!

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

My best advice is, stay with what you're doing, as long as you can like it.

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

(OP)
BigInch thanks for the reply. Staying in the military isnt something i want to do. 20 years is enough for me, i have enjoyed my time. But its time to move on and Engineering is the direction i want to move in. Appreciate your advice though.

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

Yes you said that you are retiring from the military. I was referring to staying with aviation. I'm sure you've got a rather large investment in it and it will take you the same number of years or probably more to recoup that in another field. I'm all for developing new skill sets, but you have to realize it can have a very heavy associated cost.

As it's not the best of times for oil, so at least you won't lose the first 3-4 years. With the price of oil (jet fuel) set to come down, I'd be buying up av stocks. There is a US Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife, EPA, etc. as well. Alaska must need some looking after the environment and seems like you want to live up there for some reason. Not a fit? Alaska had aviation before oil, and it'll be there afterwards too.

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

There is nothing wrong with wanting to put down the wrench and ear muffs. There are a lot of people on eng-tips.com that completed their military service with a skill useful in the civilian world (mine was nuclear power) and then go to college to get an engineering degree and work in an unrelated field. Happens all the time. People spend a military career doing something and then often want to be higher on the pecking order than straight conversion of skills would put them. Happens all the time and should happen all the time.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

(OP)
David, you hit the nail on the head. Im looking to get away from wrenching and in AK most maintenance is done by small FBO's. They don't and really cant pay a lot, and there are no hubs there to move up the chain. Im not looking to be rich but I have 3 kids that need to go to college! On top of that the family wants to set roots. That plus my age has me a little worried about the Pet direction. I want to use my GI Bill to change careers and do something that I am pretty sure I will enjoy is what's on my scope. I have already been knocking out classes and should only have 3 years to graduate when I retire next year. My guess is that production is going to increase up north and the job outlook should be better in 3 years. They just approved Shell to drill up there and the state is looking hard at the natural gas pipeline. So I am betting on there being jobs up there that will keep me in the state for at least awhile. If I could go another 20 years and stay there it would be great. But I know that's not always the case. Thanks again for the inputs guys!

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

One thing that you need to ask yourself is "Do I want to be a Pet Eng or am I interested in the Oil & Gas industry?" Either answer should point you to a path. I'm a ME and have had a heck of a career in surface facilities, compression, and downhole pumping. If you are interested in geology, rock mechanics, and geophysics then Pet Eng is a really good way to go. If you like building stuff, pipe flow, multi-phase flow, corrosion, and flow measurement kinds of things then ME might be a better way to go. There are certainly more ME's in Oil & Gas than Pet Eng guys. Many of the ME's are in petroleum jobs. Few Pet Eng are in ME jobs.

When I got out of the Navy I treated college as a job, I already knew how to drink, was married, and I'd come to grips with dealing with my hormones. I got my BS in 33 months. It is quite doable, you just have to convince your adviser that 19-24 semester hours is a fraction of the work you did in the service. I never once felt overloaded, in fact I was able to get hooked on a soap opera while in school (that really sucked when I got a job in the pre-DVR days) while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

Getting your first job out of college, your grades matter (even though they will never matter again, they really matter for the first job) the cut off for most Major Oil & Gas companies is a 3.8 out of 4.0, second tier companies usually will look at applicants with a 3.6 (smaller companies rarely hire new grads), below that you are pretty much limited to service companies. Service companies work you to death, but at the end of 2-3 years, all of the producers are interested in you. That is really the most common path to a production company these days (when I started in 1980, the path was reversed, the service companies and smaller producers poached from the Majors--there were something like 150 engineers that started with Amoco the day I did, 10 years later there were 3 of us still with Amoco, most of the rest were doing quite well at smaller producers).

