Subsea Engineer

Schools in the USA
Back to Career Search     

Subsea Engineer


It would be hard to imagine a world without oil and gas. How would we drive our cars or heat our homes? Petroleum products have such an overwhelming impact on all of our lives, and subsea engineers provide us with one of these sources of power. Subsea engineers are involved in the exploration and development of oil and gas under water. They design and build mechanical systems used under the ocean such as underwater pipelines, transportation equipment, subsea well heads and offshore drilling rigs. Using their knowledge of math, geology, science and engineering, they strive to ensure the best drilling techniques are used to get the maximum amount of petroleum from an underwater deposit.

Research and design are the first steps involved in the subsea petroleum process. Subsea engineers must have good working knowledge of all types of underwater equipment and vehicles and may be involved in underwater data collection, which involves using imaging technology or remotely operated vehicles to gather information. They may also work with oceanographers or other scientists to determine locations for drilling.

The subsea engineer works with a team of other engineers and professionals to create designs. However, they put the finishing touches on a set of blueprints. Factors to consider when designing are contours of the ocean floor, depth, pressure and temperature. All of these natural issues will affect the final design. Sometimes these projects take years to plan and build and problems will certainly arise in the process. Subsea engineers are faced with practical problem solving daily. Once the drilling begins, they must continually adjust procedures to maximize quality, quantity and speed. If a well explodes, shuts down or a problem slows production, they must find a solution. Since delays and catastrophes can cost a company thousands of dollars an hour, rapid problem solving is crucial. They must think and act fast. Subsea engineers may also prepare budgets, economic forecasts or feasibility studies.

Subsea engineers use traditional and high-tech tools, such as computer-aided design (CAD) systems to create realistic geometric models of drills and rigs, which can simulate and analyze the effects and potential problems of designs such as machine malfunction and slowdown. They research and evaluate each project to find the most cost-effective solutions to problems while still maintaining recognized standards. They are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
View Schools for this Career: 
         Related Careers
arrow Aerospace Engineer
arrow Agricultural Engineer
arrow Aircraft Design Engineer
arrow [ view all related careers ]

Program Spotlight
Matching School Ad


  Interests and Skills  
Subsea engineers should have strong math, physics and chemistry skills and be interested in the wonders of the ocean. They must be able to solve complex and stressful problems, think quickly and make decisions just as fast. They should have the ability to work independently on the computer, doing design work as well as working in teams on site at oil drilling sites on offshore rigs. Subsea engineers require excellent communication skills as they deal with a variety of people on a daily basis. Also, they must enjoy traveling and working away from home for extended periods of time.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Direct and monitor oil and gas drilling operations on ocean vessels and rigs
  • Assess costs and evaluate the economic viability of potential subsea drilling sites
  • Develop drilling programs, select sites and specify drilling fluids, bit selection, drill stem testing procedures and equipment
  • Analyze drilling data to determine if wells contain significant quantities of hydrocarbons that can be recovered
  • Find ways to improve production and optimize drilling methods
  • Monitor oil and gas reservoir performance and conduct technical and economic analyses to recommend improved production methods
  • Design, develop and coordinate the installation, maintenance and operation of subsea wellhead and production equipment
  • Estimate the immediate and long-term production capabilities of oil and gas wells
  • Subsea engineers tend to work long hours, especially when working in the field. They often work on site for a few weeks and then take a significant number of days off. Those working in oil fields or on offshore drilling rigs often work 12-hour shifts. There can be quite a bit of travel involved, often in foreign countries and to remote field stations. Subsea engineers must apply their engineering knowledge in places where the culture or climate is very different.. Travel bonuses are generally offered in these circumstances. Once they become established and experienced, many subsea engineers move towards more office work and regular hours.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • The majority of subsea engineers work on-site in oceans where oil and gas are found. Therefore, they usually live in coastal communities and cities. Employment opportunities are available with major oil companies, smaller, independent oil exploration, production and service companies, well logging or testing companies and engineering consulting firms. Others work for government agencies and research or educational institutions. Some subsea engineers have their own consulting businesses or work in banks and other financial institutions which lend money to companies for the purchase of oil and gas properties.

  Long Term Career Potential  
As subsea engineers gain experience, they can work more regular hours in an office or as the head of a team. The entry-level work is more on site and involves traveling, but once engineers gain that hands-on experience, the work becomes more research based and design oriented. Some may decide to branch off and open their own engineering consulting firm or work in a freelance capacity.

Another direction some will take involves more of a managerial role or a corporate advancement in a large petroleum company. Oil is one of the richest commodities in the world; therefore it is no wonder that subsea engineers are typically higher paid than other engineers.

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics and science. Most university programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Subsea engineers require a bachelor's degree in subsea petroleum or chemical engineering. Then, they must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get a master's degree in a specific area, such as drilling engineering.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

Featured Schools

Matching School Ads
Matching School Ads
  Universities and Colleges
Clarkson UniversityColorado School of MinesDalhousie University
Oral Roberts UniversityPenn State HarrisburgTemple University
The University of HoustonThompson Rivers UniversityUNB Saint John
University of AlabamaUniversity of ArkansasUniversity of British Columbia
University of IowaUniversity of New BrunswickUniversity of Ottawa
York University
Agriculture and Bio-resources | Allied Health and Health Sciences | Applied Business Technology | Architecture
Business Administration | Computer Science | Cosmetology and Esthetics | Culinary, Travel &Hospitality | Dance 
Engineering Technology & Applied Technology |Engineering | Film | Fine Arts and Design | Humanities and Liberal ArtsJustice and Security
| Natural and Applied Sciences | Naturopathic and Holistic MedicineNursingPublic Administration & PolicyReligious and Theological Studies
Sport Sciences and Physical Education | Teacher Education | Theatre
Articles | College News | Videos | Feedback | Career Search
Home | About Us | Contact Us | Faq | Terms of Use | Privacy Notice | Site Map | Cities Site Map | California - Do Not Sell My Info

Copyright 2003- 2020 QuinStreet, Inc. All Rights Reserved.