How much do oil rig workers make and what do they do?

Updated 25 September 2023

If you're considering a career as an oil rig worker, it's important to know what to expect from this job, including typical responsibilities and salary expectations. Careers on oil rigs are often popular with applicants looking for a job that doesn't require a degree but offers a good salary. In this article, we explore what an oil rig worker does, how to become one, the skills and qualifications required and answer the question 'How much do oil rig workers make?'.

What is an oil rig worker?

Before finding out the answer to the question 'How much do oil rig workers make?', it's important to understand what an oil rig worker is. Oil rig workers are responsible for operating and maintaining oil rigs to extract resources from beneath the sea. Lots of different people work on oil rigs and there are various roles with different responsibilities. Some of the roles you could apply for on an oil rig are medic, driller, scaffolder, radio operator, rig crew member and caterer. Each of these roles is very different and requires a different set of skills.

The work environment on an oil rig is something that all oil rig roles have in common. Working on an oil rig can be dangerous and requires a strong commitment to following strict health and safety policies. Oil rig workers often work in shift patterns, sometimes working two weeks followed by a two-week break. This means you can spend long periods away from friends and family and may miss events and occasions, including parties and birthdays. The challenges posed by the working conditions on an oil rig are partly why oil rig salaries are relatively high.

What does an oil rig worker do?

Your daily tasks as an oil rig worker depend on the type of role you're in, but there are some common responsibilities between all oil rig roles. Some of the typical duties that oil rig workers carry out daily include:

  • observing and maintaining machinery

  • managing paperwork

  • using software to monitor oil rig performance and remaining work

  • cleaning or catering duties

  • communicating with other oil rig staff via radio or computer

If you're considering a career on an oil rig, you can apply for an oil rig position that takes advantage of your strengths. Jobs in drilling, welding and other technical positions are best suited to candidates with experience in engineering and physical work, while roles in catering and cleaning are more accessible to everyone.

Related: What are verbal communication skills? (With tips)

How much do oil rig workers make?

The national average salary of an oil rig worker is £28,751 per year, but this average salary combines figures for all positions on oil rigs. The average oil rig worker salary of technical staff and engineers is higher than that of the catering and cleaning staff. An oil rig worker's experience and location also affect how much oil rig workers earn. To illustrate this, below are some examples of how much oil rig workers get paid for different positions on an oil rig:

  • Oil rig engineer: £33,375 per year

  • Oil rig radio operator: £30,436 per year

  • Oil rig caterer: £23,567 per year

  • Oil rig driller: £33,319 per year

  • Oil rig manager: £38,371 per year

What skills and qualifications do oil rig workers have?

While there are no essential qualifications that oil rig workers require, you can improve your chances of getting a job on an oil rig by studying for a degree qualification or similar. Before you can work on an oil rig, you're required to undergo and pass emergency response training, which provides you with the skills and knowledge you require to respond quickly and appropriately to emergencies that might arise on the oil rig. There are various routes into a career as an oil rig worker, including studying for an undergraduate degree, applying for an apprenticeship or gaining an entry-level role.

In technical roles, such as engineering roles, most oil rig workers have a degree in engineering or similar. An engineering degree could also help you secure a leadership position on an oil rig after gaining relevant experience. Alongside qualifications, prospective oil rig workers have a range of skills that prepares them for work on an oil rig. Some of the skills that you might require while working on an oil rig include:

  • Physical strength and fitness: Working on an oil rig is a physical job and it requires strength and fitness to maintain productivity during long shifts.

  • Attention to detail: It's important that oil riggers pay close attention to detail, especially when it comes to matters of health and safety.

  • Technical ability: Many roles on oil rigs require strong technical competence and an ability to operate, maintain and repair machinery and rigging equipment.

  • Time management skills: Oil rig workers have good time management skills that enable them to maximise efficiency during their shifts and keep to rig schedules.

How to become an oil rig worker

Now that you know what an oil rig worker does and how much an oil rig worker makes, you might decide you want to embark on a career as an oil rig worker. There are various routes into a career on an oil rig, depending on what kind of role you'd like to work in. Follow the steps below to find out how to become an oil rig worker in your chosen specialism:

1. Learn about the industry

Working on an oil rig is a very different career path from most and requires a willingness to have an unconventional working pattern and spend many months of every year living on a rig. Before you take steps to become an oil rig worker, it's important to do thorough research on what it's like to work on an oil rig and what you can expect from this career. Alongside being sure of your decision, your research into the industry will demonstrate your passion and knowledge to employers when you start applying for jobs.

Related: What does an offshore steward do? (With qualifications)

2. Study for relevant qualifications

There are many different routes into a career in oil rigging, but the most common path is to study for an undergraduate degree in engineering or a similar qualification. An engineering degree prepares you to work in technical roles on an oil rig, including as an oil rig driller or crew member. You could also study for a degree in nursing or catering and apply for support roles on an oil rig in these disciplines. Oil rig workers also require emergency response training, although you may be able to take this training after you secure a job.

Related: How to write an engineering graduate CV that gets you hired

3. Seek out new training opportunities

If you're set on a career in oil rigging, there are lots of additional training courses and qualifications that you can take advantage of to improve your chances of success. For example, you could look for online training courses offered by oil companies. Courses like this not only give you some of the knowledge and skills you require to excel in your career, but they also demonstrate your commitment to this career path to potential employers.

Related: 12 on-the-job training advantages when starting a new role

4. Apply for oil rig jobs

If you have a relevant undergraduate degree in engineering or similar, you could apply for roles on an oil rig as an engineer, a driller or in the control room.

If you don't have relevant qualifications, you could start by applying for apprenticeships on an oil rig or applying for entry-level unskilled/low-skilled roles, which can help you learn more about what it's like to work on an oil rig, before you commit to this career path. It's possible to work your way up to senior positions from many of these roles, but it's easier to secure leadership roles if you have a degree.

5. Seek out relevant experience

Once you secure your first job working on an oil rig, it's important to seek opportunities to gain new experiences and increase your responsibilities at work. By taking on more responsibilities and learning new skills, you can improve your oil rigging CV and increase your chances of securing more senior positions later in your career. Once you feel comfortable with your existing duties, ask your line manager to share more responsibilities with you, so you can expand your experience and drive your career in the right direction.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.

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