Working in the oil and gas industry is one of the most difficult and dangerous lines of work. The pay is high, but the hours are also extremely long. Labor in the oilfields is hard work and excuses are never allowed.
Oil industry veterans revel in the challenge. These people, once hooked on the industry, rarely want to work in any other field. This is what’s known as having “oil in the blood.”
Getting into the industry for those with no experience is notoriously difficult. Those with the right strategy, talents, and disciplined patience are the ones who eventually reach their goal. A few strategies to consider when first looking for oilfield work:
1.) KNOW SOMEONE
One of the biggest concerns many employers have is about the loyalty and work ethic of a future employee. New skills can be learned on the job but if a worker is unstable or dishonest then rather than being an asset to the company, they could actually get others hurt. If you already know someone working for the company, then they can vouch for your record and help get your name on the shortlist when new opportunities arrive.
If you don’t know anyone who works in the oil industry, then it would behoove you to branch out. For example, if a friend knows someone who works in the industry then an introduction would be in order. Doing the best work you can in your current job is a good way to give yourself a good name within your current network. If you find your sphere too far from any kind of oilfield work, then you may have to get closer to the work.
2.) GO WHERE THE WORK IS
The oil industry is cyclical, it is notoriously prone to booms and busts. See this previous article describing the economic landscape in 2016. Sometimes when one oilfield is in a boom another will be in a slump. If you are spending all of your time in an area where there is no oilfield work, then you will have to “chase” it. To know which areas are having a hiring boom is a matter of waiting and watching. When you talk to your contacts in the industry, ask about what areas are getting busy. Online communities and oil and gas magazines can also give an idea on what kind of activity is happening.
A further note regarding the cyclical nature of the oilfields: sometimes there will not be any work anywhere and sometimes everywhere will seem busy. The first case, the downturns, must be anticipated so you as a worker can plan for what to do during them. In the second case, care must be taken not to become overconfident about finding and keeping work in a situation that may eventually change for the worse. Many workers have made long careers out of chasing the work around the country and even around the world; determining the best areas for your own job prospects will be an important and constant part of your oil and gas career.
3.) HAVE A SKILL
A wide variety of oilfield jobs are highly specialized, although some are not, but all are demanding. A key example would be the work done by a driller: the driller must understand the workings of the rig equipment, the strengths of the pipe, and some basics of fluid mechanics and well control. The difficult work of a driller is specialized to the position, but there are also positions that have some similar skills, such as construction work. Look at your current job, is it similar to an oilfield job? If so then this can be a possible stepping stone into the oil and gas industry. Some companies will try to poach workers from other industries that have workers performing jobs that are also physical and difficult. Many companies also try to find veterans as well. If you’re involved in a trade, such as electrical or masonry, these trades have positions within the oilfield.
4.) HAVE A DEGREE
Where the more physical jobs rely mostly on on-the-job training, for the less physical and more technical positions in the oil industry a degree will be required. Several community colleges within oil and gas regions have developed associates degrees and certificates within oilfield technology. Full four-year programs include geology, geophysics, and petroleum engineering, among others. Remember that any of these degree programs will require an investment of lots of time and academic effort. Make sure to research the reputation of any school as well as the companies that recruit from them.
Q: Should I get an orientation like Rig Pass before looking for an oilfield job?
A: We haven’t seen any evidence that employers have preferred candidates due to prior basic safety training. Typically, your new employer will pay for training and some certifications expire as well.