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

Interesting discussion here, and I know that zdas and myself have fundamentally the same opinions on life in general, and northern experience, altho in vastly different fields. However I have to ask the OP has he really researched opportunities in Alaska or is just assuming that a good man can work up there. I have zero knowledge of Alaska but I do know the Canadian equivalent, the Beaufort sea, died a natural death in the early 1980s. A few men made a pile of money initially but then it seems Canadian society refused to accept the potential ( perceived??) environmental consequences of development and I don't think a single barrel or bcm of gas has produced in the last 30 years. I wonder if there isn't more opportunity in the Dakotas or somewhere else in the south. Most of recent Canadian O+G is south of 60.....just like the Dakotas, there's been so much stuff found down south that nobody wants the risk of going north. If the OP wants to live in Alsaka for personal reasons, that's one thing. If he wants to earn $$ to put his kids thru school that might be a different discussion.

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

(OP)
Miningman I totally agree with your points. Just for the record I have previously lived in Fairbanks for a little over 12 years. I still have a lot of friends living there, not all of them work in oil and gas though. I have researched as much as I can about oil jobs in AK. Its hard to find solid data on jobs and potential future productions though. I know the Arctic in general has become a hot topic in politics because of the ice caps opening up new potential oil fields. The people I do know working up there feel good about their futures, at least the last time I spoke with them. The biggest problem I see is like you said, the bunny huggers do not want any more drilling. ANWR has a lot of potential but they think it will hurt the wild life. I have been to Deadhorse/Prudhoe and watched caribou walk right up to oil rigs and the pipeline. They didn't look very concerned about the oil being pumped out! Recently though Obama cleared Shell to go drill up in the Arctic, so who knows. From my limited knowledge it looks like a lot of the new stuff down south is being done by fracking which seems to be slowing way down because of cost. They have also just started serious plans for the Trans Canadian natural gas line in Alaska. So there will be work there as far as I can tell. Again I am limited by the internet, I'm still on active duty living in the UK. So asking around about jobs is also limited to the internet. Since I have been seeing the downward spiral on the price of oil beginning I am asking the questions on here to get a feel for the industry itself and my age. As for jobs right now, I have looked at the big companies operating in AK. I get emails from the SPE chapter at the school I am attending and I see that there are recruiters in the state that visit a few times during the school year. Most of these recruiters are looking for Pet Engineers for work up north. But I have not had a chance to go speak with these recruiters either. Bottom line is I will go where the job is if I have to. But after 20 years of moving and all the trips in between it would be nice if the moves were further apart! But I am not opposed to it, I just like Alaska more than most places in the world. That being said I could easily live in Scotland, I know Aberdeen is big in oil and they make some good whiskey! Thanks!

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

Well, I wouldn't want to be seen as overly negative but I'm glad I'm not in your shoes. I have put 40 years into the mining business, might milk it for another 5 years, but I could retire tomorrow quite comfortably. You are 42 years old, still with family responsibilities. I am assuming you are an American citizen, apparently based in the UK ( an area I have extensive knowledge of). If you've put 20 years into the military, have lived in Alaska for 12 years, and are perhaps more familiar with the British way of life than American, I feel compelled to remind you that, anyone in the military is to some extent insulated from the realities of civilian life. THat is why so many have trouble making the transition. Depending on how long you've been in the UK , you're even further removed from first hand knowledge of the realities if life, in the real world, back home. And as an Alberta resident, I know how much the oil patch is presently suffering.

I suppose putting a more optimistic view on things is, since Alaska obviously holds roots for you , do your university education up there but be mentally prepared to move back to the lower 48 upon graduation if necessary. ANd I too have been nose to nose with caribou so can speak with some authority on the Canadian north. In general terms, society is putting increasing restrictions upon all activity in the Arctic, and until we start suffering blackouts or gas shortages in San Fran, or Toronto, or New York, I cant see it changing for the better. You probably already know this, but you need to do a pile more research and if you're restricted to the Internet, I don't know how you do this effectively.

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

Prudoe Bay and the rest of the North Slope (all of which has been stimulated by hydraulic fracturing by the way) is declining. The infrastructure is in place to produce reduced volumes, but the equipment and piping are starting to see systemic problems. It is hard to see if they'll be fixed or the fields will be abandoned.

