How to Work on an Oil Rig

Three Parts:Getting the Necessary Training and CertificationsAssessing Your Ability to Work Under Challenging CircumstancesChoosing the Kind of Oil Rig Job You Want

As global demand for oil grows, the petroleum industry is under increasing pressure to expand exploration and drilling operations. Many oil companies are capitalizing on relaxed government restrictions and technological advances to maximize production. The new rigs they build require workers to man them. Jobs on oil rigs are physically demanding and working conditions are often dangerous, but oil rig workers earn good salaries, often gain promotions, and can work in locations throughout the world.

Part 1
Getting the Necessary Training and Certifications

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    Determine whether you meet the basic requirements. While entry-level jobs on oil rigs are plentiful and technically don't require any experience, few companies will hire a "green hand" to work on their billion-dollar platforms.
    • In general, oil rig workers only need to be 18 or older, have a high school diploma, and pass a pre-employment drug test. Successful applicants have usually pursued oil rig training independently or bring transferable skills to the job. All workers must meet certain minimum standards and certifications to work on an oil rig.
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    Ask about the work visa requirements. Since many oil rigs are in international waters or even in foreign countries, it is important to be aware of what documents you’ll need if you must enter another country for the work. Most companies will arrange for a current work visa for people working outside their native country.
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    Get the necessary immunizations. Oil rig jobs are available in some of the world's most exotic locations, including the coasts of Africa and the waters of Southeast Asia. Workers from other regions often get jobs in these areas, but they must complete a full course of immunizations before they will be hired.
    • Some of the most common required vaccinations include Hepatitis A; Hepatitis B; Tetanus; Polio; Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR); Meningitis[1]; Typhoid Fever; Seasonal Influenza; and Yellow Fever.[2]
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    Find specialized training courses. Many trade schools and colleges offer classes on various facets of the oil industry, including oil rig work. Most classes blend coursework with hands-on field experience. Companies often provide training for workers looking to advance their careers in specialized fields.[3]
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    Complete the required certifications. All offshore workers are required to earn an Offshore Survival & Firefighting certificate. Specialized workers like electricians, scaffolders, and welders must hold a state-issued license or certificate in order to work on a rig.[4]

Part 2
Assessing Your Ability to Work Under Challenging Circumstances

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    Decide if you are capable of working long shifts. Most oil rig crews, both onshore and offshore, work grueling 12-hour shifts. Rotations vary, but most companies keep crews on site for two weeks and then give workers two weeks off. [5][6]
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    Prepare for the physical labor aspects of the job. Entry-level oil rig jobs are physically taxing. Most involve moving supplies and heavy equipment, like drill pipes. This kind of work requires a level of strength and endurance that other jobs might not.[7]
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    Research the weather conditions at your possible oil rig job. Oil rigs are often located in places with extreme weather conditions. Offshore and onshore rigs offer distinct challenges.
    • Onshore rigs. Most oilfields in the United States are in the unforgiving climate of the Southwest, where summertime temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees F (37.7 C). Drilling in the petroleum-rich fields of Canada reaches full capacity during the bitterly cold winter months, when the frozen ground is better able to withstand heavy equipment and exploration procedures.
    • Offshore rigs. Workers on offshore oil rigs are at the mercy of the elements, too. North Sea platforms are battered year-round by strong winds and unyielding waves. Rigs dotting the U.S. coastline in the Gulf of Mexico are on alert during the hurricane season (June 1 to November 30).
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    Decide if you can manage the aspects of physical danger. The contents of an oil well are under extreme pressure, but that's only part of the danger rig workers face daily. Cranes are constantly moving massive sections of pipe across the platform. Highly combustible gases are used in everyday operations that include welding and pipe-cutting. All of these aspects of oil rigs constitute a fairly constant level of danger that requires workers to be on guard and prepared to handle emergency situations.

Part 3
Choosing the Kind of Oil Rig Job You Want

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    Consider your qualifications. An oil rig is a place where you really can work hard to get ahead. Most crane operators, shift supervisors and other skilled workers started out in entry-level positions. They set themselves apart by pursuing advanced oil rig training and accepting additional assignments. If you have previous experience, advanced qualifications or training, etc., you may be able to apply for non-entry level positions.
    • If working on an oil rig is a long-term goal of yours or if you want to begin working at the highest level possible, it might be a good idea for you to pursue training options and certifications before you apply so that you are more qualified for non-entry level positions.
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    Weigh your personal skills and preferences. There are a variety of jobs available for employment on oil rigs. Think about what kind of work you enjoy doing and what job might best fit with these ideas.
    • If you enjoy cooking more than manual labor, consider applying to be a chef for the oil rig crew. If you want to learn a specific trade (like welding), you might want to apply to be a helper or apprentice to a welder or other specialist on the oil rig.
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    Choose an entry level position that suits you, if necessary. There are many jobs available for inexperienced workers to begin their careers.[8]
    • Roughneck: Roughnecks are general laborers who usually work on the rig deck. They move equipment and supplies, and also are responsible for cleaning equipment and work areas.[9]
    • Roustabout: These workers are involved in drilling operations. They often move sections of drill pipe and clean spill. Roustabouts aspire to one day become the tool pusher, the senior supervisor on a rig.[10]
    • Helper: Helpers assist skilled personnel, serving as apprentices for rig electricians, lead welders, and heavy-equipment operators.[11]
    • Painter: Offshore oil rigs, in particular, must be painted constantly to protect the structure from the corrosive effects of saltwater. This is a hazardous duty, as painters often must be suspended in harnesses to reach remote areas of the platform.
    • Motorman: Motormen maintain and repair all rig machinery, including generators and deck equipment. [12]
    • Deckhand: Deckhands build tow lines to secure barges and boats to the structure, facilitating loading and offloading of cargo.
    • Steward: Housekeeping needs, including laundry service and janitorial duties, must be met to ensure the smooth operation of an oil rig.
    • Assistant chef: Galley hands, including assistant chefs, work around the clock to prepare meals for all shifts. This is a job where mainstream experience is directly transferable to duties on the rig.

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