Best Jobs

Canada’s Best Jobs 2015: Oil & Gas Well Operator

UPDATED! Click here for 2017’s ranking of Canada’s Best Jobs »
Oil & Gas Well Operator

(Dan Bannister/Tetra/Getty)

Median Salary: $71,760.00
Change in Salary (2008–2014): +24%
Total Employees: 20,100
Change in Employees (2008–2014): +45%

Drilling and service rigs are the bedrock of the energy industry, extracting the fuel that is so vital to the Canadian economy. This job category includes supervisors who direct and manage the work that takes place in the field, as well as the drillers, servicers and testers who operate the rigs and keep them maintained. It’s a gruelling profession: most operators are on call 24 hours a day, and often work in isolated locations for long stretches.

Tumbling oil prices have hit the energy industry hard, but economist Andrew Leach suggests that existing projects are unlikely to be shut down despite reduced revenues. That means most current well operators will keep their jobs, even if there’s likely to be a slowdown in new projects being undertaken.

How to qualify: High school is the basic requirement for rig crew members. Drillers and well servicers must complete 3–6 months of formal on-the-job training, college or Petroleum Industry Training Service (PITS) courses and spend at least four years in lower-ranking crew roles before they are given rig controls. Loggers and testers don’t usually undertake formal instruction, but require the same on-site training and experience. Well operators may also be required to obtain certificates in competencies like first aid, blowout prevention and well control. Workers dreaming of offshore rigs will need to spend several years at land-based drilling operations first.

Money: Well operators make less than petroleum engineers and drilling supervisors but more than service workers. While wage growth has been solid over the last five years, the salary gap between new workers and experienced rig hands tends to be relatively small.

Opportunities: Demand for rig workers grew significantly over the last half-decade, but oil price slump bodes ill for future employment growth prospects. Lower revenues mean less money for expansion and hiring, and forecasts suggest will be less than one open position per job seeker by 2022.

jobs by Indeed job search