Because oil and gas extraction remains the biggest industry that employs petroleum engineers, nearly 10,000 specialists are projected to have already landed new, lucrative jobs by 2022. This represents an anticipated 26 percent bump in the number of professionals employed in 2012. In Los Angeles, these developers earn an average annual salary of $112,000, according to current data. The vocation is part of the STEM fields, the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

(Photo Courtesy of Chris Lenz)

(Photo Courtesy of Chris Lenz)

“While one can pursue a degree in petroleum engineering, other degrees are suitable for that occupation, such as mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, geology and physics,” said Chris Lenz, Director of the Career Development Center at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA).

What other degrees pay well for STEM graduates?

“Other industries in the high-tech sector that have bright potential for STEM graduates are aerospace, bio-pharmaceuticals and medical devices, in addition to computer and electronics manufacturing.”

What is spurring enthusiasm in high-tech disciplines?

“The high-tech sector employs the largest number of people in L.A. County, with wages almost 70 percent higher on average than other industries. This area is growing, with strong support from local government, educational institutions and business groups, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft.”

What other degrees pack a punch?

“The other strong STEM field is computer science/information technology, with high salaries and good growth, especially in such areas as cybersecurity, mobile apps and big data. Other degrees with high wages are in business, such as accounting, finance and management. Not only do all these degrees pay well, they can be applied in virtually any industry.”

How is CSULA preparing students for lucrative careers?

“We have several initiatives, such as GO East LA, IMPACT LA and the MESA Schools program, which partner with K-12 schools and community colleges to encourage students to pursue education leading to good careers.”

What is your message to career-minded students?

“Ultimately, it is not the degree that lands a job, but who you are and what you present. Employers are looking for people who are energetic, can interact well, and have a flexible, open mind.”

Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to

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