Offshore Oil Rig Jobs Remain Hot Even When the Economy is Cold

Offshore oil rig jobs, unlike IT and finance, will be hot this coming decade. Sure, some oil drilling companies say they are idling their oil rigs and laying off workers, but this is offset by other companies hiring workers to man their new offshore oil rigs. What is the difference between these companies? Basically, most of the companies announcing lay-offs are publicly-listed companies – announcing lay-offs is a classic technique to keep their share prices from sinking too much. Privately-held companies, on the other hand, use recessions as an opportunity to leap-frog ahead of their competition. This is the kind of strategy which conservative investors like Warren Buffet use to make themselves billionaires. This is why there are still oil rig jobs available, if you only know where to look.

When we talk about the oil and gas industry, we can divide it into three different fields:

  • Upstream – exploring and drilling for oil
  • Midstream – refine and transport the oil
  • Downstream – sell and distribute the oil

Upstream has the greatest need for skilled workers. In their April meeting in 2008, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists reported that graduate students (with Masters degrees and PhD degrees) were being hired with starting salaries from $80,000 to $110,000. Why? Because many oil fields today are growing old and production is past its peak. Oil companies need to find new oil fields fast, and they need younger geologists to replace their retiring geologists, many of whom were hired in the 1970s. In the long run, demand for geologists with the training to prospect for oil will remain high – after all, out of 20,000 geology undergraduates, only 2,800 pass their Bachelor’s degree at the end of four years of study. Given this report by the American Geological Institute, it is still worthwhile to study Geology in university if you have the brains for it.

If you are less academically inclined and prefer a more rugged lifestyle, you may want to start out as a roustabout. This is a good time for disadvantaged youths – the US Department of Labor has a JobCorp program where they work with colleges and industry to provide relevant job training. Officially, a roustabout is a laborer – but who cares? You can earn up to $45,000 a year, working just 6 months every year. With two decades experience, your salary goes up to $55,000. Compare this to a construction laborer’s salary – $24,000.

Another good choice is to get in with a trade or craft. An oil rig welder with the relevant certifications can make up to $62,000 a year. An offshore oil rig also needs mechanics, electricians, cooks and nurses, so these are also good qualifications to earn. The great advantage of these support positions is that you can take your skills elsewhere if the oil industry ever goes into a real slump.

There are many entry-level offshore oil rig jobs which do not need a degree. You can get in as a roustabout or a tradesman like an electrician or mechanic.


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