How To Start In Oil and Gas When You Don’t Have Experience

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Robin Abrams
Robin Abrams
Robin is an energy analyst and researcher for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

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 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.

Go To College Or University

Consider going back to school to get an industry preferred educational qualification.

A start position when you have an industry-relevant educational qualification makes a difference to the level you enter at. Most people who start an entry-level job, with a plan to work their way up the ladder, soon discover that this can be challenging.

We mentioned industry certifications, but have you considered going back into education or formal 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:

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.



  1. What about north sea?i have BOSIET MIST and OGUK medical.will do banksman and slinger certificate.i have no experience but realy want to work there!could you tell me what certificates is better to have and which companies would hire sameone like me.

    • Hi Darius, as you know, some of these courses and certificates are expensive and I don’t see any reason for taking any more unless you have a job offer. In the recent downturn, I knew people that were in a situation where they were applying for jobs but didn’t want to renew their certificates unless they had an offer. These were people with ten or twenty years in the industry.

      The first step would be to contact HR departments and recruiters of rig crews. Email and telephone all that you find. (Use Aberdeen business directories and Google). You’ll soon be pointed in the right direction. I don’t keep up to date on vacancies for rig crews. Your current certification is definitely an advantage. Cheers.

      • Hi there I’m a uk qualified plumber. I’ve always been interested in getting into the oil and gas industry since I saw I’m my first college text book a progression scale for a plumber ultimately being able to work on a oil rig. How can I find information or convert my skills so I could pursue a career in the oil and gas industry?
        Thanks Josh Leadbetter

        • Hi Joshua, every role has its own required skill set and hiring requirements. If you’re a qualified plumber, why not apply for plumbing vacancies with oil and gas companies? That seems most logical. Once you’re already working in the industry, you’ll find avenues for movement. Compared to the other choices (taking an unskilled role, or going back to college) it makes sense to use your plumbing qualifications.

        • What are my chances of getting a job with a bachelors in Geology/Physics and a masters in Environmental Pollution Control, and 6 years without relevant work experience? Thank you.

          • Hi Judith, there are plenty of people at high-level positions in the industry that started as manual positions with no qualifications at all. A degree in Geology is relevant, as is the master’s degree in an HSE-related course. The six years of different work experience would be less desirable than a candidate whos been doing a similar role as the job being applied for, but plenty fo people change careers nowadays.

    • There are hundreds of online courses related to the oil and gas industry. Some are official qualifications, some are created by industry focussed organisations, and others are created by experienced professionals. Even the unofficial ones will give you extra knowledge and improve your resume/CV. I couldn’t list them all here, but can refer you to my friend Mr Google!

  2. Could you please recommend 2-3 sites that we can get courses with official qualifications and what kind of courses do you think are more essential for a recently graduate student who wants to work as a petroleum or reservoir engineer?
    Thank you very much.

  3. I am from Ukraine, and I graduated from the institute of oil and gas, but I have no experience, do you think it will be hard to find work in large companies?

    • Hi Roman, Companies of all sizes hire employees of all levels of experience. You didn’t say how old you are, what you studied etc. The main answer is that for each job vacancy, you’re up against the competition. Your resume will be compared to all the other applicants. This is the most important criteria, and impossible to speculate on as every job is different, and attracts a different set of candidates. Being from Ukraine isn’t a disadvantage as the oil and gas industry is very open to all nationalities. Good luck.

  4. Hi, Jason I’m from Ireland and I have been trying to find out, how does one go about getting work in the oil and gas industry. I have no experience or training. So we’re do I start. I have been looking at Aberdeen and Clyed trading solutions in Glasgow, they do the BOIET certificate I understand you need to work on the oil rigs. Do I need any type of training to start or would I be better of applying for apprenticeship.

    • Hi Dylan, I guess that in theory, it’s possible that an interviewer would be impressed that you already put yourself through some certifications. I would recommend against it though, certifications are expensive, and expire over time. I’ve known experienced consultants that had expired certificates, and would only renew them if they had a definite job. For employed positions, it’s likely that your company would pay for the courses. It makes the most sense to go directly for job and apprenticeship vacancies and simply follow what each potential employer requires of you.

  5. I am an electrical technician with 7 years experience and my career objective is to work hard to achieve more technical experience to solve real filed technical problems. I will be very happy and committed if an opportunity is given to me.

  6. I have a degree in business and law and graduate work as well. I’m 42 and would like to get into OIl and Gas. Where should I start ? I’m in Dallas Tx but want to travel if that’s where the money is.

    • Hi Anthony, I’d start by keeping an eye on job vacancies. You’ll soon see what you’re qualified for, what you’d like to do, and if you need to study to get new qualifications. There’s no substitute for research and just starting the journey. I can’t think of any hacks or shortcuts to get you where you want to be any quicker. Good luck.

  7. Hi Jason
    I have NDT/ Rope access level 1 certification but have no experience. Am from Nigerian…can I get a job aside from my country with those certification?

    • Hi John, there’s no reason why not, although I don’t have experience or knowledge in your situation. If you decided that you wanted to join the oil and gas industry, and didn’t mind which job or country served as your first post, then for sure you will be able to.

