Money: How to get work on the rigs

 
“Opportunity is missed by most men because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work” – Thomas Edison
 
 
Are you tired of the 9-5 grind? Do you want to break free from the office confines and embark on a path of travel, adventure, freedom and truck loads of money? Then a career in oil and gas may be just what the doctor ordered!

Like myself, a lot of people see the benefits and upside of such an occupation. While it isn’t complete and utter passive income, it does offer 6 months a year off, with an average income north of 100k a year, as well as an ever-changing job scene. A man may find himself one year in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, the next in the cold climes of the Rocky mountains, the next in the jungles of The Congo, if he so desires.

For most people, this kind of adventure and freedom is a step in the right direction, and a good place to begin moving away from the rat race towards freedom and prosperity.

Before I managed to get on the rigs and get my start, I encountered endless nonsense scams online, with people claiming they had contacts, claiming they could provide training courses, and claiming they could make the right introductions, all for a sign up fee of just several hundred dollars.

These types of scam are a major pet hate of mine, and my aim is to simplify, cut through and condense the endless nonsense into one free, easy to read article, saving the people who make this website possible (you) countless hours of stress and lost dollars.

So here we go.

First of all, oil and gas is a major industry and it isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. Let the greens yell, scream and picket, but I guarantee you there won’t be a jet plane from New York to London run by solar power anytime this century, and if there is, I for one won’t be on it.

While it may have a dubious reputation,  a lot of it is undeserved and when you actually begin to work on the rigs you’ll find stringent safety rules, strict environmental regulations, and a bunch of mostly good old family guys just doing a days work to feed their wives and children (apart from the odd rogue hell-bent on drinking as much Jack Daniels and porking as many hookers as he can before dropping dead at 40, but you can find them in any industry). The bogey man reputation oil and gas has is largely undeserved.

Secondly, there are actually too many jobs to mention, so we’ll focus on the main ones. A rig is a mini-economy, with everything from cooks to cleaners to drivers and maintenance men supporting the main crew. Assuming you don’t want to cook and clean, let’s focus on the actual rig jobs related to energy production itself and not support. If you find on that suits you then you may just be on the way to more money, more time off and a kick ass, adventurous lifestyle!

1) Drillers – These are the guys who make the magic happen. They take a massive, unthinkably long drill and slowly but surely penetrate around 5-6km into the ground through everything from sand to clay to rocks. They don’t sweat too much as there’s very little physical labour involved, but they have a huge responsibility on their shoulders as the whole operation depends on their attention, focus and ability to deliver. They also make a huge paycheck, and a mid-level driller with 3 to 5 years experience will take home 120-150k per year. For those willing to go further afield to more “dangerous” locations like Africa or the Middle East, you can safely double that figure.

2) Mud engineers – you can’t just stick a big old drill in the ground with a $50,000 drill-bit on the end and start penetrating rock. That’s why the clever chaps who run the oil and gas industry figured out that a smart way to save money and stabilise operations would be to create some form of lubricant which aids drilling and stabilise the formation. Mud engineers are responsible for creating this fluid, and believe me, they are high in demand!

This job takes brains and knowledge of chemistry. You can either get a degree in chemistry and get picked up for job training by a big company such as MI-SWACO, or you can attend a private mud school, and for a reasonable investment get the qualification you need to get your start. Mud engineers can easily make 80-100k a year, and for the brave hearts willing to go abroad, again you can double that figure with time. 6 months a year off aint half bad either!

3) Solids Control – all that rock and sand and dirt has to go somewhere, and the rig crew want it OUT of their precious drilling fluid so they can re-use it (drilling fluid can cost several thousand dollars per day). Enter the solids control guys. They process the fluids and get all the junk out of it, returning a refined product to the rig for re-use down hole.

This job requires no formal education and can be learnt by almost anyone. In the US, a solids control operator can make around 50k-70k a year, again doubling it if he goes abroad. For he who sticks at it long enough to become an operations manager, 150-200k is possible.

The only downside of this job is its dirty old work, and as most solids control companies are service companies, the schedule can be a tad unstable. I know all about this one as its my job.

4) HSE- Health, Safety and Environment guys have what looks to me like the easiest job on the rig. I’ve never seen one of them wear dirty coveralls, and they mostly just sign off on permits to work for others, checking that the work environment is safe and all personnel are complying with health and safety standards.

H.S.E. Guys will make 50-100k a year and are guaranteed that 6 months off as they’re part of the rig crew therefore  have to have a balanced schedule. If you like helping others and are safety conscious, this may be the job for you. Also, since they are required on every rig in existence, there’s a pretty high demand for these guys!

5) Tradesmen – Welders, plumbers, sparks and construction guys, all are needed to make a rig run smoothly. If you have a trade and some decent experience, making the transition to rig life could give you a lot of time off, double your money or more, and an adventurous, ever-changing lifestyle. Depending on the trade the money will vary, but a skilled tradesman with solid experience won’t take less than 100k home in a year.

