Well Drilling

Well drilling is the process of locating and drilling wells for water, gas or oil. Students interested in this field typically complete coursework in a 2- or 4-year degree program that prepares them for jobs as drill technicians or contractors.

Inside Well Drilling

Potential well drillers need at minimum a high school diploma with credits in shop, physics, chemistry and geology. One may then seek an entry-level job as a helper with a drilling operation and learn the trade on-the-job. Alternatively, one may enroll in a 4-year or 2-year program, studying subjects such as inorganic chemistry, physics, engineering, hydrology or geology.

Education Information

A degree is required for the best job opportunities within the oil and gas industry. Read details about undergraduate, graduate and apprenticeship programs.

Associate Degree Programs

Technical colleges and 2-year associate degree granting institutions may offer associate's degrees in well drilling related subjects, such as well construction technology. Students are taught the necessary technical skills needed to service and operate well drilling equipment. Programs include classes and labs. Coursework may cover testing and monitoring wells to ensure adequate flow, power equipment, drilling fluids and rotary rig. Graduates are trained to drill petroleum, water or environmental wells.

Bachelor's and Master's Degree Programs

Bachelor's and master's degrees in related fields such as geology or petroleum engineering, are also good choices. Programs provide students with the knowledge to find, drill and develop well sites for oil and natural gas. These programs stress knowledge of physics and chemistry, as well as technical expertise. Check out the following Study.com articles below for more information about relevant degrees.


An apprenticeship is another way of gaining entrance into the field. Unions, such as Operating Engineers Union, offer apprenticeship programs to train apprentices to operate heavy equipment. Apprentices may earn a Certificate of Achievement and/or an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in the course of completing their apprenticeship. Courses may include hazardous material handling awareness (HazMat), welding, drilling and repair of heavy equipment.

Distance Learning Options

Distance learning options are available for those who cannot attend an institution of higher learning or for those who have schedules preventing them from attending classes.

Career Options

Entry-Level and Associate Degree Careers

There are many jobs available in the oil and gas well drilling industry at all levels. An entry-level position for individuals with no experience is a roustabout. Individuals with an associate's degree may work as a lease operator (responsible for the equipment used), rotary drill operator or driller.

Bachelor's and Master's Degree Careers

Graduates of bachelor's and master's degree programs often find jobs as well drilling contractors or petroleum engineers with oil and natural gas companies or environmental agencies. Most petroleum engineers work around the globe. Jobs are available on both the East and West Coasts in the U.S., as well as in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. Internationally, oil and gas production takes place in South America, Southeast Asia, Australia, Northern Europe and the Middle East.

A drilling engineer is responsible for finding oil deposits and drilling exploratory wells. A production engineer must evaluate and plan the drilling of a well that has been deemed viable for oil and gas collection. A reservoir engineer uses mathematical models to predict future production of a well. Most jobs are available through governmental and regulatory bodies, but positions with oil and gas corporations are also available.

Water well drillers or ground water contractors drill and service water table and artesian wells of varying depths. Water well drillers must be licensed. There are five types of drilling licenses: Water Well Operator Training, Resource Protection Well Operator Training, Water Well Operator, Resource Protection Well Operator License and Conditional License for Water or Resource Protection Wells. Here are articles from Study.com about possible careers in well drilling.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Depending on the role one plays in the well drilling process, work environments can vary from an office to an oil rig located in the Gulf of Mexico. The BLS predicted that employment for petroleum engineers would grow by 26 percent from 2012-2022. In addition, the BLS found that petroleum engineers earned a mean hourly wage of $70.90 in May 2012. PayScale.com found that most oil well drillers made an hourly rate between $13.35 and $38.45 as of March 2014.

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