Finding an Entry-Level Oil field Job

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Jason Lavis
Jason Lavis
Serial Energy Entrepreneur. Webmaster at Founder of Out of the Box Innovations Ltd. Co-Founder of Natural Resource Professionals Ltd. Traveller and Outdoorsman, Husband, Father. Technology/Internet Geek.

Finding an entry-level oil field job has been hard

During the recent crash, finding an entry-level oil field job has been more difficult than during usual times. This has certainly been the case for new industry entrants but has also affected people at all stages of their career. Many people with decades of experience have struggled to find suitable positions for their education, experience and skill set. We won’t go into the price details of the 2014-2018 oil crash here, as most will be aware.

It’s worth mentioning that the exploration and activity crash has been more pronounced than the oil price crash. It’s, of course, new drilling activity that filters through to job opportunities, regardless of the price of oil. Price and activity relationships can be complex.

What we saw during the recent crash, is that some job positions became very scarce, since they were least needed. For example, with exploration spend at the lowest levels for decades, an exploration geologist will be in less demand than a production geologist.

Stepping down the ladder…

A problem that affected a larger number of people, was the increase in the relocation of current staff, and the stepping down of job roles.

Rather than finishing a contract in a particular area while hiring in another, companies felt more obliged to relocate their current staff. This made it harder than usual to get your ‘foot in the door’ of a new company.

As the global workforce dropped by the hundreds of thousands, many workers were faced with a tough choice… Doing a lower level job that they did earlier in their career, or take a chance on whether they could find a similar position at all.

These factors made it extremely hard to find an entry level oil field job. In fact, entering the industry at any level became hard. Petroleum Engineers, Petrophysicists and similar degree bearing candidates found it hard to get back into the field at their recent level.

With ex-superintendents taking supervisor roles, senior drilling engineers taking drilling engineer assistant roles and so on, what happened at the bottom of the ladder? Income as a roustabout or floorhand might still be attractive to someone who had previously stepped up to driller, rather than facing unemployment.

Oil & gas job prospects are improving around the world

Now that profits are starting to flow, and drilling activity is starting to increase, now is a good time to publish a few guidelines on entering the oil field. On most rigs, the number of well paid, highly respected workers that ‘worked their way up from the bottom’ is not so different from those with graduate and postgraduate degrees.

If you’re the type of person that has the energy, character and mettle to be an oil field linchpin, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to prove it. If you can just get on the rig in the first place…

Here are a few tips to help you in your entry-level oil & gas job search

Remember that you’re not up against statistics or guidelines… You’re up against the other candidates for each position. The employment decisions are made by people, and as long as there’s no exclusion in the job advert that would deem you unqualified, you have a chance. Don’t bother applying for roles that ask for specific experience, certificates or education as you’ll be wasting everyone’s time. Even before applying, imagine how you’ll position yourself as the best person for the job.

There are a few jobs that don’t require any experience and are true entry-level jobs. For offshore work, a roustabout is truly an entry level. For land drilling, floorhand is a good entry level job choice. Bear in mind that while no experience is required, someone that does have experience might be a preferred choice by an employer. This is especially the case for offshore work that is more dangerous and has a higher drop-out rate for new entrants.

If you have work experience in a different industry that would be an asset in oil and gas, play on it. For example, there are many ex-military personnel that move to the oil and gas industry after they leave. There are lots of parallels, (e.g. excitement, adventure, camaraderie) and many skills cross over. If you were a mechanic, welder or medic, there might be a position waiting for you in the oil industry that’s above entry level.

If you’re prepared to relocate, finding an entry-level oil field job is a near certainty. Even during the recent crash, some areas still thrived. (For example, some of the US land-based shale and tight play areas that seemed to steam through most of it). Broaden your horizons globally and you’ll certainly find an entry-level job. You might need to think a couple of years down the line, as your initial assignment might not make total sense (especially to your family and friends).

Whatever your position, keep networking, volunteering and going the extra mile. It’s these people who end up working their way up the ladder. You can start with these skills even before you’ve got your first job in the oil industry. We have social media, local clubs and associations and industry meet-ups, exhibitions and events. Behave respectfully and don’t bug anyone for a job, and one day someone might offer you a better one than the one you have right now.

Another way of getting noticed by the people that count is to start working with them in a non-oilfield role. For example, you could work as a security guard or in the canteen, then wait for an opportunity to pitch people. It might be better to befriend them first before you ask a favor. It’s these tactile/soft skills that will keep you moving up the ladder later on.

Get any certification that is realistic to obtain. Don’t spend thousands on HUET training when you’re unemployed, but see what courses and certifications you can get. These will help your CV, and knowledge of the industry in general. Someone who made the effort to better themselves off their own back is likely to stand out among other non-qualified people.

