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MSc Petroleum Engineering

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    Key information

    Mode of delivery
    Start date
    September, January, May


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    Petroleum engineering is central to safe, efficient and sustainable development of oil and gas assets to meet global energy and resource demands.

    Since its establishment in 1975, the GeoEnergy Engineering (IGE) at Heriot-Watt University has delivered its internationally renowned Petroleum Engineering MSc degree, providing thousands of graduates with the knowledge and skills to tackle the oil and gas industry's most challenging problems across the globe. The degree offers an interdisciplinary approach to exploration and extraction of petroleum resources.

    The degree encompasses a wide range of applied petroleum engineering fundamentals, leading to development of a technically well-prepared graduate with a sound knowledge of the industry - through eight taught courses and two projects. During the field development project, students work on real field data, considering the technical, economic and environmental aspects involved. For the individual research project, students select a specialist topic, for example related to geosciences, enhanced oil recovery, production chemistry or advanced drilling and completions, offered both by the Institute and by the industry.

    Degree duration

    • Online learning: 2½ - 8 years

    Online students are expected to spend 13 to 17 study hours per week, which will allow them to complete the entire MSc degree in three to four years. The maximum permitted period of study is 8 years. Students will have a maximum of two years from registering for each taught course to successfully complete the assessment.

    Our students

    The large student population is a multi-cultural mix of numerate science and engineering graduates, some from industry, some straight from their first degrees, coming from well over 100 countries. This blend provides the opportunity to discuss, reflect and consider more than just the academic side of learning, thus promoting a range of transferable skills. To read what our students think about studying online visit our Meet our students pages.

    Industry links

    Students on the Petroleum Engineering MSc degree will benefit from the excellent links with industry and research activities by staff at the GeoEnergy Engineering. The Institute also has an industry-based Strategic Advisory Board, which monitors activities in the wider context of the needs of the industry and offers guidance on the degree ensuring content is up to date and relevant to current industry needs. Seminar sessions are also conducted by staff from a variety of petroleum engineering companies.

    Studying an Online MSc Petroleum Engineering Degree

    Heriot-Watt Online graduates, James Firth and Anastasia Bird, talks about their experience of studying a MSc Petroleum Engineering Engineering degree online.

    Course content

    Year 1

    Students on the Petroleum Engineering MSc undertake eight taught courses followed by two projects. Heriot-Watt Online students must successfully complete Reservoir Engineering and Drilling Engineering before continuing with the remaining six taught courses. All taught courses and projects are available throughout the academic year, with semesters starting in January, May and September.

    Degree structure

    • Drilling Engineering
    • Formation Evaluation
    • Geoscience for Petroleum Engineering
    • Reservoir Engineering
    • Petroleum Economics
    • Production Technology
    • Reservoir Simulation
    • Well test Analysis
    • Design Project
    • Individual Project

    Detailed degree guide

    Understanding, Knowledge and Cognitive Skills

    The programme gives the opportunity to develop skills in:

    • fundamental concepts, principles and theories of the main petroleum engineering and geoscience disciplines (reservoir engineering, petroleum geology, drilling engineering, formation evaluation, reservoir simulation, petroleum project economics, production technology)
    • the application of IT to petroleum engineering in terms of design and analysis.
    • the ethics and standards relevant to professional engineering practice and the transfer of problem-solving skills to a variety of contexts
    • integration of theory and practice and application of statistical, scientific and economics skills

    Scholarship, Enquiry and Research (Research Informed Learning)

    The students are expected to read more deeply into the subjects by referencing materials in their tutorial exercises, field work reports and laboratory exercises. This is important in developing study plans, developing research plans and methods.

    Approaches to Teaching and Learning

    Course notes are provided for all courses. All lecture sessions are reinforced by tutorials or classroom exercises. Coursework is then further used to extend the concepts learned in lectures and notes and to demonstrate the use of problem solving skills by the students. Course notes come with model exams and answers, as well as recommended reading lists or suggestions for further reading. All courses have a VLE page, on which notes, Powerpoints, reading lists, a model exam with answers and 1 or 2 other past papers, exercises and assessment are routinely posted for all courses. There is a discussion board for all of the courses and introductory videos for each course.

    Assessment Policies

    Assessment is based on a combination of examination, project, and coursework. The project work is assessed on written and oral presentations. In the Group Project, part of the assessment is by peer review.

