MSc Petroleum Engineering

The course

Online learning
Course award
Entry date
September, January, May



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

The programme 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.

Programme 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 programme 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 programme will benefit from the excellent links with industry and research activities by staff at the Institute of 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 programme 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. 

Flexible study options

This programme can be studied online and is ideal for those in employment or with other commitments. View our How online learning works pages to find out more. The programme is also available to study full-time and part-time at our Edinburgh, Dubai and Malaysia campuses. 

Heriot-Watt Online students can register for courses at three times during the year. They have up to two years from registration to complete the course assessment. Assessment is offered three times per year in all courses. Online students may choose to benefit from a range of intensive classroom based Continual Professional Development (CPD) workshops offered by NExT at locations worldwide and led by Heriot-Watt University academic staff or approved NExT instructors.  There is one five day instructor-led workshop for each of the eight MSc Petroleum Engineering taught courses.

Course content

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.

Reservoir engineering

Behaviour of reservoir rocks; fluid properties; reserve estimation; fluid flow through porous rocks and drive mechanisms.

Geoscience for Petroleum Engineering

Introduction to geoscience in order to understand the terminology used by geoscientists; how to use geoscience data to calculate the volume of hydrocarbons in the subsurface.

Drilling engineering

Fundamental concepts and techniques used in drilling engineering; design requirements of well planning and construction; optimising the design of a drilling program.

Formation evaluation

Petrophysical analysis of wireline log data; different tools and their uses; interpretation of logs and reservoir zonation.

Reservoir simulation

Predicting reservoir dynamic behaviour: theoretical, numerical and practical flow simulation for history matching and forecasting.

Petroleum economics

Economic concepts involved in project evaluation; asset value, risk management, making informed decisions and screening and ranking of projects.

Production Technology

Well completions and servicing; artificial lift; perforating; formation damage; reservoir stimulation; sand control; surface facilities.

Well test analysis

Fundamentals and applications of pressure versus time and pressure versus depth for improved reservoir description and management.


Field development project

Integration of all taught elements of the programme in determining a development strategy or plan based on real field data.

Individual project

Independent research project on a topic (related to petroleum engineering) of the students choice.


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 Online?


Study towards the same high-quality qualification as if you were studying in-person, with no difference in degree certificate or transcript, including an Edinburgh campus graduation ceremony.

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.

Online community and help

Studying with us means you join an online community of over X students, allowing you to chat and learn from your fellow students through our virtual learning environment.

Employability and careers

Heriot-Watt produces more CEOs than any other University in Scotland, and 95% of graduates are in employment or further study within 6 months of graduation.

Lifelong connections

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

Track record

We’ve been providing high quality online and distance learning across the world for over 25 years.


Be part of a Business & STEM renowned University with over 200 years of heritage. We’re proud to be ranked #1 by The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022 for a number of our Engineering subjects, including Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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.

English Language

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.

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 ( ahead of application. We can only consider requests for RPL at the time of application to a course of study. 


Tuition fees for 2021 entry
Status Per course Per research project
UK / EU / Overseas £1250 £1120

Additional fees information

Students pay £1250 per course and £1120 for each project. The MSc programme consists of eight taught courses and two research projects. The total cost of the MSc is £11,940 (2020/21). Exam fees are included in the course fee.

Financial support

Tuition fee loans of £5,500 are available to Scottish online students on 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. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.

View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.

Additional scholarship information

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. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.

View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.

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
  • ExxonMobil

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