7 Oil Field Jobs Companies Are Desperate To Fill

oil field jobs: derrick hand, roustabout

It would have seemed the stuff of science fiction if it hadn't appeared on newspapers across the world: According to new forecasts, the United States may soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the planet's largest oil producing country. Developments in technology and high oil prices have created stunning oil booms across the U.S., transforming sleepy towns into energy powerhouses, and making the longtime dream of American energy independence a possibility again.

There's just one problem: More oil requires more oil workers.

By 2020, one industry report claims that the oil industry will have created an additional 1.3 million positions. "Even if we are [energy independent], we can't hire enough people to keep it running," says Brian Aylor, who works in the oil fields in Midland, Texas, where the current oil boom plunged unemployment to 3.3 percent in September. "There's demand for everything."

Companies in boomtowns like Midland, Texas, pay workers handsomely; kids fresh out of high school can earn $80,000 a year if they're willing to get their hands dirty. And while oilfield experience is preferred (companies are desperately looking for experienced hands), anywhere with oil-soaked shale beneath the feet is probably hungry for workers with any kind of technical background, whether they're military veterans or car mechanics.

More: Oil Workers Win Big As U.S. Wages Climb

AOL Jobs spoke with a half dozen West Texas staffing firms and a number of industry people to find out the most in-demand jobs -- and what it takes to land one. Job seekers pondering a new career in the gas and oil sector can check out the list of positions below, and see if they have the skills and temperament to join America's 21st century energy revolution.

1. Truck Driver

Why It's In Demand: "Because everyone needs trucks, from moving rigs and equipment, to hauling oil and water away, and 'frack' sand," says Ryan Lellis, an oil field geologist in the Permian Basin of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. "Right now, every company is hurting for that."

What It Pays: An oil industry trucker can make up to $2,500 a week, according to Lonnie Ortiz, who owns L J Trucking, based in Odessa, Texas, although Payscale.com places the average at $45,000 a year.

Why It's A Tough Gig: "Someone with short patience won't make it as a truck driver," Ortiz says. "Someone with a short fuse won't make it as a truck driver." Truckers have to be "go-getters who can figure out problems, self-starters, leaders," he explains, since if they break down, assistance might not come for a while.

Qualifications: "You're a mechanic. You're a tire man. You're a load supervisor," says Ortiz. "You turn out to be lots of things as a truck driver. You're a skilled motorist. You're an electrician. Anything that a job title can be -- you're it."

2. Derrick Hand

Why It's In Demand: Not only are rigs springing up almost everyday, but a lot of current derrick hands are older, and getting ready to retire. "They call it the Great Crew Shift," says Tim Cook, the recruiting manager for Houston-based Pathfinder Staffing.

What It Pays: $69,000 a year, according to Indeed.com.

Why It's A Tough Gig: The derrick hand's job is to monitor the drilling fluid, maintain the pumps, guide the drill pipe, unjam jams, and any and all kinds of lifting, pulling, pushing and climbing in-between. "You're the 'anything that is extremely dangerous' person," says Benham.

Qualifications: Applicants should have some experience with rig work, have no fear of heights, and be able to pass a drug test.

3. Floorhand/Leasehand/Roustabout

Why It's In Demand: The more wells you have running, the more crewmen you need. The name changes depending on the company, but these lower-level hands have to do it all. Brian Aylor, a lease operator, says he calls in the roustabout crew when he can't fix something on the well himself.

What It Pays: $54,000 (according to the Drilling Oil and Natural Gas Wells Salary Survey).

Why It's A Tough Gig: The roustabout does a lot of the essential things on the rig sites that require less technical know-how. "It's going to be manual labor. It's going to be hard work," says Aylor. "Running a shovel, swinging a hammer ... building on locations, maintenance on equipment out in the fields."

"You've got to be a hands-on type of person, and not be afraid to get dirty, and not be afraid to lift heavy things and be around dangerous machinery," says Benham.

Qualifications: A roughneck needs a high school diploma or equivalent, and to be able to lift 150 pounds with the aid of another person, and stand for 12 hours wearing steel-toed boots.

More: 10 Industries Set To Boom

4. MWD Field Engineer

Why It's In Demand: A measuring-while-drilling field engineer is responsible for just that: Taking readings in the field during the drilling process -- to evaluate the drill site, and make sure that the drilling is done properly and efficiently. One job posting describes work hours as "unlimited and irregular."

What It Pays: Between $63,000 and $80,000 according to listings on Glassdoor.com.

Why It's A Tough Gig: The engineers measure "all the fun little numbers you think would matter while you're drilling a hole" says Benham, a specialist at temporary staffing firm in Midland. Those numbers are needed during the entire drilling process, so MWD field engineers can expect some serious demands on their time.

Qualifications: An undergraduate degree in engineering or science, or technical experience.

More: Trace Adkins Talks About His Old 'Day Job' As A Roughneck

5. Geologist

Why It's In Demand: "Most oil drilling is founded on geology, it's the first step," says Ryan Lellis, who's been an oil field geologist in Midland, Texas, for 2½ years. "The rocks have to be there and someone has to recognize that the rocks are there."

What It Pays: Geologists are well compensated for their key role; after 10 to 14 years experience they take home an average salary of $153,000, according to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. $99,000 and up (according to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists).

