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UW sees increase in petroleum engineering majors

Associated Press Modified: November 14, 2012 at 5:31 am •  Published: November 14, 2012

All the while, many of the petroleum engineers who went into the field during the oil boom of the 1970s and early 1980s are approaching retirement age.

"In the industry, they refer to it as the 'Big Crew Change.' It's all the baby boomers who are approaching the end of their careers," Northam said.

There are fewer than 20 accredited petroleum engineering programs nationwide, Bagley said, yet over half of UW's petroleum engineering majors are from Wyoming.

The university eliminated its petroleum engineering major in 1996, when the industry was soft. The school had 26 petroleum engineering majors at the time.

In 2006, after the program's revival, 47 students signed up. The number has increased almost ever since: 63 in 2007, 93 in 2008, 81 in 2009, and 107 in 2010.

Graduates often head to Houston, where many petroleum companies are based. From there, they might go to North Dakota or possibly overseas.

The opportunity to live abroad is appealing to many students, Bagley said.

"They realize they're going to go where there are resources to be recovered, and that could be anywhere," he said.

"The Wyoming students often like to get back to Wyoming. Sometimes it takes them awhile to work their way back around, as they work their way up through the company. And some may start here in Wyoming."