6) Roughneck\Roustabouts – If you’ve got nothing to offer to begin with but strength and determination, this could be your way in.

This is probably the toughest job on the rig, and you will work your ass off to earn your stripes. These guys do everything from painting to cleaning floors to lifting bags of cement to changing drill string during connections. This is the sweat and grind of a drilling operation, and to these guys I give major respect.

The good news is, if you’re switched on, determined, show up on time and have the endurance, you’ll quickly move up the ladder and a rough neck with brains can go to the very top over time.

Starting money should be decent, $100 a day or so is common and before long, with a few extra courses and some experience you’ll be on the way up.

Add into this that all of your food and accommodation is paid for the time you’re working, and you can’t really spend anything as you’ll likely be working in a remote location, and you have a recipe for a rapidly growing bank balance!

How To Get Started:

A good place to begin is on www.rigzone.com or www.oilandgasjobsearch.com . Both will give you an overview of the positions available and the various courses you can do to get into the game. Don’t get overwhelmed. There’s a lot of information out there, but learn a little at a time and you’ll soon be ready to make an informed decision.

There are really many other jobs on the rig. Materials, logistics and supply, chefs, warehouse-men, medics, painters and project managers, everyone who really wants to work on an oil rig will find something to suit his personality.

Before making your decision though, you should know that It isn’t for everyone. This is also an extremely tough lifestyle mentally and physically. You’ll experience long periods away from family, friends and comforts. You’ll feel lonely, and the routine can often feel like prison. But for the discipline lover like me, this can be an added advantage.

As always, no-one ever said “making it” was easy. For those who can hack the pace and the schedule, rig life is about as good as it gets while working for someone else. If you’re smart with your money, there’s no reason why you can’t have half a million or more banked in ten years, as well as all that time off to travel or spend jet-skiing in the Philippines, diving with great whites in South Africa or chilling in a hammock in Jamaica. It’s all up to you!

If ten years sounds like too long to build a solid career and abundant wealth, consider this: ten years time is coming whether you’ve made it by then or not. You are the only one who can decide how your life ends up. Becoming an iron warrior isn’t for everyone, but for he who has the grit, this is a real life way out of the 9-5 system, and a life of abundant time and money awaits!

Desire. Decide. Persist.

G-Freedom

26 Comments

  1. A great article. I have a question, though. How can you get a job as a roustabout if you have no experience? I'm looking at some open positions for roustabouts some companies have open, and pretty much all of them say that 1 year of experience is required.

    Thanks,

    Sam

  2. A great article. I have a question, though. How can you get a job as a roustabout if you have no experience? I'm looking at some open positions for roustabouts some companies have open, and pretty much all of them say that 1 year of experience is required.

    Thanks,

    Sam

  3. Sam,

    It isn't easy, I don't wanna lie to you. A lot of the times you just have to know someone to get in as a roustabout. You're much better off doing a specific course and specializing (such as mud engineering). This makes life much easier to get in with one of the big companies. Also, roustabouts work twice as hard exposed to 10x the danger for half the pay everyone else does.

  4. Sam,

    It isn't easy, I don't wanna lie to you. A lot of the times you just have to know someone to get in as a roustabout. You're much better off doing a specific course and specializing (such as mud engineering). This makes life much easier to get in with one of the big companies. Also, roustabouts work twice as hard exposed to 10x the danger for half the pay everyone else does.

  5. Do a lot of these guys have degrees? Are the specialized courses offered by universities, or the companies? Anything for drillers?

    What are the sort of hours that one would be working? The dangers you keep mentioning, what are they? Also, just how fit does one have to be? Deadlifting 500 pounds, or just pretty fit?

    Finally, you say that the drillers don't do much physical labor, but what do they do? Is it controlled by a computer now, or do they still feed it by hand?

  6. Do a lot of these guys have degrees? Are the specialized courses offered by universities, or the companies? Anything for drillers?

    What are the sort of hours that one would be working? The dangers you keep mentioning, what are they? Also, just how fit does one have to be? Deadlifting 500 pounds, or just pretty fit?

    Finally, you say that the drillers don't do much physical labor, but what do they do? Is it controlled by a computer now, or do they still feed it by hand?

  7. John,

    Degress are needed in some countries but not all. More and more people have them but they still arent necessary so to speak.

    12 hours a day, for 21-28 days straight no days off. This is balanced by having 21-28 days off. One needs to be reasonably fit, but not an athlete by any means.

    Drillers operate in an air conditioned pod and use controls to operate the drill. The roughnecks do all the physical work, then work their way up to being a driller through time.

  8. John,

    Degress are needed in some countries but not all. More and more people have them but they still arent necessary so to speak.

    12 hours a day, for 21-28 days straight no days off. This is balanced by having 21-28 days off. One needs to be reasonably fit, but not an athlete by any means.

