Do You Need a Degree for an Oil Rig Job?

Fortunately, there are many kinds of jobs that do not require a college degree on rigs – and most are not well covered, if at all, on typical oil industry job Web sites.

Generally, the breakdown works like this:

Primary Rig (or Drilling) Crew: Ranked from top to bottom in pay and responsibility, these jobs are: The rig leader, or “toolpusher,” then the driller, derrick operator, motorman, roughneck and roustabout. These are the traditional rig jobs of both folklore and reality, and are hired by a rig’s drilling contractor. For an overview of these jobs, approximate pay and a representative list of drilling contractors, click on the underlined items above.

Other Supervisory Jobs: Also usually hired by the drilling contractor are jobs such as barge engineer and control room operator (offshore only,) chief electrician and maintenance foreman. These jobs require considerable experience on rigs, and often, special certifications. For brief descriptions, click on each job.

Rig-Specialized Skilled Jobs: Some of these are actually job functions, which may be performed by the actual rig crew. However, many are performed by oilfield supply and service companies, which are another good resource to look into if you are interested in learning any of these skills: acidizer, gauger, well pullers, pumpers, (water) treaters, oil well cementers, perforator operators, and (rock) sample-taker operators.

General descriptions of these jobs can be found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS’) Web site section on Oil & Gas Extraction at: under the keyword “occupations” at the top. (This site also has a wealth of other information on the oil and gas extraction industry, including background, working conditions, employment trends, training and advancement opportunities, average pay scales and future employment outlook.)

Other Skilled Jobs: If you already have one of these skills, or are seeking to develop them (with certification,) then these jobs are “hotspots” not only on rigs, but throughout the oil industry, including in refineries and natural gas processing plants: Welders, pipefitters, electricians, machinists and crane and forklift operators. These skills are employed on rigs to install and repair pumps, gauges, pipes and other equipment, or handle the heavy mechanical lifting jobs. Hiring is usually done by drilling contractors.

Offshore (Only) Jobs: Offshore rigs require a number of support functions, primarily: Cooks and kitchen assistants, stewards, radio operators, boat captains, supply and transport boat crews, helicopter pilots and divers. These jobs are almost always hired through separate vendors for each category. For more information, look through our Job Center, use the list of links in our Resources section, and try Internet search by key-wording in terms such as “offshore rigs – catering jobs,” etc.

Please click underlined items above or here for key Job Descriptions.

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Onshore Rig Working Conditions