Oilfield services is a lucrative career, but it’s not for everyone. The work is physically demanding and can be dangerous. You have to live in an area with active oilfields because most jobs are on site. If you’re looking for a change from your current job or want to see how it feels before making a decision, this article will give you some information about what the work entails and whether it might suit you as a full-time occupation.
Table of Contents
1. What are Oilfield Services?
Oilfield services is a broad name for companies that provide the tools and expertise required to make oil extraction happen. Oilfield service providers hire people to operate the equipment, monitor it for wear and tear, repair anything that breaks down or stops working, and generally keep things running smoothly.
Oilfield technologies have moved forward by leaps and bounds over the past few decades. The labor required to perform tasks like digging or drilling holes, measuring land elevations on large tracts of land, and building roads is no longer needed. Most people who would otherwise be doing these tasks are now working on-site with the oilfield equipment.
Oilfield service providers need workers capable of operating heavy machinery, such as heavy trucks, tractors, and a wide array of attachments. These workers need to read plans and blueprints to plan how best to use existing equipment or fabricate their equipment if needed.
2. The Work Involved in Oilfield Services
The majority of work in this industry is performed on-site. Often you will live on-site, away from your family and friends. The shifts can be very long, typically 10 to 14 hours (7 AM to 7 PM). If you are employed as a shop-based trades person, the typical shift is around 48 hours per week (7 AM-8 PM) for five days in a row, with your weekends free.
Oilfield work is very physically demanding. Oilfields in northern Alberta can be cold in the winter months and hot in summer. Work may require you to do a lot of heavy lifting or use tools that are heavier than you’re used to. You may have to move quickly from one task to another, so you may not have time to warm up properly before starting.
3. What are the Qualifications Required for Work in this Industry?
Oilfield service providers will hire people that meet or exceed their standards for strength and fitness. That doesn’t mean you need to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you should understand what is needed physically to perform the tasks.
Some oilfield employers will require you to be certified in WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and H2S Alive before they will hire you. These courses must be paid for out-of-pocket, so it’s important to factor this cost into your budget if you plan to have a career in this field.
It would help if you understood that oilfield work is considered part of the construction industry. Suppose you are not registered as a member of your provincial or territorial association for structural trades. In that case, you may not be able to work legally on some jobs without additional training because the equipment and practices used can be very different than what other construction workers are used to. This makes for some exciting dilemmas when it comes to getting your foot in the door.
4. What is the Demand for Workers?
The oilfield services sector is currently experiencing strong employment growth, which is expected to continue in the coming years. In 2014, employment grew by 8.5%, with another year of double-digit growth predicted for 2015. Oilfield work is complex, dirty, and demanding, so there is a high demand for new workers to replace those retiring from this industry.
Demand for skilled tradespeople is exceptionally high. Oilfield service providers use new technologies that make industrial production more efficient while requiring fewer workers. This has increased demand for highly-qualified technicians with various skills, from welding to electro-mechanical.
5. What are the Average Wages?
Wages in this industry range from $15-$40 per hour in most parts of the country. As with any construction or industrial job, some jurisdictions pay higher rates than others due to regional supply and demand for labor.
Oilfield service providers will also provide work clothes and safety equipment. Some larger companies offer benefits packages, such as pensions and group insurance, but most employers do not offer these extra perks.
The most common wage scale ranges from $15-25/hour for laborers (including shop trades) to around $35/hour for technicians and supervisors.
6. What are the Benefits of Working in this Industry?
The pay is considered high for an industrial or construction job, but you have to be prepared for a very physically demanding job where you often work 10+ hours per day for 6-7 days in a row.
Many oilfield services employers offer benefits packages that include extended health and dental coverage, personal time off, vision care expense coverage, life insurance, LTD/STD pay, and an Employee Assistance Program. Some employers even offer tuition reimbursement for select programs.
7. What are the Biggest Challenges of Working in this Industry?
The biggest challenge is living away from home for extended periods. Many oilfield services companies send their technicians to remote camps or sites where they will live and work by themselves, with little to no human interaction for weeks at a time.