Visit rigs and contact local recruiters in the areas where you see news reports of jobs being available. The majority of positions are advertised and applied for electronically. A bright-eyed go-getter approaching in person has a better chance of being noticed. Don’t travel too far, and visit every possibility, but a personal visit might be the key to unlock the door. Typing ‘entry level oil field jobs near me’ into the internet search bar won’t be helpful if you live in an area that’s far away from the action!

Search for, and set up job alerts only for roles that accept non-experienced people.

Here are a few to get you started:

  • Roustabout
  • Floorhand
  • Site Laborer
  • Roughneck
  • Well Service
  • Welders assistant
  • Mechanics helper

There are probably at least 20-30 of these ‘keywords’ that might lead you to your next oil field job.

Consider going back to school to get an industry-relevant educational qualification.

As with most industries, an entry-level position with an industry-relevant educational certificate makes a huge difference to the level you enter at. Most people who start a low-level job, with a plan to work their way up the ladder, soon discover that this can be very difficult.

Have you considered going back into education or training? Some courses can be done online, or in conjunction with a job. If you want to receive information about this, then fill in the form below:


How did we do? Can you think of any other advice to give to people looking to start their career in the oil field, or on the rigs? Extra suggestions in the comments section will be much appreciated!



  1. Is there a place or website to go on and get certain certifications that oil rig companies recognize, im brand new to this field and ive been trying to get my foot in the door sny kind of help would be great.
    Thanks sean

    • Hi Sean,

      The official qualifications are quite expensive, and don’t make sense unless you have a solid job offer.

      There are plenty of other options available, both in person and online. An industry person will recognise most credible courses.

      An example of some in person courses are by the Energy Institute (if you’re in the UK)

      Online courses can be found at Petroskills.

      Any independent efforts made by you to better yourself will help you stand out among other job applicants.

  2. Sir I just completed my BE marine engineering and i want to work in oilrig company as a roustaboat. Please guide me that my decision is good and what is the scope for improvement in this field.

    • Hi Ramashankar, I don’t think that anyone could tell you if you’re making the right decision, even people who know you very well. There are just too many variables involved, many of which will happen in the future. You just need to make the decision that seems like the best thing for you, right now, then live with it and see how it pans out. As far as scope for improvement is concerned, there are plenty of high-level executives and business owners in the oil and gas industry who started at the bottom of the ladder.

      • Hello sir
        I’m doing my bachelors degree in petroleum engineering in India

        How can I get a job as a reservoir engineer or drilling engineer after doing my bachelors

        Should I get a job as a roustabout or can I get opportunity to intern as a reservoir engineer or drilling engineer right after my graduation

        Please guide me I’ll be more than grateful to hear your message

        • Hi Syed, Usually, people either go down the academic route and enter at a higher level or start anywhere and work their way up. It’s a bit like military service, some enter at 16 after high school, others at 21 with a degree. The ones with a degree will often enter as an officer.

          After your degree, you should aim for an engineering position, only if you struggle to get work should you go lower. Much will depend on the state of the industry (boom or bust), as well as your local situation and if you’re prepared to relocate or migrate. Good luck.

          • Hi Syed, As always with specific questions with incomplete information the answer is “It depends”. Some drilling engineers started as a roustabout with no degree. Other petroleum engineers went from the degree straight into the role. A roustabout with 5-10 years of experience, AND a petroleum engineering degree would be very qualified. Probably better to take one step at a time though for now. Do the degree, or start to work in the oilfield. Pick one and see how it goes over the first few years.

  3. Sir,
    I passed M.Tech in manufacturing engineering. I would like to know the oppurtunities in the offshor drilling companies for a candidate like me.

    • Hi Aashish, we publish educational articles here at, but don’t offer personalised career advice. There are a lot of factors that would affect any advice given, in addition to your M.Tech qualification. You’re better off approaching a local careers advisor, or contact recruitment agencies and/or oil companies directly.

  4. Thank you sir, your article is quite educative. Graduated as a petroleum Engineer but still finding it difficult securing an entry level position in the oil field. Have a vision of contributing my quota in the oil and gas industry, need guidelines on how to switch in as a “roustabout or floorhand” for a start.

    • Hi Louis, If I were in your position, I’d be contacting the human resource departments of drilling and oil companies directly. During the recent downturn, there were plenty of people who took a step or two down the ladder to keep working. I bet that you could create a compelling letter that will be met with an understanding and empathic reply here and there. Good Luck!

  5. Dear,

    I want to transfer to Oil Rigs, problem is I dont have experience. My current job as an Officer of the watch on Tankers. Im trying for last 3 years to transfer to Oil rigs but no luck, so please do you have any advice?

