What Is The Career Path Of An Oil Rig Worker?


Both drilling rig and service rig careers follow a similar hierarchy, but the methods of career advancement vary.

On each rig, the entry-level position is the Leasehand who performs general labour and maintenance. Tasks might include helping to dig drainage ditches or greasing equipment. According to The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CADOC), the recommended minimum base wage for a Leasehand is $22.60/hr on service rigs and $28/hr on drilling rigs.

Once you have proven your aptitude as a Leasehand, you can advance to become a Floorhand. Floorhands may mix compounds, operate the elevator and handle the drill pipe on the rig floor, as well as maintaining equipment. At some companies, there are no Leasehands, therefore the entry-level position is the Floorhand. As a Floorhand, you can expect to earn a base of $27.30/hr on a service rig, or $30.70/hr on a drilling rig.

Motorhands and Derrickhands and more

On drilling rigs, the next worker up the hierarchy is the Motorhand. As a Motorhand, you will be responsible for the maintenance of engines and other machinery.

The Motorhand works on the rig floor with the Floorhands and is the direct supervisor of these junior crew members. Motorhands can expect to earn a base wage of $33/hr.

Service rigs do not have Motorhands. Their job is largely the responsibility of the Derrickhand. On both drilling and service rigs, the Derrickhand mainly works above the rig floor on a platform. From there, they guide tubing, instruments and tools in and out of the well. Derrickhands can expect to earn a base of $30/hr on service rigs, or $38/hr on drilling rigs.

The supervisory role that many oil rig tradespeople aspire to is that of the Driller, which is also known as a Rig operator. The Driller is a highly trained individual who is responsible for troubleshooting problems and maintaining safety practices. They are second in command behind the Rig Manager, and assume responsibility for the crew if the Manager is away. Drillers can expect to earn a base of $34/hr on service rigs, or $44.80/hr on drilling rigs.

The senior-most supervisor of an oil rig is called the Rig Manager. This leadership role requires years of dedication and a stellar track record. This is a salaried position with high earning potential.

What are the requirements for working on an oil rig?

There are three necessities you must have before applying to work on an oil rig:

1) First Aid certificate
Though you’ll be provided with first-class technical and safety training, it is still important to have First Aid training. You’ll be working with heavy equipment in a fast-paced environment, and there are likely no medical clinics close-by. Everyone needs to be trained in first aid so they can quickly respond to medical incidents in the unlikely event that they occur.

2) H2S Alive certificate
H2S Alive is the industry-standard safety training. Employers require you to have this certificate before you start work, for your own safety and that of other crew members. The Certificate is earned in a one-day course administered by Enform (The Safety Association for Canada’s Upstream Oil and Gas Industry).

3) Driver’s license and car (for drilling rigs)
You will need a full, unrestricted drivers license with a clean driver’s abstract in order to work on either a drilling or service rig. If you work on a drilling rig, you’ll need a car because you’ll be expected to drive yourself to and from the work site.

If you’re working on a service rig you do not need a car, but you will need to help transport the drilling rig and equipment when you move job sites. You will eventually need to obtain a license for driving a commercial vehicle, but this can be done after initial employment.

These are the only requirements for working on an oil rig, but there are desirable qualities that can help your application stand out. These include:

  • Already having a commercial driver’s license (for service rigs)
  • Experience working outdoors in all weather conditions
  • Familiarity with a physically-demanding line of work (ex. construction)
  • Experience working in a small team environment

Career or short-term

Becoming an oil rig tradesperson offers great opportunities for advancement in a skilled, in-demand field.

Career mobility is an added bonus. The experience you gain as a leasehand or floorhand can be a boost to your resume.

If you decide to enter another trade or profession, you can use the experience to your advantage by highlighting your ability to learn trade skills and adhere to safety guidelines.

As well, if you’re interested in working in a corporate role for a petroleum company, your hands-on experience in the oil fields may be looked upon favourably. Many petroleum companies have their headquarters in the urban centres of Edmonton or Calgary.

Check out TalentEgg’s Petroleum Career Guide for more information about starting a career in oil and gas!