The growing oil and natural gas industry has spawned a unique challenge, and the state’s universities have created programs to address the need.
For about 15 years, people fled the oil patch and few students pursued oil-and-gas-related degrees.
Today, however, the industry is booming and the 15-year gap is becoming more of an issue. Many of the older, experienced leaders are nearing retirement, and the next generation of leaders, in many cases, have little more than a decade of experience.
Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business about two years ago began its Master of Business Administration in Energy program. The offering was created at the request and with the help of executives from Devon Energy Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp. The executives said they had quality employees who knew their areas of study, but were not prepared to lead larger parts of the companies.
“They are petroleum engineers or geologists or geophysicists, but they don’t know about business,” Meinders School Dean Steve Agee said. “They don’t know how to read financial statements, and they don’t know about balance sheets or energy economics.”
In response, Agee and his team created two programs tailored to work in energy industry: a Master of Science in Energy Management and a Master of Science in Energy Legal Studies.
The programs mostly are taught in person, although online and distance learning are available. The program costs about $28,000. The first two cohorts have graduated from the two-year program, and the school is recruiting for its sixth group of students, which will begin in August.
At least two other universities in the state have developed programs to meet the same industry need.
The University of Tulsa’s Collins College of Business is in its third year of offering a Master of Energy Business. To participate, students must be working in the energy industry and have at least two years of experience in the field. Tulsa’s two-year program is taught entirely online at a total cost of about $38,000.
“We have students all over the world, in the Middle East, Alaska, Canada and all over Texas and Oklahoma,” program director Tim Coburn said. “These are up-and-coming, rising stars who are aspiring to be managers and leaders. They’re already working and have busy schedules. They can enjoy the benefit of going to school, even if they’re on a rig or flying to Saudi Arabia.”
In January, the University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business began its first Master of Business Administration in Energy program. OU’s program focuses on top-level executives or those on track to reach such positions. The program requires participants to have eight years of experience in the industry.
OU’s program targets top executives and is a hybrid program in that most classes are taught online, except for three weeks of in-person work, including one week in London. The total cost is $77,400.
The three programs each are designed to help the oil and natural gas industry meet a specific need and prepare younger leaders to take over the companies and industry. But the three programs also are unique, addressing the needs of different students and different situations.
The differences allow a greater number of Oklahomans and industry leaders throughout the country to pursue higher education and gain the skills they need to lead their companies.