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Is Oil & Gas Production A Good Career Path?

oil and gas drilling career paths

Since the United States leads the world in the production of oil and natural gas, it is only natural that there are a lot of job opportunities out there in this part of the energy sector. But, is oil & gas production a good career path?

In the article, you will find everything you need to determine if the gas and oil industry is right for you.

The American Petroleum Institute estimates that there are 10.9 million jobs in the industry, so clearly just on that number alone, it is definitely a good career path to consider.

It is estimated that in the coming decades nearly 2 million new jobs will be available across the industry, with many of these being skilled trades.

Although the oil and gas industry is notorious for being harmful to the environment and a contributor to global warming, there is a lot of change being made. More attention is being paid to carbon management and becoming more environmentally friendly.

While the industry is changing, there is currently still a lot of need for workers in oil and gas production.

So, let’s find out more about the opportunities in the oil and gas sector.

Is oil & gas production a good career path?

Yes, oil and gas production is a good career path for those that enjoy on-location work and are OK with spending some time away from home!

There currently are many jobs available and the pay for these jobs are often above average.

Paths you can take in the oil and gas industry include:

  • Administrative & accounting
  • Business & marketing
  • Construction
  • Drilling
  • Engineering
  • Geology
  • Human resources
  • Legal
  • Mechanical
  • Sales
  • Technician
drilling oil in a field
Drilling for oil in field

Skilled Trade Careers In The Oil & Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry offers a lot of opportunities for those with a high-school diploma or GED.

While no formal secondary education is required, there may still be certifications, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training required before going out on your own.

Flowback Operator

Salary: Average salary is $42,000 annually, but many make $80,000 or more

Flowback operators are an important part of the oil production process. Once the drilling, fracking and construction process are complete; then the flowback operators will come in and mange the next process which is the flowback phase.

The flowback operator will typically remain on site and often work 7 days a week and 12 hour days (workers often call their work period a “hitch”).

So, this is a career that requires a lot of stamina. They have a lot of responsibilities that include keeping track of flow rates and ensuring all equipment is operating properly. They may also be responsible for coordinating workers and trucks to keep things running smoothly.

Frac Engineer

Salary: Average salary according to Zippia is $71,673

Fracking is the process of forcing liquid at very high pressures into rocks below the surface to force fissures to open to allow oil and gas to be extracted easier. The main job of a frac engineer is to make sure the frac treatments are effective.

Frac engineers can do a variety of tasks including coordination of fluid or chemical testing, designing frac treatments and models, and monitoring.

While many frac engineers do have a Bachelor’s degree in some type of engineering, it is possible to work your way up in the oil and gas industry with no degree.

Geological/Hydrologic Technician

Salary: Median annual salary is $50,630

Geological and hydrologic technicians will work onsite to install various types of field and laboratory equipment. Procuring samples of mud and water and conducting tests to determine the characteristics is a common task as well as recording the results.

Preparing maps and different reports to show the characteristics of the area they are working in is also part of the work.

These jobs may require fieldwork or lab work exclusively – but it is not uncommon to do both. Some jobs might require a Bachelor’s degree, but typically on-the-job training or an Associate’s degree in the sciences are also acceptable.

Hydrographic Surveyor

Salary: Average salary according to Glassdoor is $102,786

Using modern technology, a hydrographic surveyor helps measure and map areas below our waterways. Many states do require licensing which will take place after several years of experience working under a licensed surveyor have occurred.

They also help facilitate marine research with various studies that can show the impact of what is being done on the marine environment.

Some jobs might require a Bachelor’s degree, others might be happy to accept your years of experience under a licensed surveyor.

Measurement While Drilling or Logging While Drilling (MWD/LWD)

Salary: Comparably shows a median salary of about $66,000

MWD/LWD workers on an oilfield are the people involved in the drilling operations with a focus on finding the best path to bore the hole. They will be responsible for finding the most efficient path for drilling when a well is found underground.

Daily activities might include analyzing drilling data, record maintenance, management of equipment, and using instruments to take measurements below the surface.

Most jobs require experience so working under an experienced MWD/LWD is a great first step. A post-secondary educational certificate can also be beneficial.

MWD workers are more focused on the physical properties of the process like temperature, pressure and wellbore trajectory. LWD focuses more on the recording, transmission, and storing of information.

Mudlogger

Salary: Salaries can average about $50,000 annually, offshore jobs offer much more

While mudlogging may sound like it has to do with a logging career, it is nothing like it! Mudloggers are responsible for “logging” all the details related to the drilling of the mud that is being pulled from the underground.

Many mudloggers note that this is not a great job for those who really want a solid career path, but could be a great short-term gig. A geology degree is recommended, but there are a few workers who noted getting into the job without a degree when we did our research.

Rotary Drill Operator

Salary: Average median salary of $61,840

Rotary drilling operations are a crucial part of the oil and gas industry, and this basic level job is a good starting point for those wanting a career in this industry. As a rotary drill operator, you will be the key person that handles the equipment that drills the holes to remove the oil and gas from wells below the surface. The holes for the oil and gas wells are an important part of drilling!