I'm expecting to see some means to export gas from Alaska within the next 5-10 years. It may be to bring gas to a new LNG plant in Valdez or it may be a pipeline to tie into the lower 48 transportation grid. The economics are not there yet, but Alaska is so damn big with so much natural resources that if gas gets back to $6/MSCF (my guess is 2017, but what do I know) folks will start going after the abundant coalbed methane and shale gas/oil. Getting the gas to market is the HUGE stumbling block. At today's prices you can't spend the money.

In short, someone graduating with an engineering degree in 2018-2020 from Fairbanks would likely be in a pretty reasonable job market. Joining SPE was a really good first step (I've been a member for most of my career). When you get on campus become active in the Student Chapter. It is a good organization with some great new-entry resources.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

OK both barrels. Alaska Gas Stand Alone Pipeline (latest incarnation) has been a dream for 20+ years in one form or another and it will continue to be one, more so now. It will not happen in the next 10 years, maybe 20. Gas fracking in the continental US has displaced that "stranded" gas for a long time to come. TransCanada is going east (to export terminals), because they desperately need to open alternative foreign markets. There's some potential there to sell it in the EU, but all the American gas companies want to do the same thing. There's about 20 LNG export terminals in various stages of planning now.

Fracking next to markets is making all this semi-stranded oil & gas (North Slope now included) hard to sell. Saudi pumping all out and potentially Iran coming online very soon, don't make a long term picture look very pretty. There's a lot of $50 oil out there and the price is $40. Do the math. Will anybody be drilling anytime soon when looking at that. Shell thinks there's a chance for $90 to be seen again but not until around 5 years from now. Alaska Gas wasn't economic at $100.

There is a very large number of unemployed North Sea folks here and now. The only bright picture I see anywhere right now in O&G is my not so early retirement. Fracking isn't helping the upstream side of the argument very much either. Good for cars, refineries and oil power burners, but not good for oil & gas upstream. Pipelines will be busy, but not those long imaginary ones from ... Alaska. And the TAPL oil PL has considerable excess capacity right now.

Most guys that get out of the military that get into engineering do so when they're 25. It won't be easy standing in line behind them.

That's reality as I see it. Anyway it's just my opinion there. What I really mean to say is do a lot of serious thinking first.

Economics of fracking itself? See this one,
http://law.case.edu/journals/lawreview/documents/6...

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

Well I suppose Biginch just managed to confirm my thoughts in general but in a better manner than myself. Perhaps another relevant observation is Mr Obama's continuing refusal to authorize the Keystone pipeline. Ignoring ones personal opinions as the to number of jobs that aren't being generated and ignoring the pressure being applied by the tree huggers , and ignoring the pros and cons against exporting energy rather than keeping it in the ground for future generations, you would have to think that the consensus at the highest political level, is that the USA has enough energy in the lower 48, plus assumed imports from less politically stable areas than Canada. Yes the cure for low prices is low prices, but this political refusal has been going on for years at over $100 oil. JUst a thought that should be considered by anyone contemplating entry into the O+G industry.,