    Drillers operate in an air conditioned pod and use controls to operate the drill. The roughnecks do all the physical work, then work their way up to being a driller through time.

  9. Things are getting a little tight around Australia right now. Cost of extraction here is pretty high compared to some countries so everybody is bunkering in to weather the storm. I reckon things should pick u again by this time next year.

    Are you a mud logger by trade?

  10. Things are getting a little tight around Australia right now. Cost of extraction here is pretty high compared to some countries so everybody is bunkering in to weather the storm. I reckon things should pick u again by this time next year.

    Are you a mud logger by trade?

  11. I have about 7 months experience as a mud logger.

    Never worked offshore though.

    Hiring freeze is going on right in my region.

    Ya got an email address, mate?

  12. I have about 7 months experience as a mud logger.

    Never worked offshore though.

    Hiring freeze is going on right in my region.

    Ya got an email address, mate?

  13. Great Article, thanks. I'm an apprentice sparky from Canada, and I've had my eye on our oilpatch as soon as I've got enough skills, but there have been thousands of layoffs since oil has dropped. But boom and bust as the story always goes.

    Offshore sounds like some very interesting work. Do you know much about electrical ops on the rig? What's the usual complement for a rigs electrical staff? I guess most of their work would be PLCs and maybe some high voltage work. Lots of monitoring but things could get real hairy in an emergency, I imagine.

  14. Great Article, thanks. I'm an apprentice sparky from Canada, and I've had my eye on our oilpatch as soon as I've got enough skills, but there have been thousands of layoffs since oil has dropped. But boom and bust as the story always goes.

    Offshore sounds like some very interesting work. Do you know much about electrical ops on the rig? What's the usual complement for a rigs electrical staff? I guess most of their work would be PLCs and maybe some high voltage work. Lots of monitoring but things could get real hairy in an emergency, I imagine.

  15. I know a couple of the sparky guys offshore on my rig.

    Most of the work is as you say, routine maintenance and replacing little spare parts. They also do a lot of lockout/tagout which means they isolate gear which needs to be worked on so it can't start while someone is using tools on it.

    LOTS of money to be made. I say go for it. Don't worry about the bust, it will boom again soon enough. Just work on your skills and keep getting better!

  16. I know a couple of the sparky guys offshore on my rig.

    Most of the work is as you say, routine maintenance and replacing little spare parts. They also do a lot of lockout/tagout which means they isolate gear which needs to be worked on so it can't start while someone is using tools on it.

    LOTS of money to be made. I say go for it. Don't worry about the bust, it will boom again soon enough. Just work on your skills and keep getting better!

  17. I'll soon finish my bachelor in Physics. I fancied getting into the oil business and therefore wanted to do a Master degree in Applied Geophysics. Do you have any kind of insight into that area?
    Out of curiosity I was looking for job offers on the websites you posted and they all require a great amount of work experience. Is it really that hard to find a job as a beginner?
    I wouldn't know what else to do really.

  18. I'll soon finish my bachelor in Physics. I fancied getting into the oil business and therefore wanted to do a Master degree in Applied Geophysics. Do you have any kind of insight into that area?
    Out of curiosity I was looking for job offers on the websites you posted and they all require a great amount of work experience. Is it really that hard to find a job as a beginner?
    I wouldn't know what else to do really.

  19. It really is a catch 22 situation and I never know what to tell guys who ask.

    You need experience to get work but you need work to get experience. My advice is start with day labour agencies if you can't find a permanent position, and if you are good you will get noticed. With a physics degree you should be able to quickly advance up to driller etc.

    Also check out entry level positions on big company sites like Halliburton or MI Swaico. You won't find much right now as jobs are being cut all over, but once it bounces back you will.

  20. It really is a catch 22 situation and I never know what to tell guys who ask.

    You need experience to get work but you need work to get experience. My advice is start with day labour agencies if you can't find a permanent position, and if you are good you will get noticed. With a physics degree you should be able to quickly advance up to driller etc.

    Also check out entry level positions on big company sites like Halliburton or MI Swaico. You won't find much right now as jobs are being cut all over, but once it bounces back you will.

  21. I have a mechanical engineering degree from the US. Is it possible to get on the rig? Do they offer training before hopping on the rig? Do you start out with 28/28 rotation or something else.

    Entry job didn’t mention any of this work schedule.

    Also, I’m Asian, is it a disadvantage?

    • Nam Le..Being Asian definitely is NOT a disadvantage on the rigs. I worked with a lot of fellas from all over Asia.

      I wouldn’t apply right now as the price is way down and everybody has been laid off. Wait till the price gets back up to $60-$70 and things will pick up (if it goes back up that far).

      Big companies like Halliburton and Baker Hughes will definitely take you on and train you. I would look into their apprenticeship programs.

      Good luck brother!

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