    Best regards

    • Hi Karlo, we don’t really give personalised advice here at, and without knowing anything about you it would be impossible anyway.

      One thing that I can tell you is that you’ve been looking for an oil rig job at the worst possible time. The crash of 2014-17 was the worst since the 1980’s and hundreds of thousands of experienced people lost their jobs. The industry has been in recovery mode for the past six months or so, but it’s uneven in geography.

      My bet is that if you’d started searching right now, instead of in 2015, you’d find something fairly soon. Your challenge will be to trick your brain and act as if you’re fresh in your job search. Pretend that the failures of the past three years happened to someone else, not you. The failure to get a rig job was all about the market, not you. If you apply for jobs and go to interviews carrying three years of frustration it will go against you. Good luck!

  6. I like that you recommend taking courses and certification while you’re looking for a drilling job. This would be important to ensure you get the training you need to have the knowledge, skills, and other qualifications to do the work. In order to do this, you might want to consider what positions you’d like, such as crew leadership, so you can look online and figure out what drilling operations training and certificates to get.

  7. please sir am victor from Nigeria, an electrician but I really have passion of oil and gas job but I don’t have any experience, please help me with information on how to go because am really so passionate to work on the rig as a drilling, thanks.

    • Hi Victor, I don’t know about the local situation in Nigeria, but it would make sense to contact the oil companies there directly. If you have a government based careers advice service that’s also a good place to start. Depending on how much experience you have as an electrician, you can apply for electrician jobs at oil and gas companies. Getting a job on a rig crew is also a way in. (A rig crew is more of a manual position, and might be below your current job status). If anyone reading this has practical experience in Nigeria please add to the discussion.

  8. Hi jason.. i completed mechanical engineering now. should i apply for roustabout to get into oilfield or mechanic . which role has more opportunities ?

    • Hi Harris, there are probably more roustabouts than mechanics, not sure which there is more demand for in different states or countries. You should decide which is best suited to you, and go for that. If you’re in a hurry to get a job then apply for both positions when vacancies come up. You can always switch later.

  9. Hi Jason I m 31 year’s old.l don’t have any oil field experience. Now I m trying to get onshore roustbout job.there is any age issues

    • Hi Anu, 31 is a great age! It’s hard to imagine it being an impediment for many industries. It would go against you if you wanted to be a professional sportsperson (and weren’t one already). For most conventional jobs, including in the oilfield, 25-35 is probably a perfect balance of energy and wisdom.

  10. Sir i am BE mechanical engineer(2018 passed out) fresher. My dream is to become a successful person in oil&gas field. What i do sir. I am looking many companies career pages but it require experience. Please sir guide me. Please contact to my email. And also please tell me sir which company need fresher.
    And also which course i study sir QC Engineering or stcw please guide me sir

    • Hi Subash, the team at do not offer personalised career coaching services. By reaching out and making an effort you’re on the right track, you just need to keep going. Direct your attention more towards career advisors and/or companies that can offer you a job. Good luck.

  11. Jason, I am a veteran and hold a phase one and phase two certification for heavy equipment operation. Do oil field sites have heavy equipment operating positions? If so what is the job title of said position?

    • Hi Joshua, you’ll find different types of heavy equipment in the oilfield. It’s used to make, roads, pipelines and well pads among other things. Crane operator is a role that springs to mind. If you try some different Google searches such as ‘oil and gas heavy equipment operator’ you’ll find open job positions to take a look at. Good luck.

  12. Hi,

    I am a petroleum-exploration engineer from Iran. Unfortunately, since I graduated from my masters studies I have not been able to find related jobs in Iran, due to the economical sanctions and the national oil company being the only employer that has not been recruiting new fresher workforce during the past 5 years. Thus, I would like to leave Iran and find jobs elsewhere. US does not seem a viable option regarding the visa issues (though I am open to relocating to the US), and most employers require job experience in the oil fields. I am really in great need of a job. Please let me know if there are related jobs I can apply for around the world. It’s also possible for me to start with a very low-pay job (just enough to get by) and later work my way up. I am hard-worker and can stand tough workplace conditions.

    Fingers crossed for your good advice.


    • Hi Pouya, I’m sorry to hear about the challenging situation that you’re experiencing. The question that you ask is outside my area of knowledge. If I were in your situation, I would make a list of countries that allow Iranians to live and work there, or that have a friendly visa process. Make sure that they are oil producing nations of course. Then, you can contact company HR departments, and apply for jobs one by one. There are plenty of industry titans that started as roughnecks or similar positions. Good Luck.

