Finding information on entry-level oil and gas (O&G) jobs is hard. Search engines can take you in circles, most listings require 5-10 years of experience and, as you search, you begin to wonder if the right information just isn’t out there. So how do you end up with a satisfying O&G career without knowing where to start?
A Changing Global Industry
The energy industry is at a crossroads. The sector is changing. Seasoned workers are gearing up to retire, just as exploration projects are becoming more challenging. Working in oil doesn’t mean you have to sleep on offshore rigs. O&G entry-level jobs are varied and can include: delivering machine parts, working on a rig, installing pipelines or running a truck. You could be working in anything from conceptual design to decommissioning.
Work-life balance has been prioritised across the larger companies. The harder the work, the more likely you will be to get long breaks or leave early – two weeks on a rig is usually accompanied by two weeks off! There are also opportunities for global travel – Houston, Perth and Abu Dhabi are E&P hotspots and opportunities are opening up in Mexico, Mozambique, Singapore, Nigeria and Russia. The attractive pay doesn’t hurt either.
Entry Level Roles
Many roles don’t need special education – the skills can be learned on the job. This is especially true for operational roles, where workers start as “green hands” with the aim to work their way up as they learn. It is also worth noting that the O&G industry is a meshwork of hundreds of contractors and sub-contractors, with different types of work split between specialists. Everything from pipe installation to cleaning can be contracted separately – and every area needs entry-level workers who can “start at ground zero” and learn fast.
There are two things to bear in mind. 1) As the jobs don’t require special education, there is rarely a shortage of available labour. This means that companies are less likely to advertise, or only advertise locally. People can walk in off the street and submit a resume. It is also common for new employees to come via recommendations. 2) The roles are usually filled through third-party recruiting firms. This is why you don’t see many entry-level jobs on the BP website. The O&G companies outsource hiring decisions to trusted partners.
Here is our two-step guide for finding entry-level O&G jobs:
1. Decide in which part of the world you want to work. This takes a little research, and some flexibility – entry-level roles may require that you move country. After all, the money won’t come to you (sadly). If you’re based in the US, North Dakota and Texas are the two top destinations. If you’re in Canada, then choose Alberta – where oil sands hold the 2nd largest oil reserves on the planet. In the UK, choose the North Sea. Make a list of all the cities in this country, state or province.
2. Check out classified/jobs websites with geographical listings (e.g. Careercast or Monster.com). Also, check what local media is available. Each city in your list will have local newspapers and radio stations, which can be found on Wikipedia. Their websites are a rich source of local information. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t see a relevant O&G role. Remember that most entry-level roles won’t be posted. Make a list of all related companies which are hiring and get in touch directly with HR (phone or email). The recruiters usually have a good idea what is coming through the jobs pipeline and where you could fit in, especially at the entry-level. They can also point you towards the company’s hiring partners.
Get The Right Certificates
Study courses in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) can be useful as a recruitment tool, to help you get your foot in the door. Qualifications in mathematics, physics, geology and engineering (chemical, petroleum, mechanical, electrical and environmental) are common in the industry.
However, the quickest way to secure an O&G role is by completing a specific practical certificate, such as an oil rig training program. These are designed to supply HR and recruiters with a supply of certified employees, ready to work in the oil patch. Bear in mind that many of these are expensive and you need to consider the debt trade-off. The courses are generally only worthwhile if recruitment partners are already in place.
Also, don’t forget the minimum requirements. As a rule of thumb, prospective employees require a clean driver’s license. They also need you to pass a drugs test and a physical which, while nowhere near military standards, can still be challenging.
The Prince’s Trust ‘Get Into’ Oil and Gas resources and OPITO, the skills organisation, are useful sources of information on the certifications available.
A Little Experience Goes A Long Way
Some experience can also give you a feel for the industry. Most major O&G operators (e.g. Chevron, Shell, Total) run taster schemes to give people a sense of what working in the sector is like.
A month of work experience in the industry or an internship is a great way to build up contacts and relationships. Bear in mind that large companies have constant job openings which need filling, and there is no substitute for proving your worth on the job. Apprenticeships have also become more common.
The Perfect Employee
Typical O&G job adverts usually list a set of desired skills and personality traits, including problem-solving, creativity, analytical skills, organisation, self-motivation and adaptability.
Just remember to sell yourself to the employer – tailor your CV, network at industry events and develop your market knowledge. Your O&G dream job is closer than you think.
Robin is an energy analyst and researcher for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.