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The Times: Courses tailored to the new demands of the oil industry

February 28, 2008

Steve Coomber says jobs in energy supply and trading are likely to increase WITH oil prices breaking the $100 a barrel level for the first time, new oil and gas discoveries in the Arctic region, and global companies such as ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell making record results, a career in the booming energy industry appears an attractive choice for MBA graduates.

Rulzion Rattray, MBA and commercial director,of the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPLMP) at the University of Dundee, says: “The level of interest in the sector is increasing, particularly from people changing careers to an energy related field.”

There are several specialist energy MBAs from which to choose. In Scot- land, home to the UK’s oil and gas industry, both Aberdeen Business School at Robert Gordon University and CEPLMP, run oil and gas management MBA programmes.

The Aberdeen oil and gas management MBA is tailored to industry requirements. Allan Scott, MBA course leader, says: “We asked more than 50 companies what they wanted in a programme of this type. With their help we created nine modules.” Participants on the one-year full-time programme, study a general management core, then oil and gas-related modules such as oil and gas management and petroleum economics and asset management, and then do a final project.

Scott says: “Interaction with energy industry companies plays an important part in the MBA experience, The consultancy project placement at an oil company can last up to 16 weeks. More than 1,200 companies have been involved in our placements, and we have contacts with almost every oil and gas company in the region.”

At the CEPLMP, the full-time oil and gas management MBA is an 18-month programme. Rattray says: “It is not a question of just contextualising standard modules, as with a general MBA. We have special routes with strong links to energy law and economics.” Specialist modules are followed by an applied management segment, and then a dissertation or project.

On the longer CEPLMP programme, students can take an internship. Rattray adds: “We are increasing opportunities for MBA students to gain experience with industry organisations, whether through internships or project placements. We have good relationships with both oil majors, and Aberdeen’s small to medium business sector.”

Students on the specialist oil and gas MBA programmes come from many backgrounds. While some are in the industry, many are career changers. Scott says: “I get applications from 60 countries. Those in the industry might be working in health and safety, as field engineers, even as a government consultant on environmental issues. They are looking to reinforce their subject knowledge; to upskill, and to obtain greater opportunities for promotion.”

A specialist MBA is not the only option. For participants wanting to focus on the energy sector, but who work in banking and finance or management consultancy, a general MBA with an energy-related specialisation might work. At McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, MBA students can take an energy finance specialisation that equips them to work in financial analysis, valuation and trading positions with oil and gas companies, and financial services firms.

Many business schools run specialist masters aimed at this market, like the ten-month MSc in energy, trade and finance at Cass Business School, London. About 70 per cent of the focus is on oil and oil products; pricing mechanisms, economics or the refining process. The rest is taken up by natural gas, electricity and renewables.

Scott adds: “There is a perception that the oil is going to run out, but that has been around for 20 years. The industry needs to correct that perception because there will be oil there for at least 40 years.”


AFTER almost eight years in a top law firm in Caracas, where 70 per cent of his clients were oil and gas companies, Jairo Ching-Castillo decided it was time to move on, Steve Coomber writes.

He left Venezuela to study for a dual postgraduate degree, an MBA in oil and gas management and an LLM in petroleum law and policy at CEPLMLP.

He says: “I was missing a big part of the story. I didn’t understand many of the technical things that the engineers, economists and accountants, from our clients were telling me. I wanted to learn more about the industry.” He applied to the centre because of its reputation and focus on the mineral, oil and gas energy sector. “

The centre really gives you a good background for whichever part of the industry you want to work in. The programmes are very flexible; one moment you can be working on aspects of mining and the next studying environmental issues.”

“We met senior managers from oil industry service providers such as Halliburton and oil companies such as Total. It was very interesting getting a perspective on different management styles.”

Ching-Castillo spent five months working for Walker Technical Resources, an Aberdeen pipe and pipeline repair company. “I helped to define their business plan for the next five years and put together a contractual toolkit for the company.”

Originally set on a career in law, the oil and gas MBA has prompted a rethink. “Having completed the MBA a new world connected with the business side of the oil and gas industry has opened up. I think my next steps will be towards business or strategy development in the oil and gas industry, either as a consultant, or starting my own company.” and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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