I often wonder, why do we have so much money coming and going from the oil and gas industry? The Library of Congress states that “Oil and natural gas are major industries in the energy market and play an influential role in the global economy as the world’s primary fuel sources.” Yes, we need gas and oil in order to power up our automobiles, run engines in factories, and process food in bulk quantities for mass consumerism, we must have oil and gas.
However, we also need oil and gas as part of our everyday heating and food preparation systems. Without people to work in the oil and gas industry, the entire world would fall into disarray with a lack of energy resources. To help you find a job in the oil and gas industry, this guide shows you everything you need to know about this world of employment.
Types of Jobs in the Oil and Gas Industry
The oil and gas industry hires all kinds of workers at a variety of educational and skill levels. This includes:
- Drilling engineer
- Drilling supervisor
- Reservoir engineer
- Equipment operator
- Rig operator
- Floor hand
- Derrick hand
- Pipeline technician
- Mechanical engineer
- Construction manager
- Drilling supervisor
- Project engineer
- Project manager
- Health, safety and environmental (HSE) manager
Additionally, it is important to think about the areas included beneath this umbrella of industries:
- Natural gas
- Crude oil extraction
- Gas and oil pipelines
- Gas stations
- Residential and commercial heating
- Oil shale and oil sands mining
These areas of employment pay more than others, but one thing is for certain. You do need to have some related experience in order to make a successful career out of the gas and oil industry. If you have never pumped your own gas into a car tank, or have not smelled diesel, you might have a lack of experience.
At the same time, you should have some manual labor or technical training related to crude oil, transportation, natural gas, or a related field. This will help you make the most of a career change in this industry. Roustabouts are hired laborers who fulfill this entry-level oil and gas industry job.
Consider a job as a roustabout on an oil rig as your first job in this industry.
Working in Oil and Gas Extraction
When starting out in the oil and gas industry, you might likely work in oil and gas extraction. This area of occupation requires the least amount of education, but offers a wealth of opportunities. You are working in crude petroleum and natural gas in the area of drilling and operating wells for preparing oil and gas for shipment to producers.
In the oil and gas extraction subsector of employment, you can expect to earn around $45 an hour. The area of oil and gas extraction includes these occupations:
- Oil and gas roustabouts
- Wellhead pumpers
- Petroleum pump and refinery operators
- Petroleum engineers
The highest paying occupation in the oil and gas extraction subsector is geoscientist, with a median hourly wage of $75.50 and a mean salary of $161,310 annually. At the other end of the spectrum are roustabouts, which are unskilled or casual oil rig laborers. These workers earn a median rate of $22.59 an hour or $56,030 in a mean annual salary.
Petroleum engineers make $157,900 a year compared to $79,340 earned by refinery operators and $69,780 made by wellhead pumpers.
Geological and Hydrologic Technician Jobs
Another common type of engineering job for the oil and gas industry is as a geological or hydrologic technician. This is a middle of the road job in terms of pay. You are going to see a salary of about $50,630 a year or $24.34 an hour.
In terms of jobs in the oil and gas industry, this is not much more than the wage of a roustabout. Yet if you want to get an entry level job in the oil and gas industry, consider a hydrologic technician or geological technican. You only need to have an associate’s degree, which is a two-year degree, from a college to seek employment.
This is much more feasible for many working adults. Compare this to earning a bachelor’s degree, which takes four years and includes general study courses like English and History. If you are already out of college, going back for an associate’s degree in a field like geological and hydrologic technician is a good move to make for your career.
While the pay rates are half of that of a mechanical engineer or drilling engineer, you are able to start working with moderate on the job training within two years, rather than four. This is a great way to get your bearings in the oil and gas industry. You can more easily work your way up the career ladder in this industry by starting with this technician occupation.
How Much Education Do Engineers for Oil and Gas Need?
After a stint as a roustabout, you might be ready to toss your ring into the engineering subsector of the oil and gas industry. If so, you want to consider how long you will need to go to school for this type of job. An engineer is a wide open occupation that covers every industry including oil and gas.
Additionally, this industry requires the expertise of several kinds of engineers. Oil and gas engineers include petroleum engineers, drilling engineers, and mechanical engineers–just to highlight a few. Chemical engineering and civil engineering are also applicable jobs for someone working in the oil and gas industry.
Education for a Petroleum Engineer
To become a petroleum engineer, you can anticipate going to college for at least four years. This is required to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering or petroleum engineering. The degree will provide you with the framework to work in the oil and gas industry as an engineer.