  13. Hello all I am a driller/ trainer on a drilling rig. In North Dakota and we have been looking for hands like crazy. No shortage of openings here we have several rigs in Wyoming looking for help also, so not to delimish your standings but we need help. Ensign. Com usa.

    • Hi Doug, thanks for adding the comment giving direction to readers who might follow up with you. Please comment again with the best email address and/or phone number. This article gets hundreds of views every month, so hopefully, some good people will come your way.

  14. Hello,I got a safety engineering certification from Dubai in 2017 but its been a challenge finding safety jobs in the oilfield and yet I know its a big requirement in an oilfield and also not much is spoken about it as a career in an oilfield. Why is that?You talk about roustabout and floorhand and so forth but not an HSE officer or safety engineer.
    I know its drilkers .com but please enlighten me.thank you

    • It’s difficult for me to comment on an individual person’s situation, who has dealt with companies that I don’t know about, in countries that I don’t have experience of. Having a specific certificate is only one factor, among dozens. It’s possible to enter the industry at different levels, but when we say entry-level, usually this means no industry experience or qualifications. HSE officers and safety engineers tend to have qualifications and/or experience. If you’re having a challenge getting work, you should ask the people who interview you or local recruitment specialists. If you get rejected, you can ask why in a professional and polite manner. You could say something like “Thanks for letting me know that I wasn’t successful. Please, could you give me an idea of what I need to do to be a better candidate in the future?”

  15. hello sir, i am a graduate in mechanical engineering from india, i want to enter in O&G sector and i have an option of working for a contractor which takes project from some major companies like ongc. what i am not sure about is my career growth from there as i gain experience over the years and if that experience is valuable in the eyes of major companies, if yes how many years of experience before i can start making moves? thank you.

    • Hi Trilok, These are hard questions because it all depends on future events, and your own opinions of what is right at these future times. You should look at each opportunity on its own merits at the decision times. There are pros and cons of working for contractors and operators. Some of the differences are simply a matter of preference. Don’t write anything off, and shut any doors but keep options open when job hunting. As for how long to stay before making moves, this is also individual and subjective. Just make the best decision you can, one decision at a time, with the information you have available. Good luck.

  16. I’ve been working in Oil & Gas in an onshore Engineering role in for the past five years (North Sea). I’m struggling to find position now and have been looking for a job for last 13 months. I used to work with Service companies in Metering/Instrumentation area who were trying like hell to keep me in office due to my strong IT and calculation skills, so I only been offshore couple of times. Now I’m rejected because I either don’t possess enough offshore experience, which nobody wanted to provide for in the first place. Even if I’m applying for onshore position the require extensive offshore experience. If I’m applying with operators I get rejected because I have never work directly in Operator environment. There are plenty of openings.

  17. Hi, I just finished my university degree in petroleum engineering, My goal is to secure a job in drilling operations on rig aiming to be a drilling supervisor in future. I am already preparing for IWCF supervisor level and it is going well, and of course since i just graduated it means i have zero experience so i need to jump through ranks, well IWCF help me to secure a job in oil rig, and what kind of job is available since i know i cant jump straight to be drilling supervisor.

    • Hi Noori, well done on finishing the degree. We don’t give personal career coaching, and I don’t know enough about your circumstances. If I were you, I’d look at job vacancies, and the job advert itself will tell you what the employer is looking for. You’ll see right away if you’re automatically disqualified (EG 5 years rig experience). Then, apply for the oil and gas jobs that you think you’d like to do, and have a shot at getting chosen for. Some newly qualified petroleum engineers get excellent jobs as drilling engineers, others have to step down a little bit and might get assistant or technician roles. A lot depends on the competition for a particular vacancy. Good luck.

  18. Hello, I finished my master degree in Management in Mining in 2005 . I dont have any job experience. What kind of jobs can I get without experience?
    Thank you

    • Without any background information, it’s hard to say what to advise. The best thing to do is look at all the vacancies that interest you, and then see what qualifications and experience are needed. The more you search and learn, the closer you’ll get to the best career that’s suited for you personally.

  19. Compared to previous Oil crashes in the past decade, when would oil and gas companies start hiring? Via price per barrel.

    • During any downturn, companies continue to hire, its just that the number of new jobs created is smaller than the number of jobs lost. A little like birth and death rates affecting population numbers. Other than that, the answer to your question tends to be local or regional. Oh, also future patterns are often opposite to what I or anyone else predict.

  20. Hello Sir, I just finished my Bachelor Degree of Petroleum Engineering. And I got an offer from my relative to become a Roustabout position. Is it advisable for a petroleum engineering graduate to work as a roustabout? How about the chance for my future career if i accept this offer? Thanks

  21. I m mechanical engineer wants to start a career in india .can to tell some good companies who hires entry level post


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