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After the dot com boom came the new oil boom. In fact, the industry is still booming and is only likely to surge in the next few decades.

A variety of undergraduate and graduate programs offered across Canada will help youth buy into the anticipated growth in the industry. The Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary, for example, offers two master of engineering and one master of science degree and a PhD in chemical and petroleum engineering.

We've got a fairly dynamic graduate program, says Ian Gates, head and professor at the

department of chemical and petroleum engineering. There's a lot of research going on here, and we network with companies. We have a lot of clubs and do field trips to go see the results of the previous research.

On the east coast, Dalhousie University offers an even quicker route. We offer a one-year course-based petroleum engineering program, says Adam Donaldson, assistant professor at the department of process engineering and applied science. It focuses primarily on subsurface operations and fundamental petroleum engineering concepts but is expanding to include more surface-based operations and the regulatory and management aspects of this industry.

The program enables motivated engineers to pursue graduate-level training within a shorter time than traditional master's of engineering programs which take up to 24 months to complete.

Applicants to graduate programs in petroleum engineering should ideally have an undergrad in chemical or petroleum engineering. However, for applicants with related but non-engineering backgrounds, Schulich at Calgary has equalizer courses to bring students up-to-speed.

Both universities collaborate with leading energy companies giving students the opportunity to experience an engineer's role at close quarters.

We've worked with all major and small companies: Exxon, Shell, ConocoPhillips, BP, Cenovus. The list is endless, says Gates. And it's not just Alberta; some of us have links with China National Petroleum Comapny; Petr├│leos de Venezuela, S.A; Petrobras, Brazil; Pemex, Mexico; and ONGCIndia.

Gates says opportunities in the energy sector are limitless. The demands of a rising population push companies to try harder to achieve a more sustainable future. A large number of senior petroleum engineers will soon be retiring, creating space for youth to fill the gap between the very experienced and those at entry-level.

One way of filling this gap is by hiring internationally educated persons. Equalizer courses can help localize their education and experience.

As a global industry, it is one of the few career paths that involve professional development at an international level, embracing cultural diversity, and the application of international standards for human health and environmental protection on a global scale.

We're producing a generation of engineers who are very aware of these issues, says Gates. In my generation, environment was important, but often we focused on economics. Now a large part of our courses focus on environment, safety, health, engineering, and economics.

Moreover, Gates says, this is a wealthy sector and incomes of folks in this discipline are better than those in other fields. It is factors like this that help make this a field-of-choice for the next generation of Canadians.

Photo: Worac & Doel Jin/Thinkstock