You learn necessary information regarding geology, rock formations, shale formations, and other areas of oil and gas extraction. As a petroleum engineer, you can expect to find a job either in offices or at well sites where drilling is being conducted. You are also going to need to travel quite often in between drilling sites and to visit customers.
The job of a petroleum engineer pays very well, too–quite worth the education. Expect an annual salary of around $130,850 or an hourly wage of $62.91, which is three times the earnings of a roustabout. As an added plus, this field of employment is on the rise with an 8 percent increase in jobs by 2,200 from 2020 to 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Education for a Drilling Engineer
A drilling engineer is another direction you can take when getting a degree as an engineer. This includes coursework in petroleum engineering, as well as geology. You may also specialize in mechanical engineering for your degree.
Stanford University and the University of Texas at Austin are considered top schools for drilling engineers. A drilling engineer may also be referred to as a geological technician or hydrologic technician. This is a field that is heavy in earth sciences and advanced level geometry and mathematics.
You may also consider a degree or career as a naval architect or a marine engineer. These areas of engineering are typically involved with military or water vessel manufacturing. Unlike drilling engineers working with the earth and dirt when mining, you are surrounded by ocean water and marine life.
The environment is completely different, yet the tasks and goals are the same–to safely extract crude oil and petroleum for production and sales. As a marine engineer or naval architect, job tasks involve building and maintaining vessels, including oil rigs and tankers. The job pays $93,370 annually or $44.89 an hour, and new hires need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
Education for a Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical engineering is the right choice for some gas and oil industry professionals. The US BLS states, “Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.” To become a mechanical engineer, you will need to focus on a bachelor’s degree of science in mechanical engineering.
In order to specialize in and practice mechanical engineering on the job, you will likely need to pursue a master’s degree in advanced research. This will give you advanced training beyond your bachelor’s in engineering or petroleum engineering. For an advanced degree in mechanical engineering, here are some of the best colleges to attend in the US:
- Cornell University
- California Institute of Technology
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Stanford University
- University of California–Berkeley
- University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign
- University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
If you are interested in a master’s in mechanical engineering or M.Eng., you can also attend a college that is totally online. The University of Cincinnati offers a 100 percent online M.Eng. degree, which is perfect for an active person working in the gas and oil industry. As for the pay of a mechanical engineer working in the oil and gas industry, the US BLS reports have a median pay as of 2021 of $95,300 a year or $45.82 an hour.
This is right on par with the other engineering jobs we have seen here already. Additionally, this subsector of engineering is growing steadily. There is an employment change of 20,900 new jobs following a 7 percent increase in demand from 2020 to 2030.
It is also important to note that the BLS states all US states and Washington D.C. have a licensing requirement for mechanical engineers. You will be required to pass a licensing exam in order to market and sell your services. To get licensed as a mechanical engineer, you are required to complete the following tasks according to the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE):
- Go to college and earn a four-year bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field
- Work as an intern or apprentice for at least four years with a professional and licensed engineer
- Pass two competency exams
- Receive and maintain licensing from your home state’s licensing board
The two competency exams that you must take to become a licensed professional engineer are:
- The Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam tests
You can only take these exams once you have successfully graduated from an engineering program at an accredited college, university, or online school. To take these exam tests, you are required to pay a fee of $375 to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering (NCEES). You might also have to pay additional fees based on the testing facility or institution where you are taking these engineering exams.
Topics covered in the PE mechanical engineering exams include:
- HVAC and refrigeration
- Thermal and fluid systems
- Machine design and materials
Each of these exams is multiple choice for the most part. You do get to use the PE Mechanical Reference Handbook by the NCEES when you are taking the exams. This is available for free to download electronically once you register for the exams.
Top Paying Jobs in the Oil and Gas Industry
There are some jobs in the oil and gas industry that pay the most money and benefits to employees over the long haul. These include those in management, such as a project manager or drilling supervisor, which pay around $150,000 annually. The job of an engineer, i.e., drilling, reservoir, or mechanical engineer earns less money than being supervisor.
This is surprising to me. I assumed that the individuals who have the most technical training would make more money. However, management must also have to have some technical background and experience in order to run the entire operation.
Therefore, that is why management positions in the oil and gas industry have higher salaries. According to Oil Price, these types of oil and gas engineers earn about $130,000 a year. That is not quite shabby, but compared to $150,000 for a supervisor salary, there is room to grow.