    The DL programme necessarily places more emphasis on examination with some modules being assessed 100% by examination. However a dissertation plus a project module ensures that a significant proportion of the assessment is non-examination.

    Fees and funding

    Tuition fees

    Tuition fees
    Status Per course [footnote 1] Dissertation/Project [footnote 1]
    UK / EU / Overseas GBP1315 GBP1220
    1. The tuition fees listed are for courses starting between September 2023 and August 2024. Fees normally increase annually. Find out more about our tuition fees.

    Additional fee information

    Tuition fee loans are available to Scottish distance learning students on some taught postgraduate courses. Find out more from the Students Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)

    Scholarships and bursaries

    We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Each year, hundreds of students enhance their educational experience through a variety of Heriot-Watt and externally funded scholarships, including opportunities funded by the University's generous alumni community, based all over the world.

    View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.

    Scholarship funding

    Industrial sponsorship

    Many of our past students have gained funding from industry sources, both those companies involved in oil exploration and production in their home countries or larger international companies that offer scholarship courses. For example:

    Nigerian Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Bolahak (Kazakhstan), Commonwealth Scholarships, Chevening scholarships, BP, Chevron, Shell, and ExxonMobil

    Entry requirements

    Applicants to the MSc programme level will normally:

    • have a good undergraduate degree (minimum 2:2 honours or equivalent) in engineering or a relevant science discipline, or
    • demonstrate equivalent academic ability based on industrial experience or membership of a professional institution.

    Heriot-Watt Online students must first take exams in two courses of the programme, Reservoir Engineering and Drilling Engineering. Based on the results from these entry courses students will continue on the programme at MSc or at PG Diploma level.

    Students have access to the short course 'Introduction to Digital Study and Academic skills'. This reflective tool helps students to understand their digital learning style, their Academic English language ability and directs students to resources to help them enhance the academic skills that will be needed for successful postgraduate studies.

    Mathematical requirements

    Applicants will need good mathematical ability to succeed on their programmes. Students should have experience in university level mathematics of the sort commonly encountered on engineering degrees (e.g. a pass, or passes, in previous university level maths-based courses/modules) and be confident in further development of these skills.

    Recognition of Prior Learning

    We are committed to providing study opportunities to applicants who have a wide range of prior experiences through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). For more information on RPL, please contact the Online Admissions Team (egis-idl-apps@hw.ac.uk) ahead of application. We can only consider requests for RPL at the time of application to a course of study.

    English language requirements

    Applicants will need a good English Language ability to succeed in their programme. Those for whom English is not their first language should have,

    • Achieved a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent
    • Or have successfully completed courses (of 1 year or more in duration) delivered in English.


    Graduates of our Petroleum Engineering course are much sought after by oil operating and oilfield service companies both in the UK and worldwide. Graduates go on to work for major global oil and gas operating companies, service companies as well as smaller consultancies in petroleum engineering. The course also provides an excellent springboard for graduates wishing to pursue a career in research.

    Graduate profiles

    Read our graduate profiles to find out what some of our recent graduates said about their experiences studying Petroleum Engineering at Heriot-Watt.

    Why Heriot-Watt?

    Flexibility and affordability

    Study at a time and pace that suits you, and even while you work. HW Online offers pay-as-you-study courses and fees inclusive of exams and study materials, meaning you can focus on success, not extra costs.

    Your career

    Employers around the world actively seek out our graduates because they are work-ready. All our degrees are career-focused and relevant to the needs of industry. Around 95% of our students are in employment or further study within six months of graduating.

    Online events

    We host online events throughout the year, giving you the opportunity to speak to our academic teaching staff, meet students, find out what it is like to study using our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and discover how to enrol.

    Lifelong connections

    Upon completing your studies you will automatically join the UK's oldest alumni association The Watt Club, with 147k members worldwide.

    Study options Edinburgh - Petroleum Engineering

    Our MSc in Petroleum Engineering is also available to study at our Edinburgh campus.

    Study options Dubai - Petroleum Engineering

    Our MSc in Petroleum Engineering is also available to study at our Dubai campus.

    Study options Malaysia - Petroleum Engineering

    Our MSc in Petroleum Engineering is also available to study at our Malaysia campus.

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