Bottom Line — Find an online forum for your industry and decide whether the degree is worth your time. You won’t get the whole picture about your industry on a college campus.
I jumped into the Oil and Gas industry without talking to anyone outside of my University. I was lucky with the timing because the market was hot and my Petroleum Engineering degree was worth the cost.
I talked about facing several economic downturns during my tenure as a Petroleum Engineer.
I was lucky to keep my job when others were getting laid off.
During that time, I kept track of the industry by talking to friends that were still in it and by reading the r/oilandgasworkers on Reddit.
I saw that other young Petroleum Engineers weren’t so lucky. Many were finishing their degrees during the downturn. COVID hadn’t hit yet. They graduated with debt and couldn’t find work for several years due to a hiring freeze from an industry downturn.
The longer you’re without a job, the rustier your skills. It becomes harder to come back to the profession.
I remember having a tough time picking my college major. If I had to do it again, here’s what I’d tell myself.
Do industry research outside of college
College departments are insulated from the industry. They tend to be echo chambers.
While it’s good to check out each department you’re interested in and talk to professors about a major, don’t expect to get the full picture.
Can you imagine someone from a department telling you — hey, don’t pursue this degree right now because you’ll be in debt and the job market is bad.
It won’t happen.
You have to look outside for answers to these questions. Find an online community for the industry you’re interested in — a place where people can talk freely.
For Oil and Gas, one community is r/oilandgasworkers.
You’ll also see experienced folks tell you to get a mechanical engineering or an electrical engineering degree instead. You can pivot into the petroleum industry with those degrees and still have transferable skills when you need to get out.
It’s much harder to pivot the other way to mechanical or electrical industries with a petroleum engineering degree.
Some engineers will tell you to pivot into tech (software development) instead. That’s what I did.
You won’t get the raw info like this on campus or at sponsored networking events.
If I had to go back to school again and pick a major, I would do my research this way before committing four years to a degree.