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  • Two onshore Oil Drillers laying pipes.

  • An onshore Oil Driller opening a valve.

  • Oil Driller

Oil Driller


Oil Drillers operate equipment on onshore and offshore oil installations. Offshore drilling crews are made up of people who do different tasks.

Also known as

  • Driller, Oil

Work Activities

As an Oil Driller, you will operate equipment on onshore and offshore oil installations.

Offshore drilling crews are made up of people who have different tasks.

You work onshore and offshore, on both fixed and mobile oil rigs. You control the drilling equipment and supervise the drilling crews. You operate equipment, in particular, you control the speed of the drill's rotation. You also monitor and record progress.

Roustabouts are General Labourers who help with drilling activities. You keep the drilling area clean and tidy. Roustabouts also have general duties such as:

  • unloading and storing supplies as they arrive by boat or helicopter
  • painting the deck
  • mixing drilling mud

Roughnecks are more skilled than Roustabouts. Working under the Driller's supervision, Roughnecks are directly involved in the drilling process.

You make up the right length of the drill string by putting together lengths of drill pipe. You put the drill string into the hole, pulling it back out to check for damage and worn drill bits.

If a drill bit is worn, Roughnecks take apart the pipe lengths and put in a new drill bit. You have general responsibility for maintaining the drill, keeping everything in good working order.

Derrickmen/women work about 90 feet above the floor of the rig on the 'derrick', the high tower. You handle sections of the drill pipe under the Driller's supervision.

Toolpusher is the name for the person who is in charge of the drilling operation, and sometimes the drilling rig. You make sure all the right materials and equipment are available and in good working order. You manage the crews and their shifts or rota, and are responsible for health and safety on the rig.

Offshore Oil Drillers normally work a shift pattern of 12 hours on duty and 12 hours off for a two or three week period. This is followed by a two or three week period of leave on the mainland.

Occasionally, bad weather may prevent helicopters flying between the mainland and the rig, leading to an enforced stay on the rig.

Protective clothing, boots and a helmet are usually worn.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become an Oil Driller, you need:

  • good teamwork skills; you'll be living and working with a small team in a fairly cramped space
  • good practical skills
  • to be punctual
  • to be able to tolerate harsh weather, and not mind being away from home for long periods
  • to be prepared to fly to and from the rig or platform
  • to be physically fit
  • to be prepared to learn and follow safety procedures, as safety is very important
  • a good head for heights

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £22,000 - £24,000
  • With experience: £25,000 - £29,500
  • Senior Oil Drillers earn £32,000 - £36,500

Food and accommodation is included in the pay package for those working offshore.

Hours of work

Offshore Oil Drillers work 12-hour shifts. You normally spend two or three weeks offshore at work and two or three weeks resting onshore.

Where could I work?

Employers are drilling contractors employed by oil companies.

Opportunities for Oil Drillers occur in drilling locations around the UK.

Opportunities for experienced Oil Drillers occur in other countries where oil and gas is extracted throughout the world.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, trade industry publications, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Find a Job website.

Vacancies can also be found through specialist engineering recruitment agencies, internet job boards and the websites of professional engineering bodies.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

For most offshore jobs in the UK, you need to be at least 18 years of age.

All applicants have to pass a medical examination that may include a drugs test. Your colour vision may also be tested.

An Intermediate Level Apprenticeship is a great place to start. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.

You usually enter this career as a Roustabout (General Labourer) and then work your way up.


All offshore employees must undertake an offshore survival course, which includes safety, survival and dealing with fires.

OPITO (The Oil & Gas Academy) provides a list of centres that run these courses. You'll need to contact the individual course provider to find out the cost.

Training is given on-the-job and may be combined with short courses taken while you are on shore leave.

As a Roustabout you can progress to becoming a Roughneck after about six months' experience.

Work Experience

Relevant experience includes mechanical or technical work in engineering.


With further experience you can progress to become a Derrickman/woman, Assistant Driller, then Driller after about five years.


To get onto an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need at least 2 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

Training providers may ask you to take an aptitude test.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


Relevant experience includes mechanical or technical work in engineering.


Petroleum Open Learning offers City & Guilds vocationally-related qualifications in Engineering Practice at levels 2 and 3.

Further Information

Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:

  • To support their members.
  • To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.

For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400




Maritime UK Careers

Tel: 020 7417 2837



Publisher: OPITO




Oil jobs

Tel: 0207 997 7624



Cogent Skills

Science industries

Address: Unit 5, Mandarin Court, Centre Park, Warrington, Cheshire WA1 1GG

Tel: 01925 515200


Energy Institute

Address: 61 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7AR

Tel: 020 7467 7100




Tel: 01224 787830



Petroleum Open Learning (POL)

Scottish enquiries

Address: Minerva House, Bruntland Road, Portlethen, Aberdeen AB12 4QL

Tel: 01224 787813



Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844


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