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The courses needed to obtain any engineering degree are often considered difficult, but many consider petroleum engineering courses to be especially challenging. Students devote much of their first two years to completing the basic classes required for many four-year degrees, such as English, history and communication, and the first college level math and science courses are usually taken, along with introductory engineering or basic computer classes. At some point, aspiring engineers will need to complete advanced math and science courses, most of which cannot be taken until the prerequisite courses are taken. Juniors and seniors petroleum engineering courses such as drilling, well production and fluid dynamics.
Each university has different degree plan requirements, and not every school offers all petroleum engineering courses. A typical degree plan, however, will include two semesters of English composition, one course in U.S. history and at least one computer engineering course. At least one political science course, such as U.S. government or civics, is often mandatory. Students who did not take a foreign language in high school may need to complete two semesters at the college level. The fundamentals normally account for about 40 credit hours.
Engineering students typically begin their math courses with calculus and analytic geometry; most engineers complete four semesters of calculus. The fifth semester is normally differential equations. If a student did not take math courses such as introduction to calculus and trigonometry in high school, he or she may need to take one or more lower level math courses before starting calculus and analytic geometry.
Most petroleum engineering degrees require two semesters of general chemistry and two semesters of general physics. Two semesters of geology, with at least one semester focused on petroleum geology, are also normally required. Students typically need to complete a course in geophysics as well. Engineering courses, such as materials, fluid dynamics and thermodynamics are also required.
Second year students usually take two or three introductory petroleum engineering courses such as introduction to petroleum engineering systems or rock properties. During the junior year, roughly half of a full-time student's schedule normally consists of more advanced petroleum engineering courses such as subsurface production, reservoir engineering or fluids, drilling and well log evaluation. Virtually all of the senior year is typically devoted to petroleum engineering courses such as drilling and production, project evaluation, fluid mechanics and recovery techniques. Students may also need to complete courses in engineering ethics, geostatistics, hydraulics or horizontal drilling techniques.