Is Oil Field Employment Really That Great?

Published: 25th March 2009
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Oil field employment pays high salaries with many perks and bonuses. This is why it is in high demand by job seekers. Nowadays only the gambling and tobacco industries have such high salaries. Before the dot com bubble burst, only IT paid more than the oil and gas industry. Now that the economy has melted down and is in free fall, finance has joined IT as a has-been. But is there really a good reason for you to look for an oilfield job?

Oil Field Employment Pays High Salaries And Bonuses

Jobs in oil field often pay 100% than any other industry. Based on statistics published in 2004, rig welding jobs pay $62,000 while welding jobs in the manufacturing industry only paid half of that. Entry level roustabout jobs, basically just laborers, pay $45,000, nearly double the salary of a regular construction laborer.

Petroleum geologists with a spanking new Masters or PhD earn $80,000 to $110,000. This does not include sign-up bonuses and other perks. This piece of news was reported by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in April 2008. Other degree holders, like petroleum engineers and chemical engineers, are also collecting very high pay.

These are all publicly recorded salary data published by government agencies like the Department of Labor and various trade associations as well as independent commercial entities like job boards and recruitment agencies.

Drilling Contractors Are Continuing To Hire For Oil Field Jobs

Sure, the newspapers report that some publicly-listed oil field services companies like Schlumberger and Halliburton are thinking of cutting staff. But if you read between the lines, they are mainly cutting admin people while slowing down the replacement of oil field workers who leave or retire. Not to mention that these "job cuts" are rather lacking in details like how many people by which date. All in all, it sounds more like the kind of announcement made to prop up their share prices.

After all, the economic slowdown does not change the fact that many oil workers were hired in the 70s, and are now reaching retirement. The big bosses don't like it, but they they have to replace these workers.

This recruitment problem was highlighted by a 2006 UK government report. Despite relatively low prices - $60/barrel - oil drilling companies reported that they did not have enough managers, professional and technical staff.

Noble Corporation, one of the world's largest offshore drilling companies, is a case in point. They have 5 new oil rigs, and need to fill up to 1500 vacancies. The economic slowdown may slow down their deployment, but no one can afford to completely shut down 5 new multi-billion dollar oil rigs built as part of a long-term business strategy.

Finding workers for their existing and new oil rigs is not the only problem. Oil fields are reaching peak oil. In other words, they are slowly running out of oil and production is declining. Oil companies need to find new oil fields. Unfortunately for them, oil exploration is not a game for a 60-year old geologist. They need more young petroleum geologists, but it takes 6 to 10 years to train a qualified geologist who has the skill to find oil. Together with the fact that only 10% of geology undergraduates manage to go the full distance...

Overall, oilfield jobs will not be disappearing anytime soon. Public-listed oil services companies may slow down hiring, but companies in the hands of private investors will pick up the slack. This is just like the last two decades, when private investors took control of oil rig companies for low prices. When the market turned around in the 2000s, these people made a killing selling and hiring their oil rigs to Shell and the other major oil companies.

This time will be no different. If the oil companies listed on the stock exchange are not hiring, then look for oil field employment from the privately-held oil drilling and oil services companies. You may not earn as much as in 2007-2008, but one thing will not change. You will still be making double the wages outside the oil sector.

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