5 Steps To Becoming A Better Oil Worker

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Robin Abrams
Robin Abramshttp://www.energyfin.com
Robin is an energy analyst and researcher for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

The jobs market is slowly turning

Compared to a year ago, oil prices are seeing some stability. This might be surprising to those who focus on media attention to the weekly ups and downs. Prices have have stayed within a range for months now. Employment opportunities remain sluggish in many parts of the world, but there are certainly some opportunities.

The oil and gas (O&G) industry is constantly evolving, creating positions for industry workers – both onshore and offshore – around the world. Many of the older generation of oil workers have now left the industry, resulting in a skills shortage in some specialisms. This potentially means higher pay and more job security for people who can adapt to fill these roles.

Now is the time to build skills and become a better oil worker. So how do you ensure that you’re on the path to rewarding roles, during a time of upheaval? We’ve outlined five ways below.

1) Get International Experience

Jobs are available in most parts of the world – including Texas, Alaska, North Dakota, Canada, Japan, Brazil, the Middle East and the African Coast – really anywhere there is oil and gas to be found.

Employees with international experience are valued in a globalised world. They’re seen as more versatile, with a better understanding of cultural and business norms, and more effective at developing global solutions. They’re also more likely to be viewed as independent, adaptable, tolerant and open-minded.

Just make sure that the extra skills you gain abroad will benefit the future companies that you work for. For example, some heavy equipment is used more extensively in remote locations. By spending time familiarising yourself with this work, you can be more valuable on similar projects back home.

2) Take A Training Program

A professional oil rig training course usually involves some practical field training and is an easy way to get an introduction to new equipment. The courses cover everything from entry level oil rig worker (where you can earn over $25/hour) to some pretty lucrative specialisations.

Large companies prefer to hire well-trained workers from trusted training partners. It also means you gain access to these companies if they are already listed as programme hiring partners. The industry is always recruiting.

Research online to find the training programs that prepare you for your next career step. If you have time after the course, contact companies in your local area to find out if they offer apprenticeships, internships or work placements. These add to the strength of your resume, especially through additional references.

3) Find Your Specialism

If you think you can get your next O&G job without any professional training, then you need to ask yourself which subjects you are already knowledgeable about. This could include hoisting and rigging safety, lifting operations, winching, HAZMAT materials management, pipe laying, well control or OSHA regulations.

You can then re-frame your experience towards well-paid employment.

4) Take A Less Desirable Job

It may sound strange, but in the UK, the less desirable jobs – such as sewer flushers or embalmers – are among the best paid. It may mean taking on an unpleasant or higher risk vocation, but some of these roles in O&G are worth thinking about.

A pipeline diver in the North Sea can earn £450/day while private contractors in a conflict zone earn an average of £90k/year.

5) Know Your Craft

There has always been a pretty clear career ladder in O&G operations – from roughneck or floor-hand to rig supervisor and driller. On the other hand, typical cubicle jobs in offices follow the same career ladder as any corporate.

In times of labour shortage, pay rises impact the entire employee chain. When a roustabout is given a raise, it feeds all the way to the top of the organisation.

By taking internal opportunities to develop, you can future-proof your skill-set and secure your position on the ladder.

How Far Can You Go?

Over 20 years ago, Johnathan Roberts started working on an oil rig. He earned $5 an hour. As operations manager of Standard Drilling (Norway), his pay increased to around half a million dollars per year.

Salaries on oil rigs soared in the last decade due to a global boom in offshore drilling. That may have stalled a little recently, but there’s still growth ahead. The trick is to find the right specialism to move into. We’re heading to a point where there will be an acute shortage of people with specific applied skills. In Asia especially, where the energy demands of booming economies are still driving expenditures in offshore drilling, the cost and availability of skilled workers will be a big restraining factor.

In the past decade, the epicentre of deepwater drilling has shifted from the Gulf of Mexico to Brazil, with untapped reserves in the Santos basin at depths of over 1,500 metres. That drive is sucking in rig operators, engineers, drillers and technicians. In other parts of the world, China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) is building capacity, while India expands into the Bay of Bengal.

Don’t be afraid to take a new opportunity. You never know how far you can go.



  1. I appreciate you talking about working in different states and countries throughout your career so that you become more valuable to your employers. My son is looking at working for some oil companies in the near future and we are trying to find out if this will be a good career choice for him. We will certainly pass this information over to him as he makes his decision to pursue this career.


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