How to Become an Apprentice on an Offshore Oil Rig

Find out how to become an apprentice on an offshore oil rig. Research the training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career as an apprentice on an offshore oil rig.

Do I Want to Be an Apprentice on an Offshore Oil Rig?

Apprentices working on offshore oil rigs may perform a variety of entry-level work learned through on-the-job training. Individuals interested in these types of positions, which include general laborers known as roustabouts and rotary-driller helpers known as roughnecks, work in remote locations away from others in challenging living conditions, putting in long hours and performing physically challenging tasks.

Job Requirements

Along with being in good physical condition, workers need to be at least 18 years old and pass a drug test. A high school diploma may be preferred but not required by employers, and some seek related training through community colleges and industry associations.The following table outlines the general requirements to work as an apprentice on an offshore oil rig.

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma preferred but not required*
Experience Basic knowledge of oil rig operations and equipment**
Key Skills Good eye-hand coordination, physical strength, strong attention to detail, good interpersonal skills*
Technical Skills Basic mechanics, heavy equipment operation, welding*
Additional Requirements Pass drug screening test, pass medical clearance exam, ability to work more than an 8-hour workday, acceptable criminal history**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ** job postings in December 2012.

Step 1: Seek Training in Offshore Oil Rig Operations

Individuals interested in becoming apprentices on offshore oil rigs may first want to seek training programs related to oil rig operations to gain a better understanding of the work involved. These programs, which are intended for potential oil rig workers as well as for others who need a basic understanding of offshore oil rig operations, are offered at only a few universities and community colleges. They cover subjects such as offshore exploration, drilling, offshore regulations, maritime and state law and emergency responses. Other programs cover topics such as safety, rig systems and components, CPR, basic electrical skills and more.

Step 2: Pursue Apprenticeship Programs

A handful of community colleges offer apprenticeship programs for jobs that involve offshore oil rig operations. For example, individuals may pursue boilermaker apprenticeships that teach them to become metal fabricators who can build and repair offshore drilling platforms. Or, individuals may pursue apprenticeships in pile driving, an occupation also needed at offshore oil rigs. These apprenticeship programs take three or four years to complete.

Step 3: Gain Certification For Offshore Oil Rig Work

Another way for individuals to prepare for offshore oil rig jobs is to obtain formal training from a certification program like those accredited by the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC). These certification programs prepare individuals for work as floorhands or roughnecks in the oil or gas industry. Students learn about operational requirements at drilling sites and about safe working practices. Successful completion of an accredited training program earns the worker a certificate of completion. An example of this kind of program is the IADC's UBO Rig Pass program, which is being discontinued. The IADC's Introductory/Fundamental UBO WellCAP program will replace it in the near future.

Step 4: Seek Employment On An Offshore Oil Rig

According to December 2012 job listings for oil rig workers on, employers sought applicants for crew workers, derrick workers and derrickhands. These types of entry-level jobs required physical, mental and manual dexterity, as well as the ability to work long days. Applicants must pass drug screening and physical assessment tests. Some employers also required that they be able to read, write and speak English to understand verbal and written instructions. Prior experience in first aid, CPR and working on confined spaces is preferred.

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