Oil and gas jobs, whether working aboard a drilling rig or an offshore boat is a unique experience for anyone seeking escape from the mundane jobs that abound these days. Unless one has a college education or well connected relatives there are few land based jobs that offer the pay, benefits, travel, adventure and time off that offshore work provides.
Where are the jobs? What parts of the country?
By far, the vast majority of oil rig jobs are situated on and around the gulf coast of the United States. Other active areas include Canada, Alaska, South America and the inland areas of the US. Most major drilling contractors and service companies are represented all over the world.
But the bulk of the offshore activity goes on in the Gulf area of the US though there is a significant amount of activity off the coast of California. “hotbeds” of activity for the offshore industries are of course Houston, TX; Lafayette, LA; Galveston, TX; Lake Charles, LA; Morgan City, LA; Cameron, LA; Vicksburg, MS; Mobile, AL and other seaport areas of the Gulf coast.
What is the work schedule?
You can expect to be on your rig, boat or platform for extended lengths of time followed by equal (usually) time off. These are known as “hitches”. They vary from employer to employer. e.g. 7 days on and 7 days off; 14 days on / 14 days off and so on, up to 5 weeks on/off depending on the employer and location of the project. Of course no employer whose rig is working for example in West Africa is going to bear the expense of flying their crews around the world every week! Generally speaking, rigs in the Gulf of Mexico work 14 / 14 hitched. Rigs in deeper water sometimes go for 21 / 21.
Foreign based rigs usually go for 28 / 28. Offshore boats and pipeline barges engaged in offshore construction have been known to stay out until the project is finished which can be an indefinite period of time. Be prepared at any time (including the day you expect to leave for home) to be asked to “work over” if there is a special need or project to be finished. Sometimes your “relief” will not show up for crew change forcing you to remain on the rig until someone can be sent to replace you.
Most contractors are generous with overtime however if you are asked to stay. Be aware of this possibility and adjust your family life accordingly. While on the subject of family it would be wise to prepare your family, spouse or significant other for your being away for extended periods of time. Telephones and e-mail are usually available on rigs and boats but never count on it! Rigs in remote areas of the world or “under tow” have no communication for extended time periods.
We advise setting up automatic payment arrangements with your financial institutions to take care of such important bills as mortgages, car payments etc. Most employers are aware that their employees are away from home for weeks at a time and encourage “direct deposit” payroll for this reason.
Now for the burning question…………
How much will I make?
Your reading this for answers to questions, but please understand that we must address this issue in conservative generalizations. Pay scales are mentioned on a “more-or-less” basis at the time of writing.
When figuring pay one must take into account that while working offshore with a “rotational schedule” one is only working for six months out of the year. So whatever you gross for that year was actually earned in six months. You have six months of the year off.
That being said, also consider that for six months out of the year you are not operating you vehicle…not buying food…not paying rent…even frequent flyer miles for overseas work are yours to keep. Your living expenses are zero except for toiletries and personal products. Consider what this is worth to you when you figure the pay scale for the particular job you have chosen to pursue entry-level jobs: roustabout, painter, galleyhand, deckhand, samplecatcher etc.
As a rule of thumb as of this writing, there are few persons working aboard a rig or vessel on a regular schedule who make less than $1000.00 per week. Some make more….some less. Welders and craftsmen can expect to make roughly 10 to 20 percent above land jobs depending on demand. Hourly paid workers are paid for 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Overtime “kicks in” rather quickly. Foreign service pay starts at ten percent and goes up from there depending on the employer plus frequent flyer miles. Boat jobs generally pay a “day rate” for deck hands, cooks and galley hands.
What is the fastest and easiest way to get on a rig?
To be honest, if we were unskilled; out of work; just getting started and just want to get out there we recommend Universal Services or one of the other catering contractors listed inside our kit. They are notorious for hiring “off the street”. They require little or no experience generally. Pay scales start around minimum wage but there are plenty of hours that add up quickly as well as the “built-in” benefits that go with offshore work. Other options include the tank cleaning, painting and sample catching jobs listed in this report.
What is the fastest and easiest way to a boat job?
For “deckhands” aboard crewboats, workboats, tugs, towboats, anchor barges and pipeline barges we recommend first inquiring with the maritime personnel agencies listed in this report. Secondly, search the listed newspapers. If you are local to the areas of any “port town” simply inquire at the dockside offices. Once hired, we recommend that you begin showing an interest in obtaining a USCG license to obtain advancement.
What can I expect when applying to a drilling or maritime contractor?
First, be prepared for drug testing. With the hazards involved with men working around steel and machinery there is no room in the industry for the drug user/abuser. Secondly a thorough physical examination (usually at the employers expense) is performed. Some drilling contractors send roustabout/painter applicants to special testing centers who monitor applicants physical abilities prior to employment interviews.
Can I advance in my job?
Yes. Everyone on a rig enters as a roustabout or painter (unless hired from the outside for a specific job) the oilfield is known for rapid and on the spot promotions to those who show initiative and work hard. Rig managers, o.i.m’s, barge engineer, crane operators and the like all usually start at the roustabout level and work their way up from there.
The succession of promotion generally runs from roustabout to roughneck to derrickman/shakerman to assistant driller to driller to tourpusher and finally toolpusher/o.i.m. Most of the time the promotions come with instant pay raises. Boat hands generally must obtain USCG training in order to advance to a “licensed” position, though ones “sea time” required for licenses are accumulated during ones tenure as a deckhand. Catering hands are also promoted from within from the entry-level onward to steward/campboss up to the field supervisor level. Welders and craftsmen are often promoted to pushers and on to project managers or specialists.
No matter what position you are hired in at and for what company we highly recommend “networking”, that is getting to know people who are doing the job (and getting the pay) that you want and showing a willingness to learn what they do. Many galleyhands for example have gone on to respected positions such as mud engineer simply by showing an interest and learning the job (as well as going to school). Many companies offer free paid education to promising potential candidates.
What is “offshore construction”?
Simply put, when a well is drilled offshore for oil or gas a platform is constructed or moved from another location over the well in order to process the product and send it through a pipeline to a gathering area. Platforms are constructed onshore for the most part and floated or barged to the site. Much welding, plumbing and electrical work is required in these operations. Pipelines must be constructed to tie in these wells and platforms to the mainstream.
There are many large and small contractors who specialize in this construction and the maintenance and operation of these platforms in all parts of the world. Many welding, plumbing, pipefitting, electrical, engineering, catering and painting jobs are usually available with these contractors.