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How to get a job on a drilling rig and start a career in the Oil & Gas industry

Updated: Jan 23

Are you trying to land a job on a drilling rig and start a career in the oil and gas industry? Like you - I started at the bottom and over a 15-year career progressed from an entry-level position to a project manager earning a six-figure income $$$,$$$. After this, I worked as a Recruiter and I am now an Executive CV / Resume Writer so have a very good understanding of the environment and what it takes to progress a career in the international oil and gas industry. This article will help you land an entry-level position like roustabout, operator, rigger or trainee graduate. It also contains a comprehensive guide of all the positions on a rig and descriptions of various types of rigs so that you can choose a career direction.


The Oil & Gas industry is extremely competitive with often 100's candidates applying for 1 job. This article will give you an advantage over other candidates because of the insider information it contains. If you read to the very bottom you will find a list of 42 operating companies and 31 agencies that you can contact.




Recruiters actively post entry-level positions on LinkedIn but only do so when they need someone at very short notice. i.e. when a regular has dropped out... The main certifications you will need are BOSIET or HUET, (MIST to work in the North Sea) and you're offshore medical. It is always beneficial to have a background in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Construction or Hydraulics and candidates with these skill sets will usually be considered first.


It is a realistic option for you to break into the industry, it just requires patience and for you to apply everywhere necessary but make sure your CV is looking its absolute best before you apply, if not, it’s a wasted exercise... You only have one chance at making the right first impression!



1. Prerequisites prior to applying for oil and gas jobs

  • You must be over 18 years of age.

  • Obtain an offshore medical (Even if you are planning on working onshore. Most companies require a medical certificate before you can commence work). Without this, all the steps below are a waste of time.

  • Obtain the BOSIET or HUET and (MIST courses if working offshore in the UK).

  • Make sure your CV / Resume is up to date and portrays the best possible version of yourself and the content is relevant to the oil and gas industry.

  • If you haven't done so already, optimise your LinkedIn profile and join as many oil and gas recruitment groups as possible. (We cannot emphasize enough the strength of using LinkedIn for networking).

  • Many Oil & Gas jobs are onshore, in either production facilities or land rigs. You do not need your offshore survival to work on these facilities.


2. Information for Green Hands


Jobs on the rigs will include cleaners, painters and roustabouts (both entry-level), riggers (slingers), floor hands, catering staff, crane operators, welders, electricians, mechanics, motormen, engineers, chief engineers, derrickman, assistant drillers, drillers, tool pushers, warehousemen, medics, (HSE) safety supervisors, ballast control men, dynamic position (DP) operators, barge operators, barge engineers, offshore installation managers (OIMs), rig managers and rig superintendents.


All these positions except entry-level will require some type of prior experience and specialist training unless you just get very, very lucky. Below is a guide for a more in-depth look at the permanent positions on a rig.


If you want to work overseas, understand that drilling contractors seldom if ever send lower echelon people overseas. An overseas crew usually have Expatriate Rig Managers, Tool pushers, Drillers, Assistant Drillers, Crane Operator, Barge Engineer, Electrician and Mechanic. Maybe even a few more, maybe a few less, it varies from company to company, rig to rig, job to job. All lower positions will be locally hired!


You are not going to see expatriate roustabouts, cleaners, painters, riggers or floor hands going overseas and working a 28/28 schedule because the country where the rig is working will use (nationals) for those jobs. Often local governments stipulate that a certain percentage of the crew needs to be national so expatriate positions are reduced.


3. Oil & Gas Offshore Medical Certificate




To work offshore you will need to pass a thorough medical examination and present your employer with a valid medical certificate. Various countries require slightly different medicals but they are all similar and last around one hour. The following description is for the UK and Norwegian offshore medical, however this medical is good to use worldwide because Norwegian standards are the highest.


  • Completion of a medical questionnaire.

  • Measurement of: height, weight and body mass index (BMI).

  • Vision (a quick reading test of small text from a card and the usual left and right eye reading from the small wallboard).

  • Colour vision (reading coloured numbers from a book).

  • Blood pressure and heart rate (nurse to take blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff).

  • Peak flow rate (lung function tested by blowing into a tube which measures airflow).

  • An audiogram (sitting in a soundproof booth and listening to various tones).

  • A urine sample (to check for sugar and/or blood and if your employer requires, substance abuse testing).

  • A medical examination by a doctor (Ears, eyes, mouth, chest, reflex and movement).


4. Training Courses


(Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET)


The emergency training that is offered to people who work in an offshore facility or are about to join offshore vessels is known as BOSIET (Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training). BOSIET is a very simple training program that covers all major and minor points of safe working in the offshore facility. The course duration is 3 days. The various aspects of the BOSIET training program can be explained below:



The first step in the offshore training program is about Safety Inductions. This aspect deals with all the necessary steps that a newly inducted person is required to follow while working on the offshore installation. Points on how to react in case there is an emergency situation like fire, accidents of waste-water disposal systems and drugs and alcohol abuse are covered during this section.



