Career Development

What Does an Oil Field Worker Do?

Find out what an Oil Field Worker does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as an Oil Field Worker.

An Oil Field Worker plays an essential role in the energy sector, focusing on the extraction of oil and natural gas from the earth. This position encompasses a broad range of responsibilities that contribute to the efficient and safe operation of oil fields. From operating machinery and maintaining equipment to monitoring extraction processes and ensuring compliance with safety regulations, these professionals are integral to the day-to-day activities that lead to successful drilling and production. Their efforts not only support the energy industry’s operational goals but also help meet the global demand for oil and gas, making their role fundamental in the chain of energy production and supply.

Oil Field Worker Job Duties

  • Operate drilling equipment and machinery to begin the extraction process of oil and gas from underground.
  • Monitor pressure gauges and flow meters to ensure the safe and efficient extraction of oil and gas, adjusting machinery as necessary.
  • Perform routine maintenance and repairs on drilling equipment and machinery to ensure operational efficiency and safety.
  • Install and use pumps and extraction equipment, following safety protocols to handle and transport the extracted oil and gas.
  • Collect and record data on drilling operations and output, ensuring accurate tracking of productivity and resource extraction.
  • Implement emergency response procedures in case of spills, leaks, or other environmental hazards, minimizing environmental impact.
  • Coordinate with geologists and other specialists to identify drilling locations and assess the potential yield of new wells.
  • Participate in the dismantling, moving, and setting up of drilling rigs and equipment at new or existing oil field sites.

Oil Field Worker Salary & Outlook

Factors influencing an oil field worker’s salary include experience level, role complexity, hazardous working conditions, shift length (e.g., night shifts or extended hours), and the specific duties assigned, such as operating specialized machinery. Additionally, working offshore versus onshore can significantly impact earnings due to increased risks and isolation.

  • Median Annual Salary: $45,862 ($22.05/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $81,000 ($38.94/hour)

The employment of oil field workers is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

This growth is driven by increasing global energy demands, technological advancements in oil extraction methods, and the expansion of exploration activities in new oil fields, necessitating more skilled workers for operation, maintenance, and safety procedures in these complex environments.

Oil Field Worker Job Requirements

Education: An oil field worker typically has a high school diploma or has taken some college courses. Relevant education includes classes in mathematics, physical sciences, and vocational training in mechanical or technical fields. A major in petroleum engineering or a related field can be advantageous. Emphasis on safety, environmental science, and technology courses prepares individuals for the diverse challenges encountered in the oil industry. Advanced education can lead to higher positions within the sector.

Experience: Oil field workers typically enter the field with a range of hands-on experience, often starting with a few months to several years of prior work in similar or related roles. On-the-job training is a cornerstone of the profession, allowing workers to gain practical skills in drilling, equipment operation, and safety procedures. Many also benefit from formal training programs that cover technical aspects and advancements in the field. Experience in mechanical tasks, teamwork, and problem-solving under challenging conditions is highly valued. Continuous learning and adaptability are key, as technology and methods evolve.

Certifications & Licenses: Oil field workers often require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) for operating heavy machinery. Certifications like H2S Safety Training, First Aid/CPR, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10-hour or 30-hour safety courses are commonly needed. Some positions may also necessitate a Well Control Certification (IWCF or IADC) for specific operational roles. No certifications or licenses are universally required across all positions.

Oil Field Worker Skills

Drilling Operations: Oil field workers execute precise control over machinery to bore holes into the earth’s surface. They meticulously manage the speed, pressure, and direction of the drill to optimize resource extraction and ensure safety. Knowledge of geological formations, the ability to interpret drilling data in real-time, and skill in adjusting operations based on changing underground conditions are required.

Well Control: Safe and efficient management of pressures within the wellbore is critical. Workers must have a deep understanding of drilling fluids, blowout prevention techniques, and emergency response procedures. Monitoring and adjusting operational parameters to prevent uncontrolled releases of oil or gas is essential for safeguarding personnel and the environment.

Mud Logging: Analyzing rock fragments and drilling mud to determine the geological characteristics of drilled formations aids in assessing potential hydrocarbon zones. Continuous monitoring of gas levels and identifying downhole conditions provide real-time data critical for operational decisions and safety on the drilling site.

Pressure Systems Management: Workers ensure the optimal performance and safety of equipment such as blowout preventers and mud pumps during drilling operations. Monitoring and adjusting these systems to maintain well control and prevent incidents are part of their responsibilities, reflecting their role in operational success and environmental protection.

Equipment Maintenance: Inspecting and repairing drilling equipment and machinery regularly prevents operational inefficiencies and costly downtime. A meticulous attention to detail and knowledge of mechanical systems are necessary to diagnose issues accurately and perform adjustments or replacements.

Safety Compliance: Adhering to protocols and regulations minimizes the risk of accidents and environmental hazards, ensuring the safety and well-being of all personnel on the oil field. A proactive approach to identifying potential safety issues before they escalate is required, ensuring operations comply with both local and international standards.

Oil Field Worker Work Environment

Oil field workers operate in a physically demanding environment, often exposed to the elements, whether scorching heat or freezing cold. The workspace is vast, open, and rugged, requiring the use of heavy machinery and specialized tools for drilling and maintenance tasks. Safety gear is a constant companion, from hard hats to steel-toe boots, reflecting the industry’s emphasis on health and safety protocols amidst the inherent risks of the job.

Work hours are long and irregular, with shifts extending beyond the typical 9-to-5, including nights, weekends, and holidays. This schedule, while challenging, is compensated by periods of rest, allowing for a semblance of work-life balance in a job that demands high physical and mental stamina.

The culture within oil fields is one of camaraderie, where teamwork is indispensable. Workers rely on each other for safety and efficiency, creating a bond forged in the unique conditions of their work environment. Despite the advances in technology that aid their tasks, the human element remains irreplaceable, underscoring the importance of interpersonal communication and collaboration.

Advancement Prospects

Oil field workers have a clear trajectory for advancement, often starting as roustabouts and moving up to positions like roughneck, derrickman, and eventually, driller. This progression is typically based on hands-on experience and demonstrating competency in each role.

To advance, workers should focus on mastering the technical skills required at each level, such as operating drilling equipment and understanding well operations. Safety leadership is also crucial, as higher positions demand responsibility for the crew’s safety.

Becoming a toolpusher or a rig manager is achievable with years of experience and a deep understanding of drilling operations. These senior roles require not only technical expertise but also strong management skills, as they involve overseeing the entire drilling operation and personnel.

For those aiming at the highest echelons, positions like petroleum engineer or operations manager are attainable. These roles might require additional education but offer the opportunity to design drilling plans and manage multiple rigs, representing the pinnacle of career advancement in the oil field sector.


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