Meet the Colorado college grad making six-figures right out of school

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David Clark's life sure has changed.  Just about four years ago he was a high school drop-out, making boxes for beer at the Coors brewery in Golden, pulling in about $10 an hour.

“It was really manual labor, it was hard work, and I felt I wasn't reaching my potential,” Clark said.

So he enrolled at Red Rocks Community College, excelled in his courses, and got into Colorado School of Mines. And he graduated earlier this month as a petroleum engineer, walking right into a job that will pay him more than $100,000 a year.

“Right out of school you could be making six figures,” said Jean Manning Clark, director of the Mines Career Center. She says students at the school in Golden are getting up to ten job offers each... and they’re pouring in 6 to 8 months before the students even graduate.

It seems people are flocking to the energy industry because in Colorado and around the world, that's where the jobs are.

Just ask recent Mines graduates Jean-Jose Sopngwi and Andrew Bosela.  Weeks from now, they both start new jobs as petroleum engineers... Sopngwi in Louisiana, Bosela in Africa. 

When Bosela opened his six-figure job offer letter?

“My roommates can attest to the fact that I jumped... I literally hit the roof.  I did hit the roof,” he said.

So what exactly is a petroleum engineer?  It’s basically someone who figures out how to get oil and gas out of the ground.

And why the sudden boom in energy jobs?  Because people who flooded the business during the oil boom in the 1970s are now retiring.  And new drilling technology has led energy companies to figure out how to get oil and natural gas from shale, like they're doing right now on the western slope of Colorado.  That means more workers are needed.  So if you're looking to reinvent yourself, and are pretty good at math and science, this could be a good field for you.  And administrators at School of Mines say older, non-traditional students do very well.

“They're usually more successful because they can bring very transferable skills into the job market, they can bring a maturity level as well,” Manning Clark said.

Still, it isn't easy work.  And getting a degree is tough.  But David did it.  He leaves in early June to start his new job as a reservoir engineer for BP in Anchorage, AK.

He wanted to make a great life for his wife and three year old daughter.  And in just a few year years, he has gone from making beer boxes, to a dream job... with a dream paycheck to go along with it.

“There are no real words to describe it.  It’s quite a feeling to know that you made it.  That was a goal I set for myself a long time ago. And I finally made it.  And it's really exciting!”

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