Oil drillers, also called drill operators, set up and operate drills to collect petroleum products from the earth. They also work in exploration of potential sites, where they remove samples for testing. Drill operators use similar techniques to drill for natural gas, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes both oil and gas drillers in its salary figures for this occupation.
The average salary for oil drillers as of May 2009 was $28.63 per hour, or $59,560 per year, according to the BLS. The middle 50 percent were earning $19.33 to $31.33 per hour, or $40,200 to $65,160 per year. The bottom 10 percent had wages of $15.30 per hour or lower. The top 10 percent were making $42.86 per hour and higher, or $89,140 per year and more.
Employment per Capita
About 25,500 oil drillers worked in the United States in 2009, according to the BLS. Employment is heavily concentrated in certain areas, with the largest number of oil drillers per capita by far in Wyoming. Roughly 1,230 oil drillers were employed in that state, which was more than four of every 1,000 workers. Oklahoma ranked second with 2,880 oil drillers, which was nearly two of every 1,000 workers. Rounding out the top five states for oil drillers per capita were Alaska, New Mexico and Texas.
The highest-paying state on average for oil drillers in 2009 was Alaska, where their average pay rate was $36.64 per hour, or $76,210 per year. Other high-paying states were Texas at $72,630 per year on average, New York at $71,000, North Dakota at $69,980 and Wyoming at $65,150. While Oklahoma and New Mexico had a large number of oil drillers per capita, the average salaries there were substantially lower, with Oklahoma at $50,540 per year and New Mexico at $52,460.
High-Paying Metro Areas
The highest-paying metropolitan area on average for oil drillers in 2009 was Tyler, Texas, where the average salary was $38.29 per hour, or $79,640 per year. Other high-paying metro areas for oil drillers were Odessa, Texas, at $72,140 per year on average; Anchorage, Alaska, at $70,690; Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, at $70,050; and Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, Louisiana, at $64,560 per year.
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