Working in an oilfield is physically demanding and potentially dangerous, but many oilfield jobs pay workers wages that are above the national average. Some of these jobs require education beyond high school, but some do not. Many oilfield workers begin in unskilled positions and advance into these higher paying positions with experience. However, even the entry level position of roustabout generally pays workers more than $15 per hour.
Though a petroleum engineer will spend much of her time in an office setting, engineers also work in oilfields supervising and directing drilling, maintenance and other oilfield operations. Petroleum engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or a closely related field. Some universities also offer master’s degrees in petroleum engineering. Possessing a master’s degree might help an engineer to advance in her career. As of May 2008, the median annual wages of a petroleum engineer was just more than $108,000.
A drilling foreman oversees the work of a drilling crew or multiple drilling crews and has the responsibility to ensure that the crew meets company deadlines to complete construction of new wells. Drilling foremen often coordinate the movement of drilling equipment as well. Drilling crews typically travel within a geographic area, moving from one drilling to site to the next. Most drilling foremen work in various positions on a drilling crew before advancing into a foreman position. As of May 2008, drilling foreman and other supervisors in the oil industry earned an average wage of just more than $31 per hour.
Rotary Drill Operators
Rotary drill operators are another important worker on a drilling rig. Though under the general guidance of a drilling foreman, drill operators often directly supervise the work of other drilling crew workers. The drill operator runs the machinery needed to drill the well while ensuring that the drilling crew properly feeds pipe and other equipment into the well. Most drill operators advance from other positions on a drilling crew, but some companies and vocational schools offer training to learn to operate drilling equipment. As of May 2008, rotary drill operators earned a median wage of about $22 per hour, while operators of non-rotary drills earned somewhat less.
Service operators run equipment needed to increase or restore production of an existing oil well. For example, service operators may clean well casings and other equipment, basically to remove sediments and other debris that clogs the well and restricts the flow of oil. As with drilling crews, service crews travel to different locations with specialized equipment to complete needed work. As of May 2008, the median wage of a service operator was just more than $22 per hour.