[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the February 2020 edition of Oil and Gas Investor. Subscribe to the magazine here.]

With priorities ranging from discovering fresh resources in tricky geological formations to analyzing financial data to close a deal, it’s little wonder that executives have limited time to evaluate the individual merits of the many targeted graduate degree and certifi­cate programs in the U.S. That’s where the below list, researched and presented by Oil and Gas Investor, comes in, offering busy professionals a listing of the top 15 energy graduate programs in the country.

With information drawn from publicly available data and survey responses received from a number of programs, we developed a weighting system to account for differences in pro­gram-specific nuances to narrow down our selections.

Though the programs are diverse, these 15 consistently value direct student engagement with energy initiatives and leaders, careful attention to the global nature of the energy industry and flexible course formats that keep students’ coursework from conflicting with their careers.

Ultimately, our hope is that this list, along with the rest of this special report, will help pro­fessionals looking to advance their careers through higher education by introducing them to the programs that are truly the best in class.

RELATED: Executive Energy Programs: Studying For The C-Suite

1) The University of Oklahoma Executive MBA in Energy

  • Program Highlight: The majority of OU’s EMBA students are senior energy professionals, creating an environment of intensive collaboration and networking.
  • Web Address: http://www.ou.edu/price/mba/embainenergy

Great minds think alike, and that’s why experienced industry leaders can enroll in OU’s EMBA program to learn from senior industry experts, faculty and peers. Working in con­junction with industry personnel, the program faculty designed their cur­riculum so that every course focuses on the energy industry and delivers outcomes which are expected in energy companies’ current and future leaders.

The 15-month program includes three in-per­son residency weeks delivering energy-focused courses, many of which are delivered by senior energy professionals. The program also in­cludes an international module in Amsterdam and London to broaden students’ perspectives about the global energy industry as well as provide them with an experiential learning op­portunity that pertains to the energy industry in transition, which is more prevalent in Europe. The trip also includes prominent guest speak­ers from the energy industry, corporate visits to both local and international headquarters of companies associated with energy, and cultural tours of iconic places.

The program is carefully designed to provide students with the exact tools they need to ad­vance. Students on average have 10 years of experience in the energy industry, and 56% are a director or above.

2) Texas Christian University Energy MBA

  • Program Highlight: Flexible course formats allow for working professionals to still obtain the resources of TCU’s top-ranked MBA program.
  • Web Address: www.neeley.tcu.edu/energymba/

Professional life doesn’t have to stop for stu­dents at the Texas Christian University (TCU) Energy MBA program, which grants a global perspective and tools for success in the ener­gy industry. The average duration of the pro­gram is between 15 and 22 months, and its cost ranges from $58,000 to $75,000. The program is governed by the Energy MBA Advisory Board, updating the curriculum and focus as the industry changes. TCU Energy MBA stu­dents can take on-campus or virtual courses designed for working professionals.

The Energy MBA also includes a 10-day course in an international destination that takes students to an energy-rich region for first-hand knowledge of crucial international issues and access to senior executives at global energy companies. By connecting with experienced classmates from top energy firms plus a vari­ety of other fields, students can learn from each other and form powerful relationships that last long after graduation.

Educational resources include a mix of university faculty and industry experts who demonstrate business practices and strategies for managing the risks and opportunities in the industry. The TCU Energy MBA allows students to combine the integrated, broad busi­ness perspective of an MBA with industry spe­cific practices and tools pertinent to the energy industry, broadly defined to include alternative energy sources. An Energy MBA is comprised of 75% general MBA core courses and 25% energy MBA-specific courses.

3) University of Colorado Denver MS in Global Energy Management

At the cutting edge of the energy conversa­tion, the University of Colorado Denver Glob­al Energy Management (CU Denver GEM) degree focuses on the global aspect of energy commoditization, looks at applied business practices and considers all types of energy resources. The program’s advisory board up­dates the design to stay current with industry trends. With their Executive in Residence pro­gram, students have access to three C-level ex­ecutives for personal discussions, lunches and lectures. Early career students can take advan­tage of the hybrid online structure of the pro­gram that allows them to continue working full time and from anywhere in the world.

Although all students enrolled in the pro­gram work full time, statistics show that 55% of them received a pay increase or promotion upon completion of the program. The program administration and faculty are entirely stu­dent-focused and operate with a boutique men­tality, which allows the program to be more nimble to industry changes and student needs.

The CU Denver GEM Program has its own alumni board and events supported by the pro­gram. It hosts a summer event, webinars and a portal to keep everyone connected virtually and professionally. Alumni are also welcome to sit in and audit any previously completed course free of charge to ensure they are up to date on course material.