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

(OP)
I am really enjoying the direction of this conversation. Its good to hear from people actually in the industry and get all points of view. So I appreciate everyone's input. The one thing about me that most military guys don't have though is I spent roughly 10 years working before coming in. Hence I will be 43 at retirement and not the normal 38 at 20 years. I started working at 15 and became an auto mechanic. Another cyclical job market, spring and summer are great, fall and winter your starving! Also I see this a lot with people who have never served is that we are all put in a box. I am a US citizen and have spent the majority of my career in the states, about 15 years to include AK. Out of my 42 years of life about 5 1/2 will have been spent outside the US. I don't know what we are sheltered from because we have been doing our own layoffs and force reductions. Luckily I wasn't one of the people let go. But a lot of guys were let go and I assume just like big business layoffs they were scrambling to find jobs on the outside. I pay the same bills as everyone else, but I am subject to additional rules and laws. I also have to pick up and go to the hell holes of the world in a moments notice. And the guys getting out at 25 do not really scare me. I know I will have to overcome them, but I also bring a lot to the table that they don't have. Please don't take this as me being argumentative, that's not what I am trying to do. I just want to be clear on my objectives and that I have thought about these things. I have been thinking about moving into this trade since 2011. I was at an assignment with the opportunity to talk with all types of engineers and scientists: electrical, mechanical, aerospace, nuclear, physicist, and mathematicians. The two fields most suggested by them that I look at were electrical and petroleum. That's when I started to look harder at both fields, and both are good fits for me in my opinion. Yes I would like to live in AK for awhile, but I like the idea of having the ability to move to other countries. I would like to let my kids finish school in AK, and then move if necessary. But I am not against moving before then either if its what I have to do. The US military are nomads, we move every 3-4 years to new places. From what I have gathered most Canadian and British military members spend the majority of their time at one single base. So moving around is not foreign to me, but staying in one place for an extended time would be great for awhile. My 12 years in AK were not all continuous, but we like it there a lot. BigInch thanks for the paper, I will read it tonight! As for the AK LNG project I agree I have been hearing about it since 1997. It was one of two myths in Fairbanks, the other was when Walmart would show up. Well Walmart is there, so one down! LOL But I think with the draw down of oil the state is getting an itchy trigger finger. So I wonder are they drawing down because there is no more oil to be extracted and remain profitable or is it these wells are completed? I think the state is the cause of some of the reduced production up there. That and the fact that the pipeline is old and will require major repairs in the future have deterred production from what I can tell. But when the state taxes you based on how much you produce they force companies to reduce production to a profitable amount. I guess after XX billion barrels your tax rate increases, that's not smart if you ask me! Now the state is in big trouble financially because they are not getting the oil taxes they are used to. They are laying off state employees left and right and the state Universities are having to close programs and reduce professors. All because they want more money. The Permanent fund is billions of dollars, but they need more I guess! What's better for the state? Increase oil production on a flat tax and put people to work or be greedy and collect more money to sit in a bank account? I think they will smarten up over the next few years and do what is right for the state. At least I hope they will! Anyway I really appreciate you guys taking the time to chat with me about all of this. I like the fact that there are different views and it will help me think about those unknowns going into this. But in the end I am not afraid to face the challenge and I know I have skills that can lead to jobs if I cannot get into this new field. But nothing ventured nothing gained! Thanks again gents! And please if you have anything else to add do so!

RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

Yup; good discussion here.

One point I haven't heard much on is this: an Engineering discipline is no walk in the park. Obviously you have discipline from the military and age, and anyone is capable of learning if their desire is strong, but a four year curriculum can really knock your wrench in the dirt if you're not ready for it. The hole digging, geology and reservoir classes will be very interesting and even enjoyable, but you also have to go through the foundations of basic engineering: calculus, differential equations, thermo, heat transfer, etc. which can be fairly dry especially if taught by grad student with an incomprehensible accent. No disrespect to your ability, but there have been many spend a couple years before realizing they just don't like those subjects and then change or quit. Just sayin....



RE: Too old to start as Pete Eng?

(OP)
DubMac great point, I am just starting Calc I and so far so good. I basically started over from Algebra I and worked my way back up since I know Engineering is math heavy. I have been in and out of school for years. Depending on if I am home or not, so I'm used to being in class. That being said I only really need about 2 1/2 to 3 years of school to graduate. Basically the math, physics, and engineering specific courses. All the core and elective stuff is done. I have an electronics background so the physics and application stuff has not been a problem for me to this point, I really enjoy that stuff. I have also worked in some engineering jobs as a technician, big change for me and I had to slow down. But I really enjoyed doing it, not like wrenching on jets! I have taken a lot of dry boring classes unfortunately but I made it through them. I'm the type person that once I set a goal I work to achieve it no matter what, the military made me anal like that. So it would have to be a lot to make me stop. Now if someone offered me my dream job I would walk away from this, but what are the chances of that! LOL We will see about the foreigners though! Haven't had to deal with that yet! That could suck because its sometimes hard for me to even hear what people are saying! I think if I get into Pet and find I don't like it as much as I thought my plan is to move to Electrical and a lot of what I am doing will transfer. I'm also the type that needs plan B and C! Thanks for the input!

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