The range of skills needed by petroleum geoscientists has increased in both range and content over recent decades. Using survey data collected from 62 American and Canadian oil companies, the author assessed and ranked more than 150 geoscientific, computer, and soft skills, as well as other capabilities, to identify what companies now require.
According to respondents, the key components of a petroleum geoscientist's “skill profile” are knowledge of geology and geophysics (58%), computer science (18%), and certain nontechnical and soft skills that are essential in today's business environment (24%). Essential geoscientific skills are sedimentology, stratigraphy, petroleum geology, introductory geophysics, geophysical mapping, and interpretation and subsurface mapping techniques. Besides knowledge of basic computer operation skills, competency in presentation graphics and exposure to geoscience-specific computer operations are important. Key nontechnical and soft skills are critical thinking, willingness to learn, ethics, dependability, commitment, and initiative.
Key math and business skills needed in the petroleum workplace are identified and assessed. Finally, to aid geoscience students, some current recruiting trends and the importance of work experience are reviewed. Large companies, the principal recruiters of inexperienced graduates, commonly expect recruits to be highly competent in these areas.
Geoscience departments must ensure their curricula remain relevant if North America's oil industry is to remain competitive. Petroleum geoscience students must have knowledge of both geology and geophysics. More interdisciplinary courses need to be introduced, together with programs addressing business issues and soft skills, particularly ethics and teamwork. Internship or cooperative programs will help students gain some industry-related work experience prior to graduation.