What Entry Level Oilfield Position Suits You?
Guest Post: by Rikki Smith (Oilfield Jobs)
Opening my Facebook page Oilfield Jobs where I post jobs specifically for oilfield positions I often find a variety of emails waiting for an answer. Many of them go something like this:
“Hi, my name is John Doe and I am interested in looking for a position in the oilfield. I’ve never worked in the oilfield before but I am out of work and have a family of four to feed and need to get a job asap. Can you help me?”
...and thus begins the dialogue of me attempting to find out what direction to give each individual.
There are so many questions that wind up going into the attempt to be helpful. I genuinely want to help, so I think it is my duty to try to gain some discovery information of what the person inquiring would like beyond just a job. I would like them to consider the life they want beyond the job because not every entry level job offers the same things. Someone with a newborn baby and not a lot of family local might not want to take off and follow the never in the same place pipeline job. It could be hard on a new mom to go months without seeing her man and deal with a new baby alone. Someone who has no ties and loves to travel might think chasing the pipeline is a dream job and won’t mind moving location and changing states even a couple times of year. Some pack up in the camper with their family in tow and travel together from job to job. Someone who isn’t physically capable of pulling 12 hour shifts 7 days a week might prefer to work a less strenuous job and might be inclined to a sales position or roustabout work.
Also, there is climate/geography to consider. Not all people can handle the extreme cold that a North Dakota winter offers and many can not handle the extreme heat of West Texas summers. Some people prefer to be close to large towns while others prefer to be out in the sticks. All of these are things to take into account. Not that you would turn down a job over something like that if you are serious about getting into the oilfield. Taking the time to map out a larger picture however can make the experience a well planned with few surprises adventure instead of feeling like you are on a roller coaster from hell.
So before you think just getting your foot in the door is enough, consider the long term lifestyle you would like to provide yourself or your family. The oilfield is a diverse and immense landscape with so many variables and so many options. Making a decision without examining every aspect first could lead to a very disappointing result. Putting your interests, natural talents, family or life goals, etc all into perspective before making a move into the industry can allow a proper fit and therefore a successful career.
Entry Level Options and the Lifestyles they dictate:
Sales: can be in office or in field, local or over a large territory. position offers flexibility and often very stable hours. Pay is often based on some sort of commission plan and might not be a stable amount depending on performance etc.
Pipeline oiler/swamper/laborer: often jobs only last three to four months, involves working outdoor for 10-12 hours a day in all weather conditions. can be very labor intensive and requiring lifting 50+ pounds on a regular basis throughout the day. at the end of each job workers are issued a layoff and have to find the next job they will work for themselves. travel requirements are extensive and it’s rare you will work where you live or even close. pay often includes a stipend called per-diem for living expenses.
Oilfield Roustabout: responsible for maintenance of oilfield operations such as pump jacks, wells, tank batteries, etc. work is mostly outdoors in all weather conditions. usually offers standard work hours with overtime or weekends being optional if desired. work is all year for same company and allows worker to live in one area without need to move constantly.
Rig - Floorhand: responsible for helping to set up and take down rig equipment. often rig jobs are rotational working 2 weeks on and 1 off type of schedule. once on location rig workers often stay in man camps and don’t leave location until their ‘hitch’ (rotation) is over. It is not a common thing for a wife/gf or husband/bf to be able to visit when worker is away on hitch. rigs change locations on a regular basis so travel might be required to get to location. there are both onshore and offshore rigs. offshore usually requires a TWIC card which is a TSA issued authorization to be at restricted areas in a port. sometimes a Safeland or Rigpass are required as well.
Helpful certificates for any of the positions that have online courses:
OSHA 10 Construction
OSHA 30 Construction
Safe Driving Course
Most positions will require a clean DMV record, some require a physical, some don’t, all require drug testing and there are often randoms throughout the year.
There is also a great need for CDL drivers in the oilfield. Having hazmat and tanker endorsements is a huge plus. Workers who run a very local route don’t have to meet DOT regulations and can work overtime making good money.
Some helpful links The age-old advice to ‘knock on every door until one opens’ is sage advice in this line of work. Most of the hiring revolves around personal networking so it can seem hopeless if you don’t know someone in the industry. Persistence is a very important, if not the most important, part of a skill set necessary for success in the oilfield.
There are many opportunities beyond the oilfield in the boomtowns. With all the workers required in the oilfield, the boomtowns often need workers for general and construction industry to support the growth. Consider taking the population of North Dakota and doubling it in a matter of a couple years. That opens the door for road workers, carpenters, and every other industry worker. If you land a job in a boom town and have a significant other, consider that jobs such as clerks at your local Walmart can make much more in a such areas and perhaps bringing them along if they only have a minimum wage job at home or one they are not happy with and doesn’t pay well. Example, the local grocery store in the town we were in last year was hiring clerks at $18hr. So, you don’t even necessarily have to change positions, but perhaps, just a location change to a place where work is never ending and job opportunities are plentiful might be all you need.
- Rikki Smith