This is where developing your skills as an oil and gas mechanical engineer or reservoir engineer can really pay off in the future. As you work in the industry, you gain invaluable hands-on experience, as well as training and knowledge that will propel you to a job in upper management in the future. This provides an opportunity for growth and encourages professional development for those working in the oil and gas industry.
After all, to be able to earn $150,000 a year is a great salary for any industry professional and is an upper class income based on the American Economic Class System.
Three Major Sectors of the Oil and Gas Industry
- Oil exploration and gas production
- Oil and gas transportation and storage
- Oil and gas refining and marketing
These are better known in three terms–as upstream, midstream, and downstream according to Investopedia. The exploration stage starts with the upstream processes, followed by midstream transport and storage. The downstream stage is when oil and gas is refined and marketed to end consumers.
Qualifications for Oil and Gas Industry
To be a qualified candidate in the oil and gas industry means you will need to have some skills or training. This experience can be gained in a post-secondary school or on the job. However, the number of qualifications will vary greatly depending on the type of job you are getting hired to do.
For example, if you want to get hired to work in Texas, which is the largest oil producing state followed by North Dakota, you will most likely start with manual labor. And this involves, to a great degree, the truck driving industry. The trucking industry is a major provider of jobs in the oil mining industry, as well as the transportation of gas and petroleum to stores and homes.
However, in the oil mining fields, trucking demands 24 hour work from drivers and driver assistants. This can be an excellent way to get your foot into the door of the oil and gas industry if you have no engineering or collegiate background. Trucking does not require a college degree, and the oil and gas industry cannot run without these workers.
As a result, an oil field truck driver salary can be as much as $96,500 a year without any college degrees or advanced technical training. Next, you have engineers and supervisors along with managers of oil companies. Engineers are the next step up from the trucking industry in the oil and gas sector.
Here is where you will need to have advanced training and a specialized degree, most likely even a master’s degree. Typically, this training and schooling is necessary before you are eligible to enter the oil and gas job market. At the top of the corporate ladder are those managers and supervisors in the oil and gas industry.
These professionals are upper level management and they do not generally get their hands oily. They are most likely going to have advanced training and specialized degrees–more so than engineers in the industry. In fact, generally, managers and supervisors in the oil and gas industry come from previous jobs where they worked as roustabouts, drillers, geophysicists, and other types of industry related occupations.
As a result, managers are better capable of handling a group of workers in this environment thanks to their previous worksite experience and know-how.
Oil and Gas Industry Companies
The oil and gas industry has several big corporations that make up a mass global effort to maintain fuel capacity and pricing. In the wake of natural disasters, market fluctuations, and climate change, there is a constant demand for innovation. Whether you have experience working at a gas station or on an oil rig in the ocean, you can call yourself an oil and gas industry worker.
Here are some of the companies to go to when you are ready to find a new job in this industry, either domestically or internationally.
- Shell (UK)
- Tatneft (Russia)
- Gazprom Neft (Russia)
- Rosneft (Russia)
- Surgutneftegaz (Russia)
- Lukoil (Russia)
- Chevron Corporation (USA)
- ExxonMobil, formerly Standard Oil of New Jersey (USA)
- Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia)
- PetroChina (China)
- TotalEnergies (France)
- ConocoPhillips (USA)
- Phillips 66 (USA)
- Indian Oil Corporation (India)
- China National Petroleum (China)
- Sinopec (China)
- National Iranian Oil Company (Iran)
- Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (Kuwait)
- Marathon Petroleum Corporation (USA)
- Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) (India)
- Hellenic Petroleum (Greece)
- Antero Resources Corporation (USA)
- Iraq National Oil Company (Iraq)
These companies are all interested in hiring new engineers, drillers, drivers, and oil riggers to fulfill many in-demand jobs. Whether you are interested in working in a hands-on capacity getting wet with actual crude oil, or you prefer to go tech, there is a job for you.
Companies in the USA and North America, as well as internationally, are all in need of the most talented job candidates. If you have the skills and expertise, and are willing to work hard enough, you could find yourself working in a place like Saudi Arabia or Alaska for the oil and gas industry.
Common Oil and Gas Associations
- American Gas Association
- American Petroleum Institute (API)
- Independent Petroleum Association of America
- Interstate Natural Gas Association of America
- Natural Gas Council
- Natural Gas Supply Association
- Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)