WASHINGTON — Over the past 10 years, several occupations have more than doubled the number of workers employed, according to figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Service unit operator jobs in the energy industry quadrupled in that time. The nation’s aging population and changing energy needs played major roles in driving disproportionate job growth for many of the occupations listed.
According to employment figures, the top two fastest growing jobs are petroleum engineers and service unit operators in oil, gas and mining. Petroleum engineers are some of the highest paid workers in the nation with a median wage that exceeded $130,000 in 2012. Work typically involves assessing and planning drilling operations as well as determining the equipment and methods necessary to extract oil and natural gas in the most efficient way possible.
Oil prices play a major role in determining job outlook for petroleum engineers, partially because higher prices improve incentives to explore and produce oil from newer, more challenging sources. In the past decade, oil prices have risen dramatically, possibly accounting for much of the profession’s estimated 227-percent job growth.
No other occupation has grown faster than service unit operators working in natural resources extraction, where the number of workers jumped from just over 12,000 in 2002 to more than 57,000 in 2012. Workers in these fields typically are responsible for overseeing and maintaining wells and other technology used in extracting natural resources. Workers are most often employed in oil and gas producing states like Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and North Dakota. There are several potential reasons for the profession’s explosive job growth, including rising energy prices and the increased extraction of nonconventional fuel sources.