4) Texas A&M Executive MBA

  • Program Highlight: The resources of one of the world’s largest alumni networks are at the fingertips of A&M’s EMBA program.
  • Web Address: www.mays.tamu.edu/executive-mba/

Aggies are no strangers to hard work and success in the energy industry, and the Exec­utive MBA (EMBA) program at Texas A&M focuses on advancing effective energy execu­tives. With a significant number of participants from the oil and gas industry, students have the option of taking an additional energy finance course. All functional areas of business are thoroughly covered, which allows the EMBA participant a view from the CEO level of the organization.

The program is comprised of alternate week­end courses at the Mays Business School-City­Centre, Houston, and refines students’ ex­ecutive leadership skills in 21 months over a two-year period, with no summer classes. The Mays Executive MBA Program is designed for the more experienced mid-career professional who has on average 16 years of work experi­ence. Students can share their challenges with peers and use what they learn on the job.

Built on a foundation of data-driven deci­sion-making, the lock-step program builds on core competencies from business analytics, operations/supply chain, finance, accounting, management, communication and marketing, while also focusing on personal leadership development and executive presence. The general management overview degree offers participants the skills to advance within their organization, take on new job opportunities and start their own entrepreneurial venture. In addition, students participate in three required immersive experiences that take their learning outside the classroom.


5) New York Institute of Technology MS in Energy Management

An appreciation for complexity, and how to pragmatically address it, grounds the New York Institute of Technology MS in Energy Management program, which helps early-ca­reer energy professionals prepare for and ad­vance careers in energy efficiency, power gen­eration, facilities management and renewable energy. Students normally have one to two years of industry experience.

The program costs about $39,600 and is de­signed to be flexible: It can be completed full time, part time, on campus or online. More­over, the courses are more practical, rather than theoretical. With a 95% graduation rate, students spend about one year in the program, guided through practical courses covering ev­erything from green buildings and environ­mental issues to power. Also, the students are required to complete a capstone project, but an internship is not required. Faculty expertise includes facilities management, smart homes, energy modeling software, solar energy sys­tems and sustainability management.

6 & 7) Oklahoma City University MS in Energy Management and MS in Energy Legal Studies

Offering a compelling two-in-one possibil­ity, both the MS in Energy Management and MS in Energy Legal Studies at Oklahoma City University are part of the Meinders School of Business, an innovative collaborative college that takes every opportunity to invite industry experts into the classroom.

Students in both programs are already in­dustry professionals that work in a cohort to understand new material and build their net­works. The programs are primarily online with two required residencies. With two options, students can hone their focus on the aspect of energy leadership that will most help their ca­reer: the core business of energy with the MS in Energy Management or legal principles that underlie the entire industry with the MS in En­ergy Legal Studies.

The U.S. News & World Report announced in January 2019 that Oklahoma City Universi­ty has one of the best online graduate business programs in the country for the fifth year in a row. OCU’s Meinders School of Business was ranked 37th in the country, which is the highest in Oklahoma in the best online business pro­grams (non-MBA) list.


8) The University of Texas Dallas MS in Energy Management

In the energy industry, there’s no substitute for experience with the tools of business prac­tice, and UT Dallas’ MS in Energy Manage­ment program recognizes this as it emphasizes oil, gas, coal, hydro, solar, wind and power energy asset management. The program in­corporates traditional management curriculum and state of the art energy curriculum, updated and overseen by an energy industry advisory board.

The program’s core classes are half MBA core classes and half energy-focused classes, such as energy joint interest accounting, en­ergy economics, energy finance, energy law and contracts, and managing energy risk, in­vestment and technology. Total tuition based on four semesters is $32,304 for residents and $62,004 for nonresidents.

Global perspectives are always incorporated, with more than 50% of international students. As energy industries are global, the different perspectives and contacts that students bring to the program benefit all and help prepare them for industry careers.

Full-time energy faculty in the program be­long to the industry. In addition, learning is not based on textbooks, but instead it relies on ac­tual contracts and deals from the above indus­tries. Students are taught various AIPN-model contracts including study and bidding agree­ments, foreign concessions and licenses, do­mestic oil and gas leases, unitization agree­ments, gas-balancing agreements, farm-out agreements, typical lender credit facilities and so on.

9) Texas A&M Texarkana MBA in Energy Leadership

Flexibility in terms of time and place is cen­tral to Texas A&M Texarkana’s MBA in En­ergy Leadership program. The program helps energy professionals broaden and deepen their managerial and leadership skills specific to the energy industry. The online program is de­signed for working students and takes about two years to complete. University faculty focus on the managerial and leadership skills neces­sary to advance a career in oil and gas, coal, wind or electric power. The program offers in-depth knowledge of accounting, finance, economics, management and the state of the industry. The average cost of the program is $10,000 to $12,000.

One of the outstanding features of the pro­gram is that it is offered online to accommo­date students located throughout the world and those with restrictive work schedules. It is rel­atively inexpensive, and there is ease of inter­action between students and faculty.

