The nation's energy sector has endured several major setbacks in recent years, giving it what the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) calls an “image problem.” The Deepwater Horizon and Fukushima Daiichi disasters, controversy over the use of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) to extract natural gas, and a general perception of energy careers as unstable and low-skilled has hurt the industry’s reputation – particularly among younger candidates, according to the DOL.
Fortunately for energy-sector job seekers, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there are plenty of skilled and high-tech careers in the energy industry, and projected growth for many energy sector jobs is better than the national average. And while the typical image of an energy job involves a drilling site in a far-flung corner of the globe, most careers require more time in the lab than in the field. This is the case for Petroleum Engineer, which ranks as the best energy sector job of 2012, according to the CareerCast Jobs Rated report.
Involving the development of methods to extract oil and gas from new deposits and older wells, Petroleum Engineer rates as the best energy sector job of 2012 (and the 16th best job across all industries) thanks to very low stress, reasonable physical demands and a median salary above $100,000 per year. The work environment for petroleum engineers is also very good, but the job does require travel to drilling sites – although only to serve in a supervisory role.
The second-best energy sector job of 2012 – Geologist – is also involved in the process of extracting oil and gas. In the energy industry, petroleum geologists find and estimate the size of new deposits, helping energy companies identify where to begin new exploration projects. Geologist ranks as the 2nd best energy sector job (and 22nd best across all industries) thanks to low stress and a very strong hiring outlook. That said, at $82,500, the median salary is lower than that of Petroleum Engineers, and the job can require work in the field – leading to a tougher work environment and more physical demands.
Each year Jobs Rated researchers rank 200 jobs – from Accountant to Zoologist – scoring them according to five key criteria: Physical Demands, Work Environment, Income, Outlook and Stress. Some factors remain relatively constant from year to year, but others fluctuate greatly due to changes in the job market, technological innovations or current events. Using data from government sources, trade groups and private organizations, every job receives a score and rank in each category, and these ratings are then combined to form a complete ranking of 200 jobs for 2012, from best to worst.
If you're interested in a career in the growing energy sector, review the CareerCast.com rankings of the nation's 7 best energy jobs of 2012:
1. Petroleum Engineer
Plans drilling locations and effective production methods for optimal access to oil and natural gas.