Drilling Rig Jobs – Is Earning $100,000 Per Annum Too Good to Be True?

Like anything which involves money, employment and greed, drilling rig jobs is subject to scams. A trick used by fake offshore employment web-sites is to post oilfield job  expression vacancies with very high salaries. How is a job seeker to know if a web-site or job is real or fake? One way is to learn what are the typical rig employment salaries.

Obviously, a job posted on Shell’s web-site is not a scam. Unfortunately, most jobs posted on oil company web-sites tend to be high level executive positions, for example country managers. Most entry level jobs in the oil field are found with oil contractors and oil services companies, who post their jobs through job agencies and third party job web-sites.

You may think that going to a reputable site like Monster will guarantee that the job is real. However, experienced job seekers can tell you that quite a few disreputable job agencies also trawl these large job boards to pick up desperate job seekers. While these are not outright scams, an unwary job seeker could find himself giving up half of his first month’s salary as a fee to some dishonest job agencies.

Here are some rig employment salary statistics from Canada, reported in 2006. This means the data was gathered around 2003-2005:

Toolpusher (who leads the management crew on the oil rig) earns $110,000
Managers (in the head office) earn up to $170,000
Entry level roustabouts earn $55,000
Painters earn $58,000
Mud engineers earn in excess of $70,000
Ditto medics – $70,000
Radio operators – $60,000
Derickman – $65,000
Driller – $85,000
Assistant driller – $70,000
Cooks and bakers – $60,000
So, is $100,000 per year for drilling rig jobs too good to be true? That depends on the position. In February 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported that fresh petroleum engineering graduates can easily earn in excess of $100,000 not including perks and signing bonuses. Compare this to 2003, when the starting salary was $55,000. The same goes for geology graduates, reported the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in April 2008.

As you can see, in just 5 years the salaries for some positions have nearly doubled. Why? Part of the answer lies in the rise of the Indian and Chinese economies, where 2.5 billion people are finally growing in prosperity and need more oil. Another part of the answer lies in too many years of under-investment in oil rigs and workers. Too many of today’s experienced oil rig workers were hired in the 1970s, and will be starting to retire in a few more years, just when many new oil rigs are becoming operational. For example, Noble Corporation is bringing 5 new oil rigs to production in the next 2 years, and will need 1500 vacancies filled.

A medium sized agency specializing in oil employment could have up to 1000 job postings in their database, with maybe 20 new drilling rig jobs offered everyday. Despite salaries which are higher than what you can normally earn in jobs outside the oil field, there is high turnover rate of workers. Life on the oil rigs and oil fields is tough, and many new workers just cannot handle it. This is especially the case for married workers, who find the 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off schedule very difficult on their marriages.


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