  8. Hi Jason,

    I hold a master’s degree in chemical engineering with a concentration in Petroleum. I have a 7 yrs experience not related to oil and gas industry, I want to get a new experience in the oil and gas industry. where do I have to start? I am ready to start as an entry-level to step in. Can you provide me with a link or a tip about what is the best move I can do in Canada to get this chance? thank you

    • How oil and gas well is drilled step by step guide
      How Rotary Drilling rig systems work-A complete Guide
      Fire safety Master course: The secrets of fire safety
      H2S safety-Hydrogen sulfide A silent killer of rig workers

      Are online courses, you can search in google. I have taken couple of courses as well, instructor is very experience and respond for your queries as well. these Online courses provide pure practical approach as done on drilling rig, highly recommended.

  9. If you were trying to get your foot in the industry, any tips where to start/steps to follow? I’ve done job fairs where thousands of people show up and recruiters seem to always refer you back to apply on the website. I reside in Houston, TX.

    • Hi Hernan, At a job fair, recruiters are overwhelmed and re-directing you to apply through the website makes sense. The oil and gas industry isn’t any different from other industries, where there are multiple ways to find work. Search job websites, ask friends and family to connect you and call HR departments directly. Do everything you can think of to get work. There’s no magic bullet, unfortunately.

  10. Hi jason, am really interested in this but i have no one to stand or put me through. I want to work in an oil and gas company but have no experience pls help me. Alheri danladi is my name from Nigeria thank you.

  11. Actually am from nigeria ,and I will love to work in am oil and gas company.can u please help me for that.
    I don’t have any experience in it and I’m a 0,level I never study geology,physics..but I need a job in an o&g company

  12. I am a studying a industrial and production engineering course in Nigeria. I have a prospect of becoming a project manager in Oil and Gas sector. Does my course of study relates to oil and gas?

    • Yes Brain, its a related course. Any STEM subjects can lead to a career in oil & gas. Actually, some people work their way up in the industry with no related educational qualifications at all.

  13. I’m a fresh graduate with a BSC Industrial Chemistry and I’ve decided to join the oil & gas industry so I complete IWCF Level 1 Drilling Certification course and I’m planning on adding a HSE Level 1 & 2 certificate for a start. Do you think this is a good starting point. And also I know you’ll probably recommend using Google to search for sites to get online certification in any oil & gas related field but I find that the results are always not helpful so I would want you to recommend at least three you know would give a certificate. And lastly is my course of study relevant in the O&G Industry?

    • Hi Zapah, I would go down the route of finding a job, and then make it clear that I want to progress up the ladder, based on hard work and experience. Then my company would pay for that training that they require me to have. I wouldn’t want to start collecting qualifications without a job, or a solid offer since these certificates are expensive and alone won’t guarantee work.

  14. Hi,
    I am from India and have gone through your post. I have a query.
    I have completed my B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering, M.Tech in Petroleum Engineering and I am a fresher, who is actively look for job. But not getting it till now as most of the oil and gas company wants experienced person and certified person.

    Can you please let me know which are the certified courses I should do, so that I get a upper hand?

  15. Hi,

    I’m a military officer over 35 but without a STEM degree. I probably have 2-4 years left in the military to pick up educational qualifications in my free time, though obviously little opportunity to engage practically with the industry. Would you recommend getting technical certifications or moving forward with an online degree more suited to the industry? Something else? Thanks!

    • Hi Justin, most technical qualifications are fairly expensive, and have expiration dates. Companies pay for them, or consultants pay for their own if they have a solid job offer. If you have the time and inclination, an online degree would be my choice.

  16. I have completed my graduation in petroleum engineering but I can’t get a job in oil field. I tried for a job more than one year of time but still I can’t got a job in oil what can I do how can I make my future brightly?

  17. I am a prospective student currently working towards an associates in Petroleum Technology. I just want to know what the outlook is for jobs and wether or not my certificate in carpentry or hvac has any implications on my employability.

  18. Hi!
    I’v completed my under-graduation in Mechanical Engineering. I have joined for my Masters MSc. degree in Oil and Gas management in the UK. What are the available options for me when I complete my course of study next year? How do I approach companies?

  19. Hi am paulus I like to get certificate on drill,oil &gas
    I have knolege on Desel macanlc I can open & close any engine
    I am in Sauth Africa I did work at Mining industry at engineering fixing:Driill machene be L6 drill, Thopo hamar drill as macanic I be need halph how can prove my skill. No certificate by no job

  20. Please i will like to work as an oil and gas industry engineer, but I need someone that can sponsor me for it,
    Please can anyone help me out please….

  21. Please I am a freelance creative writer and Ghost writer, I am currently working on a story which has tropes in Petroleum and travels. Basically the female lead is a Petroleum freelance advisor while the male lead is a merchant banker.
    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated pls

  22. please help me. I need a job in the oil and gas industry.
    I have a bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in Petroleum Engineering. but haven’t been a able to get any tangible experience in the oil and gas industry.
    I would like a oil field job that can give me hands on experience.

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