Career Development

How To Become a Directional Driller: Step-by-Step Guide

Learn about the steps important to pursuing a career as a directional driller, including education, skills, salary and more.

Directional drilling is a process used to drill oil and gas wells that involves the use of a surface-based rig to drill a wellbore that deviates from the vertical. Directional drillers are responsible for operating the directional drilling equipment and ensuring that the wellbore is drilled in the correct direction. If you are interested in becoming a directional driller, it is important to learn about the job responsibilities and the steps you need to take to pursue this career. In this article, we discuss what a directional driller does, the average salary of a directional driller and the steps to take to become one.

What Does a Directional Driller Do?

Directional drillers are responsible for operating drilling equipment to bore holes for pipelines, cables and other underground infrastructure. They work closely with a team of workers to ensure the hole is drilled in the correct direction and at the desired depth while following all safety regulations.

Directional drillers typically have the following duties:

  • Reading and interpreting blueprints or other instructions to determine the best drilling method
  • Assembling and connecting pipes, hoses and other equipment needed for drilling
  • Operating the drilling rig and making adjustments as necessary to ensure the hole is drilled correctly
  • Monitoring gauges and instruments to ensure the drill is functioning properly and making changes as needed
  • Removing debris and sludge from the drill bit as drilling progresses
  • Inspecting the drilling site regularly to identify any potential hazards
  • Completing paperwork related to the drilling project, such as daily activity reports
  • Maintaining and repairing drilling equipment as needed

Directional Driller Salary and Job Outlook

The average salary for a directional driller is $64,375. This figure can vary based on the level of experience, education, industry and geographical location of the driller.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job prospects for directional drillers to increase at a faster than average rate over the next decade. This is due in part to the continued expansion of the oil and gas industry. As more drilling projects are undertaken, there will be a greater need for directional drillers to ensure that these projects are completed efficiently and safely.

How to Become a Directional Driller

Here are several steps you should take to become a directional driller.

1. Complete a high school diploma or equivalent

While not required, a high school diploma or equivalent is the minimum education requirement for directional drillers. If you are interested in pursuing higher education, consider taking courses in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to develop your skills and knowledge related to directional drilling. These courses can help you gain experience and prepare you for graduate-level programs.

2. Consider completing an apprenticeship program

While not required, many directional drillers choose to complete an apprenticeship program. These programs can last between two and four years and provide on-the-job training in addition to classroom instruction. Apprentices learn about the equipment used in directional drilling, how to operate it safely and how to interpret data from surveys. They also gain experience working with a team and communicating with clients.

Some employers prefer candidates who have completed an apprenticeship program because they already have some of the skills necessary for the job. Additionally, completing an apprenticeship program may help you get hired by a company that offers this type of training.

3. Obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL)

A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required to operate many of the heavy machinery used in directional drilling. To obtain a CDL, you must be at least 21 years old and have a valid standard driver’s license. You will need to pass a written exam on road signs and rules of the road as well as a physical exam that includes vision and hearing tests.

You may also need to provide proof of your ability to drive large vehicles by providing copies of your logbook or other documentation of your experience.

4. Gain experience working with drilling equipment

Most directional drillers gain experience working with drilling equipment before pursuing a career in this field. This can be done by completing an internship or apprenticeship at a drilling company, where you can learn about the industry and develop skills related to operating drilling equipment.

Apprenticeships are typically paid positions that last several years, during which time you will work alongside experienced directional drillers to learn how to operate drills and other equipment used in directional drilling.

5. Develop strong mechanical skills

Directional drillers need to be able to identify and fix mechanical problems with the drilling equipment. You should have a good understanding of how engines, transmissions, hydraulic systems and other components work together. This can help you determine what repairs are needed and where to find replacement parts. Having this skill set can also help you troubleshoot issues that may occur while you’re working in an area with limited resources.

6. Be able to work in confined spaces

Directional drillers may need to enter confined spaces, such as underground tunnels or mines. They must be able to work in these areas and have the proper equipment to do so safely. Drillers should also know how to identify hazards and take precautions to avoid them. For example, they should wear protective masks when working around dust or fumes.

7. Have good physical stamina and strength

Directional drillers must have a high level of physical stamina and strength to perform their job duties. They often work long hours in all weather conditions, which can be physically demanding. Drilling holes into the earth can also be strenuous on your body. You may need to lift heavy equipment or move around large pieces of machinery frequently throughout your workday.


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