The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology will offer a new minor in petroleum systems in the fall, open to all students. 

Petroleum Minor
Students can sign up for the new program to complement mining, geology and other majors. Source: South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

Located in Rapid City, S.D., the school is particularly well placed near three of the country’s largest energy-producing basins.

“About 20 percent of our graduates are hired into the upstream and downstream energy industry,” says Heather Wilson, school president. “The question is how can we better prepare them?”

The 18-credit program will offer classes on topics including drilling, fluid mechanics and the petroleum field. Students majoring in mining engineering and management, geology, geological engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering and chemical engineering can sign up.

The idea for the minor came from a group of faculty who recognized that research and teaching on petroleum systems would benefit the school, its assortment of engineering majors and alumni looking to hire graduates into the nearby energy industry.

Laurie Anderson, head of the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, says she’s excited about the new interdisciplinary opportunity. “I like that we’re preserving the traditional majors, but we’re giving students an opportunity to have a little extra course work that helps them prepare for a particular industry of employment.”

The minor in petroleum systems is the educational component of the college’s broader Energy Resource Initiative, which includes a state-of-the-art laboratory for petrophysics/geomechanics research, the Shale Research Initiative and a 12-credit graduate certificate in petroleum systems. The school is in the process of hiring a faculty member renowned for expertise in the field.

Word of the minor is already making a difference, according to Anderson.

“I just had a brief conversation with a staff member in the admissions office and she said that eversince the day of the press release, there’s been a lot of interest.”

The increased interest fits well into Wilson’s goal to expand the undergraduate student body. “It’s great to work at a school where the faculty says we need to have more to offer and see it happen,” she said.

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is bordered on three sides by the Williston Basin (Bakken, N.D.) to the north, the Powder River Basin to the northwest and the Denver Basin directly south. The university is offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in science and engineering. For more information, visit

Valerie King is associate editor of National Driller.