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Earth Driller: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Apr 06, 2021

Earth drillers work in many industries with heavy equipment to drill the earth. They have little educational requirements, and some may require licensing by the state. The average annual salary they can expect is about $52,000.

Essential Information

Earth drillers operate large drilling and boring machines, such as churn, pneumatic and rotary drills. They drill through soil and rock to obtain core samples for scientific use or to locate sources of underground water supplies, gas and minerals. Earth drillers may work for mining, petroleum, construction, utility and scientific research companies.

Education Requirements High school diploma or GED
Other Requirements State licensing required for some positions
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 4% for construction equipment operators
Average Salary (2020)* $51,040 for earth drillers, except oil and gas

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earth Driller Job Description

An earth driller is a heavy equipment operator skilled in creating holes for utilities and extracting natural resources. Using several types of large drilling machinery, earth drillers move around the work site drilling holes with the help of a drilling crew.

Drilling is an outdoor job and is completed in all types of weather. In some cases, drillers must work hazardous areas, such as in underground in mines, and are trained to be ready for emergencies.

Tools earth drillers use include drill pipes and drill bits, hand tools, welding equipment and depth gages. They might also use levels and augers, water pumps and hoses and welding equipment.

Duties of an Earth Driller

Duties of an earth driller include moving, setting up and stabilizing earth-drilling equipment. Drillers select the correct drill bit needed for the job and replace drill bits when necessary. Ensuring that the drill rig is maintained is also the responsibility of the earth driller. Other duties include controlling the velocity of the drill bit and calculating the depth of the drilled hole.

It is imperative for the earth driller to know the legal requirements and physical demands of the drilling location so that the driller can ensure that the proper construction or drilling permits are obtained. This is also important for the driller to estimate costs for clients.

Earth drillers are responsible for documenting the geology, including any mineral deposits, of the area in which they are drilling. They may be required to help with explosive placement in mining or construction work.

Requirements to Become an Earth Driller

Most employers require a high school diploma or a GED for an entry-level earth driller position. Helpful high school courses for an earth driller candidate include geology, technical drawing and technology. Additional requirements for earth drillers may include obtaining a commercial driver's license to operate the drilling rig and taking a safety training course.

Many states require that water-well and mineral drillers obtain a state license. A written examination and a fee may be required to obtain a license. In some states, earth drillers must participate in an apprentice program for one year before they may take the licensing examination. During the apprenticeship period, the earth drillers must work under direct supervision.

Earth drillers may elect to complete an associate's degree program in well construction technology. These programs offer classroom instruction and hands-on laboratory experience. Course subjects include rotary rigs, drilling fluids and power equipment. Drillers who choose to continue their education may choose to earn a bachelor's degree in petroleum, mining or geophysical engineering. These programs explore new developments in mineral and water extraction and underground energy sources.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2020 that the average wages of earth drillers who worked in fields not related to oil or gas were $51,040, while the average wage for those in the coal mining industry was $60,650. The projected that employment for these professionals would rise 8% between 2019 and 2029.

Earth drillers require a high school diploma or GED, though associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available. These positions may require state licensing if working as water-well and mineral drillers. The job outlook for is faster than average for these positions.

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