Why It's A Tough Gig: Geologists need to be extremely diligent, since their findings determine where an oil field company will then spend millions to drill a well. But for Lellis, that's also why the job is so satisfying -- presenting his findings to the managers and owners of his company, "and for them to spend money -- a lot of money" based on his conclusions.

Qualifications: Bachelor of Science degree, although a master's will give you a boost.

6. Welder

Why It's In Demand: "What I'm seeing is actually a tremendous growth in the [welding] industry," MSU-Billings College of Technology welding instructor Bob Blackwell told KTVQ in January. And folks are noting the trend all over the country, with oil companies, desperate for welders to repair and maintain rigs, using higher salaries to poach welders from other industries.

What It Pays: $18 and $28 an hour, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times. But WDAY-TV has reported salaries as high as $12- to $14,000 a month in boom areas.

Why It's A Tough Gig: Like most rig jobs, you need to be able to handle some physical strain: heavy-lifting, hoisting, crawling, crouching, and heights.

Qualifications: High school degree or equivalent, welding training.

7. Accountant

Why It's In Demand: Not all oil and gas jobs involve digging really big holes. Those holes mean lots of paperwork, and the industry is hungry for office support staff to bean-count it all into place, according to Lesley Donnell, a branch manager at the Midland/Odessa office of Robert Half International.

"Accountants in general," she says, "specifically we have a high demand for tax accountants here right now."

What It Pays: $68,000 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Why It's A Tough Gig: Numbers, numbers, numbers.

Qualifications: Bachelor's degree in accounting, finance or business.

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Brandon Schmalriede

Please Help!!! Im looking for work . Ive been moving furniture for ten years roofed houses apartment maintenance. Im not afraid of work i would love to get in the oil field so i can start putting money back for my. Future . Please call me and let me know if you have leads . Pass drug physical no problem . Every job i have ever had i got along and companies really like me. My number is 214 325 6544

November 11 2014 at 5:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jennifer Follett Cop

Hello my name jennifer and my husband is Patrick my husband is a hard working person but he is tired of working paycheck to paycheck he is a quick learner strong not of afraid of long hours getting dirty heights or going under water and traveling the only thing wrong is his driving license he really want to get in the oilfield bad where he can provide for his family like he want to so if any one can help please let me know or you Facebook him Patrick copeland

October 16 2014 at 4:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was initially interested in this article because of the title, but after reading the different types of career positions and the comments of others below i would definitely like to find out more about any positions i can qualify for. i am 22 years old living in Chicago and I'm no stranger to doing hard work and getting dirty, currently working full time overnight at a con-way shipping warehouse, i don't have a degree but i have 2-years of college experience majoring in biochemistry i had to drop out due to family matters. if anybody has information on positions or work internships my Email is alexanderthompson17@yahoo.com.

August 31 2014 at 12:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am looking into the oil and gas industry and I am not sure what careers are available for someone with my background. I am 48 years and have been in a regional sales manger and a regional quality manger with 6 =years experience. I have had more than 60 direct reports. If there is anyone that could help with some direction, I live in Pittsburgh,PA My Email is jeffstipanovich@gmail.com

August 11 2014 at 4:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Tom Harper
My name is Tom Harper . I live in Manor,TX and currently work at FedEx as a driver. I do not have any oil field experience but willing to expand my horizons if the opportunity is available. I'm a hard worker, have great time conception, and can pass a drug screen. Please contact me at (512) 502-4302 or at tomahawk88.harper@aol.com if I'm a proper candidate for your company.

July 11 2014 at 10:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My name is Cameron Mitchell. I currently hold a B.A.in Computer Information System, T.W.I.C, and Merchant Marine Credentials. I have a heavy IT background, but have transferrable skills into this industry. Unable to gain the attention of employers, because I have no prior Oil Ridge Experience. I'm no stranger to hard work and would like to gain experience in this field. Anyone know a company willing to take a chance on an experienced, seasoned, and ready to work employee. 817-849-4240 or cameron_mitchell@live.com

April 14 2014 at 6:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe Snider

My name is Joe snider I am 41 yrs old I have about a10 yrs experience working for light plant generator service company's I'm currently working for an oilfield Rental serv co. Outta donie tx called vaquero light plant oilfield Rental serv. and the oil and gas business has about played out round here so I am looking to go to work for an lightplant generator serv. co around west Texas

April 13 2014 at 1:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


March 24 2014 at 4:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm from Milwaukee Wisconsin & I'm seeing this this oilfield jobs. I'm in the asphalt & sealing business.
We work 12 to 18 hrs a day, and it's very physical. but sucks here is the cold & snow, so we got down time for bout 4 months.
The thing I'm wondering about is i have a felony. It"s not violent,but it's possession of a weapon when having a restraining order with my wife. I thought it was dropped but it wasn't final. So, i got hit with 2 felonies for having world war 2 colts worth a lot of money. I would love to get into this field so I can raise up on the middle class.Could I break threw into this field? I'm 37 yrs old & not getting younger. Anyone with knowledge on how to get hired< please, email me at strahotajr.dennis@gmail.com. thank you $ your consideration..

February 01 2014 at 10:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oil jobs west texas......wifes nephew making 10,000 month workin overtime........see www. texasoilcareers.com..........

January 24 2014 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to terry's comment

Looking for Safety Positions Pdegrasse@aol.com San Antonio, Tilden. Dilley, Karnes.

February 09 2014 at 5:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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