The second step in the BOSIET emergency training is about Safety and Escaping. This point covers all about training a person on how to escape a helicopter in case of an emergency, how to use breathing equipment in case of submersion and how to help co-workers during a critical situation.





Sea Survival is the third aspect of BOSIET. This includes the point of knowing when to abandon the offshore installation and how to survive in the high sea for extended periods of time until rescue operators arrive on the scene.






Firefighting and Self-Rescue is the fourth point covered by BOSIET. Firefighting application in offshore facilities includes knowledge about operating hoses and other smaller fire extinguishers. In addition, workers also need to know about the causes and reasons for the start of fire. Other points in emergency training deal with individual safety in smoke-filled areas and escape hoods.


BOSIET is just the first step in terms of offshore survival training courses. After gaining the required safety training through BOSIET, a person can opt for further emergency training courses. The validity of this course is for four years. After the validity period is over, in order to continue with the validation there is a refresher course called FOET (Further Offshore Emergency Training) that is also offered. The duration of the FOET course is only one day. If by any chance, an offshore worker fails to take the refresher course then the person must repeat the entire BOSIET course again to continue working offshore.


BA-EBS: The aims and objectives of the training are to ensure that the delegate gains the required knowledge and understanding of the hazards and properties of a Compressed Air Emergency Breathing System (CA-EBS) and appropriate practical emergency response actions to take should the requirement for emergency deployment arise.


The BOSIET emergency training is offered in all countries. The training that is imparted contains both theory and practical application so that the learner can understand all the aspects easily. The total hours of training comes to around 22.5 hours. In order to certify that a person has successfully completed the training, a certificate is issued to the person. This certificate is to be presented to any new employer if you wish to work offshore and you will need to carry a copy of this with you when checking in at the heliport.



Minimum Industry Standard Training (MIST) Only in the UK


This course aims to ensure every member of the offshore oil and gas industry has a basic level of safety knowledge. A 2-day OPITO Approved training course is available at locations throughout the UK, covering nine basic safety elements including:

  • Introduction to the Hazardous Offshore Environment

  • Working Safely including Safety Observations Systems

  • Understanding the Risk Assessment Process

  • Tasks that Require a Permit to Work

  • Personal Responsibility in Maintaining Asset Integrity

  • Using Manual Handling Techniques every day

  • Controlling the use of Hazardous Substances Offshore

  • Knowledge and Practices of Working at Height

  • Being Aware of Mechanical Lifting Activities

  • Many UK employers require MIST and BOSIET training as well as a medical certificate as a minimum requirement for working offshore. For experienced offshore workers:

  • A quick and efficient OPITO Approved e-learning tool will guide you through the nine basic safety elements and fill identified knowledge gaps (subject to a refresher every four years).

For a complete worldwide list of approved training providers go here: http://uk.opito.com/standards-approvals/training-and-assessment/approved-training-providers


There are many other Oil and Gas courses that are job-specific but once you are on board with a new employer they often plan your training and keep you up to date.


5. CV / Resume Requirements


99% of Oil & Gas Companies and Agencies use enterprise-level applicant tracking systems (ATS) so your CV / Resume will need to follow ATS rules. ATS scans CVs / Resumes and computer systems / algorithms rank candidates based on content and keywords in your CV. We suggest using an ATS-friendly style template. You can download ATS CV / Resume Templates here, including example content to help you edit your CV / Resume!


Or if you are seeking an entry-level Roustabout position you can download a Roustabout CV Template here, including an example Roustabout summary, skillset list and instructions on filling in content.


To help you with composing your new CV / Resume I suggest using Grammarly (It's Free). Grammarly upholds accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar, but is also clear, compelling and easy to read. Grammarly's suggestions help identify and replace complicated sentences with more efficient ones, refresh repetitive language, and strengthen your writing to say what you really mean.



6. Rig Job Descriptions


Laid out below are the basic jobs on an offshore drilling rig starting with the lowest level of the worker through to the Offshore Installation Manager (OIM) also including the support staff after the OIM.



Roustabout - The job of a roustabout is about the easiest entry-level job to get. It involves a lot of hard manual labour and long work hours. Roustabouts typically are involved on the main deck with painting and sandblasting, unloading pipes and other kinds of physical work. During breaks, they also fill in for the roughnecks on the rig floor.



Roughneck - Higher up are the roughnecks also known as floor hands who do the jobs on the rig floor. The job of the roughnecks is to make connections in the drill pipe using pipe tongs or an automatic device known as an “iron roughneck”. Roughnecks “trip pipe” joints of drill pipe into and out of the hole when drill bits, etc, need to be changed.



Derrickman - Aligns and manipulates the sections of pipe or drill stem from a platform on the rig derrick during the removal and replacement of strings of pipe, or drill stem and drill bit. Assist in setting up, taking down and transporting drilling and service rigs. Supervises the roughnecks. This job entails working at height in the derrick usually at 170ft.



