How Do I Become an Oil Rigger?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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The term "oil rigger" can refer to several jobs performed on an oil rig, from entry-level roustabout positions all the way up to rig managers, or toolpushers. If you want to become an oil rigger, several career paths can get you there, but you should first consider your overall career goals so you know which path is best for you. One of the most common ways to get into this industry is to apply for a job as a roustabout, which is an employee who does a variety of manual labor jobs. This is an unskilled position that may not pay very well.

The advantage to taking such a job is your ability to work up through the ranks to become an oil rigger. You can work as a roustabout until you can be trained to perform other jobs. A step up from the roustabout is the roughneck, who does jobs on an oil rig that require some training, such as placing pipes. Roughnecks make more money than roustabouts, and the potential for advancement in the field is greater once an employee reaches this employment level. If an employee has ambitions to work in a managerial capacity, he or she will have to work as a roughneck at some point.


If you have mechanical skills or training, you can become an oil rigger as a motorhand. This person is responsible for any maintenance or repair of engines and other heavy machinery on or near the rig. Be prepared to work hard in difficult and dangerous conditions; a motorhand must be ready to work on a wide variety of machines at a moment's notice. The pay for a motorhand is usually on par with that of a roughneck, though this can vary from company to company.

Another way to become an oil rigger without working up through the ranks is to get an education in the various fields applicable to oil drilling. Geology studies in college can prepare you for a job as a mudlogger, and business and construction courses may prepare you for a job as a rig manager or foreman. Any experience in a construction or oil field will help you considerably, though entry level positions are usually available as well. If you do not have any formal education or training but still want a management position, you can do so by working your way up through the ranks in any capacity on the rig.


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