How to Become a Pipeline Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a pipeline engineer. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in pipeline engineering.

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Do I Want to Be a Pipeline Engineer?

Also sometimes known as a petroleum engineer, this professional is part of a team that constructs, replaces and repairs oil and natural gas pipelines, pumps and stations. This career might be suitable for individuals who enjoy using their creativity to build things and are good at math and science. These engineers work outdoors in all kinds of weather and often spend extended periods of time away from home.

Job Requirements

Pipeline engineers typically earn bachelor's degrees in an engineering specialty such as chemical, mechanical or petroleum, and they may hold engineering licensure. The following table contains the main requirements for being a pipeline engineer:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree*
Degree Field Engineering*
Licensure Licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE) may be required**
Experience At least 1 year and up to 5 years of experience required for most positions*
Key Skills Math and problem-solving skills, creativity, communication skills**
Computer Skills Geographic information system (GIS) software, hydraulic modeling software, computer-aided design (CAD) software, project management programs***

Sources: *CareerBuilder.com job listing (January 2013), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***O*Net OnLine.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering

All pipeline engineers must possess a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline. A major in mechanical or civil engineering is often preferred, but chemical, electrical, petroleum or other types of engineering may also meet employer requirements. Engineers who intend to pursue licensure must attend engineering programs that are accredited by ABET (previously known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Bachelor's degree programs in engineering typically last four years.

Step 2: Begin the Licensure Process

Many engineers are licensed PEs. Starting the engineering licensure process requires passage of the preliminary Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which can be taken after finishing an educational program at a board-approved school. After passing the FE exam, the graduate earns the title of engineer intern (EI) or engineer-in-training (EIT).

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

After passing the FE exam, EIs or EITs go on to gain four years of entry-level work experience. This entails working under the direction of a licensed, experienced engineer. Engineering degree programs and professional organizations often assist graduates in securing these positions.

Step 4: Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam

After attaining four years of experience, EIs and EITs can apply to their state licensing board to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam, which is administered by state licensing boards. Although each state has its own specific requirements, the PE exam is usually the last step to licensure. States may also accept engineering licenses from other states, assuming the requirements are at least as stringent as their own.

Step 5: Get Certified

Certain certifications may make a pipeline engineer more marketable to prospective employers. The Transportation Security Administration, for example, offers the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). Workers who require access to secured areas in the maritime transportation system must obtain the TWIC to ensure that they are not threats to national security. Pipeline engineers might also pursue certification through an engineering association, like the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Step 6: Maintain Credentials

According to the BLS, some states require PEs to complete a certain number of continuing education (CE) credits regularly to maintain licensure. If one has decided to pursue licensing, he or she must be aware of the CE requirements in the state where he or she will be working. Continuing education may also be required to renew certification.

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