No formal education is needed, but taking courses in well construction technology may give you a heads up in landing a job.

Roustabout

Salary: Median annual wage of about $‎38,920

A great opportunity for those with little work experience or education to get started in the oil and gas industry. Roustabouts do more manual work than many other careers and will often do a lot of cleaning and maintenance of equipment.

They will also be the right-hand for others on the site when additional hands are needed to get the work done. It is easy to become a roustabout and you can be on your way to earning a good wage in a short amount of time.

Additional opportunities for skilled trade workers that are not exclusive to oil and gas sectors include:

  • Crane and tower operator, excavator, or truck drivers
  • Heavy equipment operator
  • Welders
  • Electrician
  • Plumber, pipefitter, or steamfitter
  • Carpenter
  • Cement mason or concrete finisher

Other Oil & Gas Industry Careers

Here are a few other options that are in the oil and gas sector, some of which may require a Bachelor’s degree. These are some of the highest-paying jobs in the industry.

Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineers have a lot of responsibility and often work with various chemicals and do a lot of testing. They need to ensure that when transforming crude oil, proper methods and chemicals are used.

Chemical engineers can work in a variety of industries, not just the oil and gas industry making it a good option for future flexibility.

Commercial Analyst

If you have strong analytical skills and a Bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, or engineering then working as a commercial analyst may be interesting work.

You will be working to gather data on the finances and operations on various companies to help drive the financial direction of a business.

Understanding supply and demand and forecasting is important for this job. Natural gas traders watch the supply and demand of oil and gas and can be another option for you analytical people!

Drilling Engineer

Drilling engineers are the people that are responsible for existing wells. They provide services that include maintaining and reviewing the wells to ensure all safety measures are in place. They may also be responsible for keeping track of project budgets, managing staff, and making sure the drilling project is done on time.

A drilling engineer may work on land or on offshore rigs and do typically have a Bachelor’s degree. Salaries average about $103,000, but can often be more.

Related: Careers in the energy sector

Geologist

A geologist (sometimes called a geoscientist) does require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree and is one of the key members of the team that will be working onsite. They are the people that will study the earth, learn how rocks are formed, and be responsible for finding the areas that are filled with oil and minerals to be extracted.

They often develop the models needed for discovering commercially viable reserves of the natural resources that they are hoping to extract.

Workers can sometimes also be called petroleum geologists as well. A typical median salary is $83.680.

Marketing Coordinator

As a marketing coordinator you would research the potential for sales or services in different areas. Creating marketing campaigns and gathering data from the competition may also be some of the tasks you will need to complete.

General management of the entire marketing and supply operations is a standard responsibility in this job, so it is a lot of work and can be stressful. They will also work to ensure a smooth supply chain exists with clients who are looking to purchase the final product.

Salaries vary greatly but average about $63,000 annually and these positions do often require a Bachelor’s degree in marketing.

offshore drilling rig
Offshore drilling rig

Petroleum Engineer

Petroleum engineering requires the ability to develop methods that allow workers to extract oil and gas from deep below the surface. They will assist in risk assessment of the drilling location and work with the drilling team to ensure all goes smoothly.

A Bachelor’s degree is required, but many will continue to get a Master’s degree as well.

With salaries that average about $130,000 per year, it is a great job from a salary perspective. There will be long days at drilling sites and travel is common. Another option is to work as a natural gas engineer which has very similar job tasks but require working with natural gas instead of oil.

Petroleum Pump System Operator

The petroleum pump system operator is a vital member of an organization that distills the oil into a fuel, as well as the processing facility. The average annual salary in this field is estimated at $72,500.

As you would expect, it requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a closely related field, such as a process engineering or operations science. However, many petroleum pump system operators work as unskilled laborers, often working in oil and gas field jobs or on oil rigs.

Oil and gas industry pros

There are many good reasons to work in this industry:

  • Salaries are often much higher than many other career paths. Oil and gas companies make a lot money and often see very high profits and earnings, which often leads to better-paying jobs for skilled workers. The difficulty in finding workers in this industry also impact wages.
  • Education is not a priority for many of the jobs. There are many opportunities for those without a college degree. If you get into the industry as a beginner, you can work your way up and land a great career.
  • Travel is often a part of the job in oil and gas industry careers. Because oil and gas is retrieved and managed all over the world you never know where the next job might take you.

Oil and gas industry cons

And like any job, with the good comes the not so good:

  • Travel as we noted above is a part of the job, and if you love traveling it could be a pro, if not it could be a big con. Many positions will require this as part of your job.
  • Conditions that oil and gas industry professionals work in can often be harsh. You might work in all kinds of weather including oppressive heat. If you decide to do offshore rigging, that is even more challenging.
  • Health issues can be an issue due to the contact you will have with various chemicals. Breathing in fumes and gases can also impact your respiratory system.
  • The long-term outlook on these jobs could be at risk due to changes in how we produce energy. With green technology moving in, the growth of jobs in the industry, and its stability of them can be at risk.
  • Workplace safety is a factor, but with the improvement in safety procedures that have happened, worksite injuries are not as common as in the past. Workers in the oil and gas industries can be affected by fires, explosions, or other impacts.

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