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Gas and Oil Drillers

At a Glance

  • Use hand and power tools
  • Keep detailed records
  • Work outdoors and are exposed to high noise levels
  • Often work overtime
  • May be away from home for long periods
  • Train on the job

Career summary

Gas and oil drillers operate the equipment that is used to drill for gas and oil.

#no matching wois occ, no state wages, uses 3 soc for proj. there is proj data, checked 2/19/15 lh

Gas and oil drillers have different tasks depending on the work they do.

Derrick operators install derricks, tower-like steel structures that support drilling equipment. They build foundations for the derricks. They stabilize the drill rig with jackscrews and other means of support. They make sure the drilling fluid is processed correctly and flows through the drill pipes. Derrick operators regularly inspect the derrick and keep it clean.

Rotary drill operators help to prepare drill holes. Sometimes they use explosive charges. Rotary drill operators also control machines that drill holes in the ground by chipping and cutting rock with a rotating bit. They connect sections of drilling pipe and attach the proper drill bit. Drillers watch pressure gauges and control the power-driven derrick that raises and lowers the drilling bit into the well bore.

Drill operators collect and inspect samples of the rock being drilled. In addition, drillers use pumps to circulate water or drilling mud through the drill pipe into the well hole. This cools the drill bit and removes drilling particles. They regularly inspect and clean the drills, pulleys, blocks, and cables.

Service unit operators operate and maintain wells. They inspect all equipment by observing gauges and listening for defective parts. They operate the pumps that control the water and other fluids that flow through the well. Some operators drive truck-mounted units to well sites.

Sometimes gas and oil drillers remove obstructions in gas or oil wells that are not working properly. They use other instruments to locate and remove obstacles that are blocking the flow.

Gas and oil drillers keep records of drilling progress. They record data about the footage drilled and the nature of the rock layers. Some gas and oil drillers direct the work of helpers or other drillers.

Related careers

This career is part of the Architecture and Construction cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to gas and oil drillers.

Common work activities

Gas and oil drillers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, gas and oil drillers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Gas and oil drillers frequently:

It is important for gas and oil drillers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for gas and oil drillers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Gas and oil drillers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study to consider


To work as a gas and oil driller, you typically need to:

Education after high school

No formal education is required for this job. However, many employers prefer that you have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

On-the-job training

Gas and oil drillers learn their skills informally on the job. During training, you start as a roustabout (helper) and learn skills from an experienced worker. You need one month to one year of training to gain the experience needed to work as a driller.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers often hire entry-level helpers who do not have previous experience. They look for applicants who are physically fit and can pass a physical exam. Some companies give aptitude tests, or screen applicants for drug use. Most employers prefer applicants with previous work experience or formal training in petroleum technology. Employers often promote experienced drilling helpers, or roughnecks. They may be hired as derrick operators, and after several years, as drillers.

Unlike many other industries, the gas and oil extraction industry hires very few people under the age of 25. More than 80 percent of the workers in this field are between the ages of 25 and 54.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Derrick operators, oil and gas (SOC 47-5011)

Pay Period
Washington Wages for this occupation are not available.
United States Hourly $16.01 $18.55 $22.17 $26.64 $31.23
Monthly $2,775 $3,215 $3,842 $4,617 $5,412
Yearly $33,290 $38,580 $46,120 $55,420 $64,960

Rotary drill operators, oil and gas (SOC 47-5012)

Pay Period
Washington Wages for this occupation are not available.
United States Hourly $15.44 $19.75 $25.86 $32.82 $42.21
Monthly $2,676 $3,423 $4,482 $5,688 $7,315
Yearly $32,110 $41,090 $53,800 $68,250 $87,790

Service unit operators, oil, gas, and mining (SOC 47-5013)

Pay Period
Washington Wages for this occupation are not available.
United States Hourly $15.59 $18.27 $23.01 $29.63 $37.90
Monthly $2,702 $3,166 $3,988 $5,135 $6,568
Yearly $32,430 $37,990 $47,860 $61,630 $78,840

Wages vary by employer, area of specialization, and area of the country. The worker's level of experience and responsibility also affect wages. Rotary drill operators usually have the most responsibility for the drilling operation. Thus, they earn the highest wages.

Gas and oil drillers who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Derrick Operators, Oil and Gas (SOC 47-5011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
United States 12,200 16.4% 5.2% 2,100

Rotary Drill Operators, Oil and Gas (SOC 47-5012)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 19 15.8% 16.1% 3
United States 19,300 14.5% 5.2% 3,200

Service Unit Operators, Oil, Gas, and Mining (SOC 47-5013)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
United States 52,900 13.2% 5.2% 8,700

National employment

More than half of all gas and oil drillers work in California, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Major employers:

National outlook

The demand for gas and oil in the US is expected to remain very strong. As the US continues to look for ways to decrease dependence on foreign oil, drilling for shale gas has increased in the US. This has produced many jobs.

There is a fairly high turnover rate among gas and oil drillers. Many job openings will result from the need to replace those who leave the occupation. Those with strong technical skills and experience will have the best chances.

Other resources

International Association of Drilling Contractors (external link)
3657 Briarpark Dr, Suite 200
Houston, TX 77042
National Drilling Association (external link)
3053 Nationwide Parkway
Brunswick, OH 44212


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupations

O*Net job zones (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters