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Canada’s Best Jobs 2014: Oil & Gas Drilling Supervisor

The other kind of drill sergeant

Oil and Gas Rig Drilling Supervisor

An Encana employee working on a drilling rig. (RJ Sangosti/Denver Post/Getty)

Median Salary: $72,880
Change in salary (2007–2013): +15%
Total employees: 17,100

With oil and gas production surging over the past few years, this job mainstains a strong place on our list. The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors projects continued strong demand, even though it won’t grow in the leaps and bounds it did a few years ago. Rig supervisors typically oversee two to three crews (of four to six people), which operate oil or gas drilling rigs around the clock.

How to qualify: Formal education isn’t critical—experience is. Supervisors typically work their way through the various drilling crew jobs, beginning as “roughnecks” and progressing up to drilling operator. Various safety certificates and some management training may also be required, and some may also obtain a petroleum engineering technology degree.

Money: Rig managers generally earn a day rate of about $1,000, which can drive annual income up to the $175,000 to $250,000 range in Alberta, where supervisors average 180 days in the field.

Opportunity: Oil and gas production levels vary with the seasons and with other economic factors. Uncertainty over several major pipeline projects in western Canada, including Keystone XL and Northern Gateway, have clouded the outlook somewhat, but the Alberta government still projects 2.6% average annual growth in this profession through 2016.

What it’s like: There’s no such thing as 9-to-5 here. “As a rig manager, I have to guide and look after both crews, night and day,” rig manager Wayne Brown, 52, says. “We’re usually on location for 80 to 90 days. I work two weeks in and have one week home.” The complexity of the work can be a challenge, but Brown says that’s part of the satisfaction: “Every day is different.”

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