Top Paying Jobs in the Oil Field Today

In the 80's, oil companies retrenched massive numbers of frontline workers because oil prices dropped to somewhere around $10 per barrel. Fast forward to 2008, the price of oil touched $150 per barrel and we saw oil drilling companies scrambling for workers and paying critical staff sky-high wages. Even during the worst of the recession in 2009, the price of oil firmly stayed above $60 per barrel and some oil companies continued hiring workers, especially for their offshore oil fields.

There are many reasons why hiring for jobs in the oil field remains robust and wages continue to be lucrative

Many productive oil fields are located in very inhospitable environments, e.g. the jungles of Africa, the deserts of the Middle East, the frozen wastes of the Artic tundra (Alaska and Siberia)
Offshore oil fields are dangerous places to work, e.g. the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Brazil, the North Sea off Europe
A number of oil fields are located in countries with unstable governments or ongoing civil wars, e.g. Nigeria, Venezuela
Very tough work schedules - although each tour is followed by a two-week break, the tour itself consists of 12-hour shifts of brutal back-breaking labor which continues on for two straight weeks without any time off
Spectacular accidents like the 1988 Piper Alpha drilling rig explosion in the North Sea and the recent (2010) Gulf of Mexico accident tend to discourage many workers

Oil field jobs reward seniority - a brand-new roustabout will earn about $45,000 - $55,000 per annum (depending on location) but his senior of 20 years experience can expect to get an extra $10,000 for doing much the same work. The same is true for other jobs which need hard labor, for example scaffolders, painters, etc. The driller, his assistant and the mud engineers can expect to earn $65,000 to $90,000 and the toolpusher can expect to take home at least $100,000 every year. Of course, these are for oil rigs on offshore fields. For rigs on dry land, wages are somewhat lower. On the other hand, so is the level of danger.

To find these frontline oil drilling jobs, it is necessary to look for the wildcatters and other small oil drilling companies. These are the companies that are doing actual work for the large oil service companies like Halliburton. In turn, the oil majors like BP then hire the oil service companies to manage the oil rigs on the oil fields they (BP) own.

Other important jobs, for example those of the men and women who discover new oil fields, pay anywhere from $80,000 to over $100,000 without counting a variety of sign-on bonuses. These are fresh graduates right out of college. The American Geologic Institute reported that salaries of brand new geologists increased by 50% between 2003 and 2008. Hiring for these exploratory oil jobs are often handled directly by the oil service companies.

Given the continued high demand for oil from America, Europe, China, India and the other developing countries, these high wages are set to continue. As usual, the oil companies will pay even more to workers in more dangerous locations.