How to build a career in the oil industry

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Careers in the oil industry are highly diverse and incorporate a wide variety of skill levels and educational requirements. The industry is appealing to both graduates looking to start their careers as well as seasoned employees looking for a career change.

With the recent dip in oil prices, you may be wary of starting a career in such a volatile sector. However, the long-term outlook for careers in this field is strong. The world will continue to have high energy requirements, and companies will look to expand with new talent once the oil prices pick back up.

For the foreseeable future, there will always be a high demand for workers ranging from engineers and project managers to offshore technicians and environmental consultants. There are endless ways to build your career in oil and gas. You may choose an entry level position to start, or you may actually begin your career by choosing a degree program at an affiliated college.

Opportunities Available in the Oil Industry

There are numerous career paths that you may choose within the oil industry. Depending on your interests, education level and location, the opportunities are endless.

  • Technicians and Entry-Level Positions

Many people begin their oil careers through an entry level technical position in a machine shop or offshore setting. Many of these positions do not require a full four-year college degree, and some may not require any education at all. The available positions may include mechanics, drafters, welders, crane operators, field hands, electricians, and even cooks and housekeepers. That’s just naming a few. Depending on the exact position, a certificate or a two-year degree may be required to strengthen your job application.

  • Engineering

As with most industries, college graduates typically earn the most money and have the most opportunities when it comes to future career paths. In the oil industry, engineers are highly sought out and well compensated. Almost every type of engineer can find a home in the oil industry although the most common types include mechanical, electrical, civil and chemical.

  • Planning/Sales/Project Management

While the technical side of the oil industry will always be high profile, there is a whole other side to the sector that often gets overlooked. The business side of all oil companies is brimming with project managers, planning specialists, and sales teams. Every single job completed offshore is the result of years of careful planning, design, budgeting and business analysis. If you are looking to build a career in any of these fields, the oil industry will have a place for you.

How to Get your Foot in the Door

Sometimes getting your foot in the door is the hardest part of starting a profitable career. The ease of finding that first job in the oil industry will rely on the strength of the market at the time of application. If oil prices are high, you may not have any trouble finding an available position to apply for. However, if the oil prices are low or the industry is struggling you may have to work a little harder. Either way, there are several things that you can do in advance to both help find open positions and market yourself to recruiters and hiring managers.

  • Consider all Options

The oil industry consists of much more than only the major operators such as Exxon or Chevron. There are also numerous service providers that perform research and work both onshore and offshore for the major operators. These companies range from small to large and are often looking to expand. Consider applying for an apprenticeship or internship to get valuable experience and build your resume. Be open to the possibility of temporary or permanent relocation in order to land your dream job. The majority of major oil companies will be found along the coast. You may even consider relocating to a country outside the United States (or wherever your home country is). The key is to keep all options on the table and be flexible. Once you get your foot in the door and build experience, you will be able to narrow your choices.

  • Networking

It isn’t always what you know, but who you know. If you are serious about building your career in the oil industry, you should start networking right away. Find local and national professional organizations or groups to join. Get involved online. Stay up on the current events and news. Talk with friends and neighbors. Often, amazing opportunities will pop up within the varying networks specifically available for members. You will miss out on all of them if you aren’t involved. Your chances of finding an open position to apply for greatly increase with networking.

  • Market Yourself

When you are ready to start applying for jobs in the oil industry, you have to make yourself stand out from the competition. Build a powerful resume and cover letter, brush up on your interviewing techniques, and present yourself in a professional manner. You have invested the time, energy and money in preparing for your career. Now it is time to market yourself and seal the deal.

If you choose to build your career in the oil industry, get ready for a wild ride. As with any job, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. Careers in the oil industry can be challenging and rewarding with numerous opportunities for advancement.



  1. My uncle and his friends expressed their interest in starting an oil company. His friends have been studying the market and the process, while my uncle has been looking at ways to succeed in that kind of business. It appears that they should be able to join local and international groups in any way, may it be online or not to have a wide network or connections. I might have to share this with him later. Thanks!


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