Oil and gas rotary drill operators carry out the plans for drilling that petroleum engineers have designed. They operate the equipment that digs the well and that removes the oil or gas. They often work in remote locations outdoors and around heavy machinery, so they must follow precautions. Most work full time, and they often work overtime.
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Oil and gas rotary drill operators include roustabouts, derrick operators, service unit operators, and rotary drill operators. Roustabouts typically do the following:
Derrick operators typically do the following:
Service unit operators typically do the following:
Rotary drill operators, also known as drillers, typically do the following:
Rotary drilling crews do most of their work in oil fields.
The typical level of education required for entry into oil and gas occupations is less than a high school diploma. However, some employers prefer to hire graduates of high school vocational programs in which students learn such skills as basic mechanics, welding, and heavy equipment operations.
There are few formal education requirements for oil and gas rotary drill operators. However, they need a lot of job training and experience before they can do most tasks or advance to more skilled positions.
Most workers start as helpers to experienced workers and learn skills on the job. However, formal training is becoming more important as more technologically advanced machinery and methods are increasingly used.
As workers gain more experience, they can move up to higher paying jobs that require greater skill. For example, a roustabout may become a rotary helper and advance to derrick operator and then driller. A similar progression is available to service workers as well.
Because of the extreme environment and critical nature of the work, offshore oil crews generally are more experienced than land crews. For work on an offshore rig, many companies hire only workers who are already experienced in oilfield operations. As a result, workers who have gained experience as part of a land crew might advance to offshore operations. Positions are usually filled on the basis of seniority and ability.
Oil and gas rotary drill operators are employed mainly in oil and gas extraction and in firms offering support for mining. Oil and gas sites can be on land, in inland waters, or at sea (offshore). During hazardous weather, such as a hurricane, coastal land rigs and offshore production and drilling facilities may have to be evacuated.
Derrick operators and rotary drill operators experience higher-than-average rates of nonfatal injuries. Constant care must be taken to minimize incidents and maximize safety in a work environment where secure footing is often a concern. Proper use of personal protective equipment, such as hard hats, minimizes risks on job sites. An additional danger is the constant, loud noise from the drilling machinery. This noise makes communication difficult, so it is important for workers to follow safety instructions from supervisors and other experienced co-workers.
Most oil and gas rotary drill operators work full time, but they often have to work overtime. Oil and gas drilling rigs usually operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Workers on land drilling rigs typically work 8- or 12-hour shifts. While some land drilling rig personnel work seven days a week without days off until the well is complete, most work 7 or 14 days on and then equal days off. The remote location of offshore oil rigs requires some workers to live onsite for weeks at a time, frequently working 12-hour shifts, followed by an extended leave period onshore. As a result, part-time opportunities are rare.
The median annual wage of oil and gas rotary drill operators was $37,640 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $24,440, and the top 10% earned more than $64,260.