I'm in my late thirties and decided to get back to studying. I want to learn petroleum geology but it's been 10 years since I last opened any book, so I basically forgot tons of stuff that I learnt.

I want to know what I need to relearn before enrolling in petroleum geology. What are the (math, physics, chemistry, etc) prerequisites that I need to relearn and what math, physics, and chemistry topics should I expect in this field?

  • $\begingroup$ You would be better of contacting the Faculties at the universities you are thinking of applying to & ask them. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jan 17, 2022 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ SPE ( society of petroleum engineers) , a division of AIME, would be the place to look for information. I was not in geology , but skimmed some publications. Twenty five years ago the primary developments were in computer analysis of seismic data and remote sensing of the surface by satellite. So basic geology and computers. Likely you need to eventually pick a specialty such as ancient diatoms and other shells to evaluate drilling progress from the mud returns. $\endgroup$ Jan 17, 2022 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ Would academia.stackexchange.com be a better home for this question? $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2022 at 11:07
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    $\begingroup$ I would sugest to study first Geology. You don't need complex mathematics but you need to know Stratigraphy first. Also some basic knowledges of Paleontology are required to enrole in post-degree petroleum courses. $\endgroup$
    – user20559
    Jan 18, 2022 at 12:55

1 Answer 1


I think the shortest fair answer is there are no special prerequisites beyond a general, high-school-level education in maths and science.

It's a difficult question to answer directly, because petroleum geoscience is a very broad field including:

  • Geology: the study of sedimentary basins, especially sources rocks, reservoirs rocks, and structural geology (folds, fractures, faults). Mostly involves making systematic observations, mapping, and data interpretation.
  • Geophysics: remote sensing of geology using various physical measurements, such as gravity, electromagnetics, and seismic waves. Involves lots of computers and digital analysis, and quite a bit of maths and applied (especially signal processing and linear algebra).
  • Various other rather niche areas (at least in terms of the number of specialists around) such as geochemistry, palaeontology, mineralogy, field geology, and so on.

It's so broad that I daresay you can find an area that would appeal to almost anyone with an interest in science. If you're more quantitative (interested in maths and computing), then you'll find lots of friends in geophysics, but there are plenty of highly quantitative geologists and geochemists (and arguably those fields are more in need of nerds than geophysics is).

I think it's fair to say that most petroleum geoscientists started with a general degree in geology, geophysics, or some related discipline, perhaps followed it up with a post-graduate degree, then got a job in petroleum. They didn't train in petroleum geology per se.

This may or may not be relevant to your situation, but you should know that petroleum geoscience is in decline as a discipline. Maybe that means there will be opportunities in the future, but right now and for the foreseeable future it means that there's a lot of under-employed earth scientists. If finding a job is your main motivation, my unsolicited personal advice would be to downplay the 'petroleum' aspect, stick to pure sciences and skills, and maybe look at other areas of applied geoscience, such as mining, geothermal (very small), or geospatial (GIS, basically).

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    $\begingroup$ I support this. Start with a general degree in geology, and see where it takes you. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Jan 18, 2022 at 4:01
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    $\begingroup$ Sounds right to me. I know the University of Oklahoma (where I got my meteorology degree), they did offer a geology degree specializing in petroleum in our department, so that may be a further place to look if passionate to feel like you're focusing right into the discipline, but through the years in science, it really does seem that in such subfields/crossovers, it often is more about what skills you bring than having such a super-specialized degree. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2022 at 6:37

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