Petroleum Geology


The Moncrief Petroleum Geology Program is for students planning careers as geoscientists in the oil and gas industry, as well as careers in resource assessment, energy policy and graduate studies. Students graduating from the program receive the Bachelor of Science in Geology: Petroleum Geology Emphasis. 

Strong Support from Alumni and Donors

Western's Petroleum Geology Program launched in 2002, thanks to a $1 million endowment from Western alumnus Paul Rady, CEO of Antero Resources. Rady followed up in 2014 with another $1.5 million gift. Another $2.5 million in gifts from legendary oilman W.A. “Tex” Moncrief Jr. of Ft. Worth, Texas, in 2005 and 2007, established the "Moncrief Petroleum Geology Program." This further strengthened the program and demonstrates the significance of Western’s efforts within the industry. Interested students and sponsors can contact Dr. Elizabeth Petrie or Dr. Bradford Burton.

Job Prospects are Outstanding

  • About half of all geoscientists are set to retire during the next 10 years. Companies WILL replace them.
  • A hiring boom was experienced in the late 1970s and early '80s within the petroleum, mining, environmental, engineering, government and academic geology areas. As these individuals retire, job opportunities for college graduates are expanding.
  • In recent years, a hiring boom has brought career opportunities at all levels. This translates into a 10 percent to 20 percent rise in salaries for professional geologists with less than two years' experience. During the past 10 years, the number of people enrolling in geoscience programs has been steady, and according to AGI (American Geological Institute, only about 15 percent of those who enroll actually enter the geologic professional pipeline.  This means there are far fewer graduates than their are positions to fill.

Who Should Pursue a Degree in Petroleum Geology?

Geology is fundamentally a field science. We collect information about natural systems and use this information to understand geologic process, to explore for natural resources and to guide environmental stewardship. Working as a geologist requires strong skills in spatial thinking, visualization and creativity, along with a sound foundation in the basic physics, chemistry and mathematics, all of which provide you with an ability to take large, sometimes fragmented datasets to understand natural processes.

In addition to the field aspects of our work, many professional geologists are model natural systems, requiring some interest in working with technology, computer programming, database management and geospatial database management. Good writing and skill at communicating complex ideas, both to your peers and to laymen, improves a geology major's chance of professional success.

In addition to this broad spectrum of skills, geologists, unlike many other scientists, must consider the importance of "deep" time. Many natural changes occur at very slow rates, often requiring a geologist to consider problems over time scales much larger than the human experience.

Wired for the 21st Century

The Petroleum Geology program is housed in Hurst Hall, one of the most technologically sophisticated science buildings in Colorado. Instruction occurs in the GIS/Petroleum Geology lab. The lab has thirteen student stations for highly interactive instruction and uses the most up-to-date industry software and data sets. In recent months, the petroleum industry has made investments in Western’s program totaling more than $2,000,000.

  • Platte River Associates, Inc. BasinMod petroleum-systems modeling.
  • IHS Petra well-log correlation, petrophysics and mapping.
  • IHS Kingdom ©, 2D/3D seismic interpretation and modeling​.
  • Geo-Logic Systems LithoTectTM seismic-depth conversion and cross-section balancing.
  • GeoTools QuickDip statistical curvature (SCAT) dipmeter analysis.
  • Midland Valley Move 2D/3D Kinematic Modeling balanced cross-section modeling.
  • N.G.A. GMSys interactive gravity and magnetics modeling.
  • Schlumberger Petrel E&P Software Platform: Subsurface 2D/3D analysis and modeling.

The Moncrief Petroleum Geology program at Western:

  • Provides students a solid academic foundation.
  • Combines classroom and field study with current industry technology.
  • Fosters professional contact with industry geoscientists.
  • Promotes industry internships for early career reinforcement.
  • Mentors students toward relevant graduate programs.
  • Offers Western's Petroleum Geology Research Program, in which undergraduates engage in applied and fundamental research. Funding sources provide summer research experiences.

Why study Petroleum Geology at Western State Colorado University?

In addition to the strengths of the Moncrief Petroleum Geology Program, Western is amid an extraordinary natural laboratory. Students gain a strong background in basic geology, with an emphasis on critical thinking and visualization. The local outdoor environment provides a wide range of opportunities for unique field experiences and undergraduate research opportunities. Combined with a comprehensive technology experience, and our emphasis on written and oral communication, our students are generally highly qualified for entry-level work in industry or for continued study in graduate programs throughout the country.

Interested in the latest news on the state of salaries for geologic professionals?  The 2011 article by Larry Nation, AAPGs Communication Directory can be found at 2014 article by Vern Stefanic, managing editor of the AAPG EXPLORER can be found at

Next Steps

If you're interested in Western's Petroleum Geology Program, we invite you to take the next steps towards becoming a part of the Mountaineer family.

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