Graduates prepared to fill workforce needs in oil patch

May 28, 2014

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Tioga Oil Fields: Kathleen Neset, owner of Neset Consulting Service, talks with UND Petroleum Engineering Department chair, Steve Benson, second from right and UND students Russell Carr, a master’s degree student in geological engineering, far left; and Joel Brown, a senior in petroleum engineering, second from left.

The oil industry has certainly made its mark on North Dakota – small towns have grown exponentially, out-of-state workers are moving to North Dakota, and businesses and infrastructure are scrambling to keep up. To help local communities and the state take on these new challenges and continue the economic growth, North Dakota needs educated people to meet the workforce demands in the oil industry and support services in the region. North Dakota’s colleges and universities across the state have stepped up to the plate with new program opportunities geared toward workforce needs in the Oil Patch.

Engineering, geology and energy management programs are becoming increasingly popular. The North Dakota State University (NDSU) Dept. of Geosciences offers 30 degree programs and most undergraduates take positions in the Oil Patch after graduation. Each year, NDSU has approximately 50 geology and 215 engineering graduates (including construction management, mechanical engineering, industrial/manufacturing engineering, agricultural and biosystems engineering, and civil engineering). For more information on the geology programs available at NDSU, visit

The University of North Dakota also offers engineering and geology programs the oil industry needs through the UND College of Engineering and Mines and the Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering. Companies in the oil industry hire UND graduates across all six engineering disciplines – chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, petroleum, and geology and geological engineering. UND also offers master’s and doctorate degrees in engineering, including Ph.D. programs in petroleum, energy and environmental engineering. The petroleum engineering program first launched in 2010 with the first four students graduating in spring 2013, all of whom are employed in the Bakken. Over the last three years, the program has grown to 209 students enrolled with a significant number of students nearly ready to fill the pipeline of need in the industry by spring 2016. For more information on the petroleum engineering program, visit

For those more interested in the business side of the industry, Minot State University offers an energy economics and finance major designed to provide a foundation in geology sciences and economics and finance courses focused on energy topics. A graduate of this program is then able to fill business analysis positions in the energy industry, from business and financial analyst to energy loan specialist for a financial institution to energy economist. Since its start in 2009, enrollment in the energy economics and finance major has grown from five to nearly 40 and 21 students have graduated and gained employment in the industry so far. To learn more about the energy economics and finance major, visit

Graduating from all types of business programs, including accounting, information systems, management, finance, human resource management, and more can be valuable in pursuing a career in the Oil Patch. Ninety-five percent of all Dickinson State University graduates employed in North Dakota are working in oil-impacted cities. Twenty-three percent of those are employed in areas directly related to energy development, while 77 percent are employed in support services to the oil-impacted region.

Williston State College offers degrees and certificate programs in welding technology.

Williston State College offers degrees and certificate programs in welding technology.

For students looking for a fast track into the oil industry, NDUS community colleges are the perfect fit. Williston State College offers associate degrees and certificate programs in petroleum production technology, welding technology and diesel technology with eight students graduating from these programs in 2014.  Bismarck State College also offers associate degrees and certificate programs in similar disciplines: petroleum production, petroleum engineering, process plant, mechanical maintenance, lineworker, welding, and instrumentation and control, as well as an online bachelor of applied science in energy management. These programs produced 202 graduates in 2014, including an impressive 46 graduates of the online energy management bachelor’s program. North Dakota State College of Science also offers programs that are a good fit for the oil industry including industrial electrical, diesel technology and welding technology. Visit the WSC, BSC or NDSCS websites for more information on these valuable programs.

The programs offered by NDUS institutions are constantly evolving and growing to meet industry needs. Through valuable partnerships with industry leaders and the work of dedicated faculty and staff, NDUS students are now being better prepared to fill workforce needs than ever before.