Another challenge many entry-level laborers face in this industry is that some employers won’t hire you unless you are already a member of your local or provincial association for structural trades. Also, some oilfield services employers don’t offer apprenticeship training because they feel it isn’t cost-effective. This is why many new employees looking to get into this field need expertise in multiple trades and skills and can perform various tasks.
8. Who Dominates this Industry? What is the Market Share?
The oilfield services sector comprises thousands of companies that vary in size and scope. The largest employers include Precision Drilling, Halliburton, Census Energy, Eosinophilic, and Nextel Inc. These companies employ the most technical professionals in this industry, such as engineers and geologists.
The oilfield services industry is composed of both large parent companies which provide a variety of products and services to the global markets and smaller local or regional service providers that can only offer one or two oilfield-related services. This means that the most prominent players operate in more than one province and country, while smaller companies operate in a specific geographic area.
9. How do I Find a Job in this Sector?
There are quite a few ways to find work as an entry-level worker within the oilfield services industry, whether you’re looking for full-time or part-time opportunities.
The first step should be registering on the oilfield services company’s job board. Many companies post their available jobs directly on their website under “careers” or “employment.”
You can also find job postings for all types of oilfield service providers by checking out Indeed, Workaholics, Monster, and other online employment websites that post daily oilfield services job postings.
Finally, a great way to find a job in the oilfield services industry is by word of mouth, so tell everyone you know to keep their eyes peeled for opportunities or share your resume with friends and family members who work in this sector. Also, consider attending career fairs at local colleges or universities that offer oilfield services programs.
10. How can I Advance My Career?
You have to get on-the-job training by working alongside a more experienced oilfield services employee to advance in your career. Because the entry-level positions are so physically demanding and challenging, this is an excellent opportunity for someone new to the field with little or no experience in this area.
Also, many entry-level laborers move up the career ladder fairly quickly because oilfield services companies typically promote from within their ranks.
The first promotion you can apply for is to become a “rig runner,” which means you will be responsible for helping out on the drill floor and assisting other tradesmen and professionals with various tasks that need to be completed.
Once you become a rig runner and gain more experience in the field, you can apply to become a “rig hand” or “roughneck,” which is your first supervisory role.
The next promotion up the career ladder for an entry-level laborer is to become a drill floor shift leader or “drilling mud engineer,” the highest entry-level position for someone who does not have any formal post-secondary education or training.
There are some key steps you can follow to advance your career in the oilfield services industry successfully:
Get hands-on experience by working alongside a more experienced employee in a lower position.
stay focused and driven by learning as much as you can about the industry
Keep your resume updated and ready to go at any time, so when a job opportunity pops up, you’re prepared
11. Best Colleges to Study About Oilfield Services
Several colleges and universities across the country offer training programs for students hoping to work in this sector. In addition, there are also various online courses you can take that will help prepare you for a career as an entry-level laborer or tradesperson working within the oilfield services industry.
1. University of Calgary – Rig Technology Program
This program will prepare you to work as a laborer, runner, or hand on a drilling rig. You will learn safety procedures for running rigging equipment and be introduced to the various types of oilfield-related machinery found in the field.
2. Red Deer College – Rig Technician Program
This 2-year post-secondary program will teach you about rigging equipment how to work with pumps, motors, and other oilfield mechanical components. You will also learn how to operate an air drill rig and other professions within the field.
3. SAIT – Rig Operations Program
This program covers training in safety procedures, hand signals used by the rig crew, and proper clothing required for your safety. You will also receive training on the essential components of drilling rigs, pump systems used in the field, and how to use various computer programs related to this career path.
4. Nor Quest College – Instrumentation Program
This program covers hands-on experience with sensors, motors, controllers, and other types of electronic equipment used by oilfield services companies.
Several colleges and universities across the country offer training programs for students hoping to work in this sector. In addition, there are also various online courses you can take that will help prepare you for a career as an entry-level laborer or trades person working within the oilfield services industry.
Oilfield services/equipment may not be the right career path for everyone. Still, if you’re interested in a challenging and exciting field that offers plenty of growth opportunities, this could be the perfect choice for you. We hope this article has helped give you a better understanding of what oilfield services/equipment entails and what it takes to succeed in this industry. If you have any questions or want more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.