What do offshore workers do? And how much do they make?

In the Oil & Gas industry, offshore worker roles are wide-ranging. For example, as an offshore driller, you might operate and control the drilling machinery that extracts oil from the seabed. Offshore oil workers can expect to earn between $50,000 - $300,00 per year, depending on the role.

What is offshore work?

Offshore work typically involves working on oil rigs in the sea. In Oil & Gas, offshore workers are usually involved in exploring and extracting mineral resources from the seabed. The work can be physically demanding and undertaken in difficult conditions like extreme weather. However, the rewards can be very satisfying.

Offshore work can be broadly categorised into four areas: exploration, construction, operations and management. Offshore oil workers can perform a range of duties including drilling, surveying, diving and carrying out health and safety checks.

Learn more about the life cycle of an oil and gas project.

 

What does an offshore worker do?

Offshore rig workers carry out a range of duties: 

  • ■ A Drilling Engineer is responsible for exploring and extracting oil from wells. They also maintain the drill and other tools that are used in the extraction process. 

  • ■ As a Driller, you’d oversee the assembly of drilling tools, monitor the drilling process and ensure health and safety procedures are being followed.

  • ■ As a Derrickman, you would work on a platform attached to the derrick, which is a mast that supports the drilling equipment. You’d be responsible for aligning the drill pipe, securing its foundation and connecting it to other components. A Derrickman also operates and maintains drilling motors and monitors pumping pressure.

  • ■ As a Ballast Control Operator, your job would be to control the oil rig’s stability. As a floating structure, an oil rig has a ballast tank, which holds water to provide stability in harsh currents. In this role, you’d be responsible for maintaining the rig’s position, monitoring the ballast controls, producing reports on the rig’s stability and supervising the transfer of bulk material.

  • ■ Offshore Installation Managers (OIMs) manage all offshore activities on an oil or gas rig, including maintenance, project work and training. They are responsible for ensuring that all processes and procedures are adhered to. In this role, you’d be trained in how to handle emergencies and how to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of workers.

Other offshore Oil & Gas jobs include:

  • ■ Well Services Supervisor

  • ■ Automation Systems Specialist

  • ■ Offshore Piping Designer

  • ■ Production Technician

  • ■ Pump Operator

  • ■ Helicopter Pilot

  • ■ Geologist

  • ■ Welder

  • ■ Electrician

  • ■ Cooking Staff

How much does an offshore worker make?

Working offshore in the Oil & Gas sector can be a very rewarding career. An offshore worker’s salary is typically above national averages, and some specialist roles can be very lucrative.

Entry-level roles in the industry typically pay between $50,000 - $80,000 a year, whereas more specialised roles pay around $75,000 - $100,000.

As an offshore drilling engineer, you could expect to earn a salary of around $55,000 - $65,000 per year. On the highest end of the scale, a specialist role like a drilling consultant would earn between $143,000 - $305,000.

Geologists working offshore could expect to earn between $65,000 - $183,000, and helicopter pilots earn around $75,000 - $150,000.

 

How can I become an offshore worker?

Most people who become offshore rig workers enter into the industry by completing an engineering apprenticeship. Those who already have experience in engineering or construction often apply to companies directly, demonstrating their transferable skills.

To work offshore, you need to be over the age of 18. You also need to have an offshore medical certificate and emergency response training. Once you’ve been offered a position offshore, you’ll need to undertake Basic Offshore Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET).

To apply for an engineering apprenticeship, you’ll need to have a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in English and Math or equivalent qualifications. Physics and Chemistry are also desirable subjects.

Alternatively, you may be able to enter the industry as a roustabout or roughneck, undertaking a variety of tasks and learning on the job, before becoming qualified to work in a more specialist role.

To become an offshore worker, you need to have good attention to detail. Some offshore work can be dangerous, so you’ll need to have a thorough approach and be able to follow health and safety guidelines. You’ll need to work well with others and have good observation and reporting skills.

Due to the often-physical nature of offshore work, you’ll need to be physically fit and able to stay calm in stressful situations. In senior positions, you’ll need to demonstrate strong leadership skills and the ability to monitor your own and others’ performance.

In 2019, total revenues for the Oil & Gas industry were $3.3 trillion. As such, there are many opportunities for career progression in the sector. After joining the industry through an entry-level role like a drilling engineer, you could be promoted to a drilling consultant or an offshore installation manager.

Alternatively, you may decide to set up your own business and work as a contractor with other firms to negotiate a higher rate of pay.

 

Find offshore work

At Brunel, we’ve been helping candidates find offshore work for nearly 50 years. We pair talented professionals with some of the world’s largest Oil & Gas companies. We work with major industry leaders and a range of other operators, EPCs and service companies.

Working with an experienced partner like Brunel is essential to progressing your career in the Oil & Gas industry. We'll help you find the job you want, in the country you want. Whether you’re looking for contract work with all logistics taken care of by us, or you want to relocate with your family to a new country, we’re there for you 24/7.

What sets us apart is the quality of the services we provide to both our clients and our contractors. We recruit across all three industry sectors — upstream, midstream and downstream — and we have a range of companies looking for your expertise. Whether you’re young and ambitious or have decades of experience, we can guide you on a new path to success. 

On our jobs platform, you’ll find all our latest opportunities. To help narrow your search, you can filter by location, expertise, education and experience.

 

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