10) University of Houston MS in Global Energy Management

In the heart of the country’s energy capital, early-career students can advance their careers in energy management and tailor their educa­tion to meet their interests and needs with 20 energy-specific electives on top of the regular curriculum at the University of Houston. The goal of the MS in Global Energy Management program is to prepare graduates to advance their careers as managers in the energy indus­try by imparting both the knowledge of the business of energy and exposure to effective management skills. The average duration of the course is 23 months, and the total cost of the program is $34,000 for residents.

Instructor expertise includes industry experts and tenured faculty. While the tenured faculty specialize in energy strategic management and HR management, energy finance, and energy trading and markets, the adjunct faculty are experts in all aspects of the structure and eco­nomics of the energy value chains. Students who enroll in the program typically have no industry work experience. They are given an opportunity to work in the Gutierrez Energy Management Institute that provides opportuni­ties for experiential learning, adaptive energy elective options and access to industry exper­tise. The program attracts international and do­mestic students and is highly diverse.


11) University of North Carolina Chapel Hill MBA in Energy

The full-time MBA in Energy at UNC Chap­el Hill guides students looking to make en­try into the energy industry by helping them see the big picture. Students gain broad un­derstanding of the energy value chain at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Energy Center. Industry experts and some university faculty bring de­cades of experience to teach “the business of energy” and the keys to commercial success in the changing market. The program covers the global aspects of the industry, bringing in speakers and designing courses to ensure stu­dents are prepared for the opportunities and challenges of globalization.

The average duration of the course is two years. The energy concentration certificate re­quires 7.5 credit hours taken from the 12 ener­gy courses offered. This must include energy value chain, the gateway course. Typically, earning the certificate requires taking a mini­mum of four elective courses on top of the re­quired course. The average cost of the course is $51,202 for in-state students and $66,324 for out-of-state students.

One of the outstanding features of the pro­gram is that it focuses on the whole energy value chain. Rather than concentrating on one sector like renewables or oil and gas, the pro­gram offers courses across the chain and cov­ers topics that will reshape the entire chain over time.

12) The University of Tulsa Master of Energy Business

Rooted in Oklahoma’s rich energy history but available anywhere in the world, this online program designed for working professionals is taught by instructors with extensive energy ex­pertise. Over an average two and a half years, students learn from experts in energy policy and energy markets about operating in and adapting to the changing energy market. Content covers all forms of energy but focuses on oil and gas. The cost of the program is $45,000.

Students enrolled in the program are most­ly professionals in the energy industry with varying academic and ethnic backgrounds en­compassing vast geographic areas. According to their testimonials, students have found that this program fits their lifestyle and contains the energy content they need to succeed.

13) The University of Oklahoma Energy Executive Management Program (EEMP)

Sometimes, brevity and intensity are best, as shown by this non-degree program at The Uni­versity of Oklahoma that provides energy pro­fessionals an overview of the business side of an energy enterprise to help them be more effec­tive managers. University faculty and industry experts explain how energy companies create value, address business issues and opportunities specific to the industry, illustrate the variety of business models in the industry and discuss how to evaluate new business opportunities.

The average duration of the program is three to seven days, depending on customization, and it costs between $4,500 and $13,500, also depending on length and customization.

This program will provide participants with deeper insight into the skills necessary to think and act with an entrepreneurial mindset in the energy industry. Participants will also develop their business acumen, strengthen their strate­gic decision-making skills and update/expand their management skills to lead their compa­nies to greater success.

Currently, the university is offering a five-day program for energy professionals in Oklahoma and surrounding areas, a three-day program in New York City for financial profes­sionals in energy and a seven-day program in Oklahoma City/Norman customized for a nat­ural gas company from the Far East.


14) University of San Francisco MS in Energy Systems Management

Scheduled for professional students, the University of San Francisco’s MS in Energy Systems Management program recognizes that the future of energy waits for no professional, addressing all types of energy but offering a focus on renewables and the move to low-car­bon production. A mix of faculty and industry professionals collaborate to offer research and internship opportunities. The program offers personalized attention with small class sizes and offers opportunities for research, intern­ships and professional engagement.

15) Texas A&M MS in Energy

The program aims to educate students/profes­sionals with a broad spectrum of important en­ergy issues, energy technologies based on fossil and non-fossil resources, sustainable energy technologies and their interactions with energy economics, entrepreneurship, law and policy.

Emphasis is placed on creating a new gen­eration of energy-focused students and pro­fessionals who are broadly educated on all components of industry through quantita­tive analytical methods and multiscale sys­tem-based approaches.

No professional experience is required to en­roll for the course. Faculty from across the uni­versity provide energy-specific expertise in the 10-month program. The A&M MS in Energy addresses U.S. and international needs, tech­nology, trends, policies and laws. The cost of the program is between $30,000 and $40,000.

One of the outstanding features of the pro­gram is that it is targeted to both traditional students and working professionals. In addi­tion, students are accepted with a variety of ed­ucational backgrounds and not just engineer­ing majors. Courses are taught by instructors from eight different colleges or schools.