Crane Operators - Responsible for all crane operations on the rig and to and from the supply boats. Cranes are used to load supplies, such as casing, pipes and rig equipment, onto the oil rig. Crane operators also assist in general labour around the rig. Crane operators supervise the roustabouts and the crane operator assistant. This is a senior deck crew position.



Assistant Driller (AD) - Runs the work crew and takes information from the driller and gives it to their crew. While the assistant driller acts in a predominately supervisory role, they may also work alongside the roughnecks to run machinery. ADs train roughnecks to recognize abnormal well conditions to prevent leaks and rig blowouts.



Driller - A driller is a person in charge of the rig floor and of overseeing the drilling of an oil well. They directly control the rate of drilling and it is a skilled position that requires extensive knowledge of rock types and drilling procedures. Drillers must be highly knowledgeable and make real-time decisions in a calm and controlled manner.



Tool Pusher - On a land drilling rig the tool pusher may be the rig manager and responsible for all operations, but on drillships and offshore drilling rigs, tool pushers are in charge of the drilling department and report to the Offshore Installation Manager (OIM).




OIM (Offshore Installation Manager) - is the most senior manager of an offshore installation. If an emergency were to arise they control the situation and manage the response. He is responsible for all personnel and operations and reports to the Rig Manager who is onshore.




Rig Electrician - They are responsible for ensuring that all electrical systems on the rig are functioning properly. Duties include repairing, maintaining, installing and operating all electrical equipment on the rig. They need to be competent in the use of electricity in hazardous areas and communicate with the rig crew.



Motorman / Rig Mechanic - The primary job function is oil rig equipment maintenance. The motorman checks the rig motors and other mechanical equipment on the rig for proper functioning and takes all necessary steps including lubrication and regular maintenance to render equipment in a working condition.



Barge Engineer - The Barge engineer is in charge of control room operations, including anchor handling, rig stability and supply vessel operations. A barge engineer should have a good knowledge of Coast Guard operations and water safety. Most barge engineers have experience as master merchant in the Navy.



Radio Operator - Efficiently communicating vital information between land bases, rigs, boats and helicopters. Sets up, operates and maintains sensitive equipment to establish verbal, data and encoded interactions regarding emergency situations, weather conditions and important job directives.



Catering Staff - They are responsible for taking care of food preparations and kitchen operations. A chef and a night cook or baker oversee the galley. A camp boss oversees the entire kitchen and catering crew, which is made up of stewards who maintain the living quarters.




HSE Supervisor - Monitor and manage a company's health, safety and environmental program. HSE Supervisors will attend morning meetings with management to report on HSE statistics and also facilitate seeking safety meetings with all the crew (often on Sundays). The main responsibility is to ensure all work is performed in compliance with HSE standards and to implement HSE initiatives and projects.



7. Types of Drilling Rigs


The most commonly used rigs in the industry are Jack-ups, used to drill in shallow water, Semi-submersibles used to drill in deep water and land rigs which are moved on trailers and spotted on concrete bases on land, I will also mention fixed platforms which can have drilling facilities on board. The most expensive to run is the semi followed by the jack-up and finally the land rig. This is all down to the size, equipment differences and also the difficulty with logistics to and from the rig. Each rig will have similar drilling equipment on board but some will vary due to the nature of the rig.


Land Rigs

These types of rigs come in a variety of sizes depending on the type of well you will be drilling. The rig breaks down into many parts so that it can be transported with trucks and trailers. First, a concrete base will be laid at the location of the well and a pit will also be dug next to the location for the cuttings from the well to be temporarily dumped into. These rigs can be assembled very quickly usually within 3-7 days and can be transported in as little as 12 truckloads.


Jack-Ups

These rigs are towed into location and then jack their 3 legs down until the legs reach the sea bed. Some larger rigs can have up to 5 legs. The rig will then raise itself out of the water to the deserved height. Jack-ups are good in water depths of up to 400ft (120m) and can be found most commonly in the North Sea because of the seas shallow nature. Once settled the Jack-up rig has a static base in which to drill from. Occasionally rocks has to be placed around the legs to keep the platform from sinking or tilting into the seabed.





Semi-Submersible Drilling Rigs

Sit on pontoons and float high above the water. The ballast tanks can be adjusted to raise or lower the rig and they can be moved under their own power or towed into place. Once in place the rig will deploy its six anchors and they will be tensioned accordingly to move the rig over the drilling location. Semi-submersible rigs can be used in water depths from 200ft – 10,000ft (60m – 3000m). The main difference with drilling from a Semi is that the rig is not static and is constantly moving with the swell, therefore the drill pipe moves up and down with the swell. The rig is fitted with heave compensators which keep the drill pipe firmly at the bottom whilst drilling. When the rig moves upwards the heave compensators push down the drill pipe and vice versa.


Drillships