Entry-Level Oil Rig Jobs: Salary & Positions

Jan 17, 2020

Oil rigs provide a range of careers to technical workers who perform the various duties needed to extract oil. Find out about some of the entry-level jobs available on oil rigs, their median salaries and education requirements.

Entry-Level Oil Rig Career Options

Oil rigs require a lot of different equipment to extract oil, which provides several entry-level positions to those who operate the different machinery. These positions vary in job duties and the amount of on-the-job training needed, but are all considered entry-level since they do not require work experience in a related occupation. Learn about some of these jobs below.

Job Title Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Petroleum Engineers $137,170 3%
Rotary Drill Operators, Oil, and Gas $53,800 15%
Roustabouts, Oil and Gas $37,580 15%
Derrick Operators, Oil and Gas $46,120 17%
Service Unit Operators, Oil, Gas and Mining $47,860 13%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Entry-Level Oil Rig Jobs

Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers do not need any previous work experience or on-the-job training to perform their duties. Some of these engineers may travel to and/or work on oil rigs to examine the drill site and check that all of the drilling equipment is installed correctly and working as it should. They also help determine new ways to extract oil or ways to further improve drilling methods, and then they monitor the production of various wells. Petroleum engineers must have at least a bachelor's degree in a field of engineering. Although experience is not required, work experience may be preferred, but it can often be gained through bachelor's degree programs in the form of internships and cooperative-education programs. Entry-level petroleum engineers don't need a license, but they'll need to earn one eventually to offer their services to the public or work more independently.

Rotary Drill Operators

Rotary drill operators do not need related work experience, but they do undergo moderate-term on-the-job training to prepare for their duties. These operators specialize in setting up drills on oil rigs that are used to extract oil, gas or core samples, and they operate the drills with levers, pedals and throttles. They must carefully monitor pressure gauges and ensure that the drilling crews are properly trained in order to keep the drilling process as safe as possible. Rotary drill operators do not need a formal education to perform their job duties.


Roustabouts also need to undergo some moderate-term on-the-job training, but they do not need work experience in a related job. These professionals specialize in repairing the equipment on oil rigs that is used to extract oil, and they may also help assemble the equipment as necessary. Their work typically requires them to identify any leaks or other malfunctions in pipes or machinery and then correct the issue by reconnecting pipes, tightening screws and/or cleaning deck areas. Roustabouts are not required to have a formal education.

Derrick Operators

Derrick operators are not required to have prior work experience, but they do need to participate in short-term on-the-job training. Derrick operators, as their name implies, specialize in operating derricks and pumps on the rigs that help push mud out of drill holes so that the oil can be extracted. They must check the derricks for proper positioning, make sure the derricks are working well, and then make any necessary repairs or adjustments. Derrick operators do not need a formal education credential to work.

Service Unit Operators

Service unit operators need moderate-term on-the-job training, but no related work experience. On oil rigs, these operators use special equipment to clear out drilling wells to improve and maximize oil flow. They typically document their work in detailed reports and conduct consistent safety inspections of equipment and may add pressure-control devices to wells. Like other positions, service unit operators do not need a formal education.

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