How to Become an Oil Rig Roustabout in the US

How to Become an Oil Rig Roustabout in the US

Oil rig roustabouts perform general purpose and maintenance tasks on the oil rig including cleaning, loading and offloading equipment, assembling and dismantling equipment and working basic machinery. They generally keep the drilling area in good working order and assist in manual tasks. The work is physically grueling but lucrative. It is an entry level job where you literally have to work your way up.


What Does an Oil Rig Roustabout Do?

Some of their main duties include:

  • Perform manual tasks on the rig including lifting, assembling, loading, offloading and offering any other type of assistance required on the rig
  • Responsible for keeping the drilling area and equipment clean. They are also in charge of painting and scraping off chipped paint on the rig
  • Assist in basic repair of machinery and equipment on the rig
  • Mix drilling mud and any other chemicals that are required for the drilling process
  • They drive trucks to pick up supplies that are destined for the oil rig and perform any other miscellaneous tasks that may be assigned



  • There are no formal requirements to becoming an oil rig roustabout. It is an entry-level job where you receive relevant training such as Basic Offshore Induction and Emergency Training when you get the job. This involves training in subjects such as offshore survival, firefighting and emergency medical response
  • You will also require an offshore medical certificate showing that you are fit to work offshore
  • The job is an entry-level position involving basic tasks so experience is not necessary. However, if you have experience in another manual labour industry such as construction, your chances of landing the job are likely to be higher
  • You might also need to obtain Transportation Worker Identification credentials from the Department of Homeland security for the on-shore driving duties that you may be assigned from time to time
  • You will also need to be able to work well in a group because you live and work closely with your colleagues while on the rig and are part of a team where every function is critical
  • There is no independent thinking or exercise of judgment required in this job, therefore, a good attitude and the ability to take instructions are positive attributes that will help you in the conduct of your duties
  • You also need mental and physical stamina due to the grueling nature of the job which is done in extended shifts for long stretches of time



Even at entry-level, oil rig workers earn good pay. In May 2013, roustabouts could make up to $53,170. They also benefit from free meals, accommodation and laundry, which keeps their expenses low. However, the salary varies depending on the location of the oil rig, with those in far away places such as the Middle East earning higher than those closer in the Gulf of Mexico. The average salary range was:

Entry level



Mid career






Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Work Environment

Oil rig roustabouts work under some of the harshest environments of any profession. Oil rigs operate twenty four hours a day, all the days of the year and roustabouts go on 12 hour shifts daily for two to three weeks at a time, performing manually intensive tasks. In fact, before you can be employed in some oil rigs, you might have to hoist heavy weights to show that you are equal to the task before you can be employed there. However, there is relief in that you qualify for an equal rest period of two to three weeks afterward. So, technically, you work for only slightly half of the year.

You will also be expected to work regardless of the weather conditions. Since the rig is used for the purposes of drilling oil, the floor surface may sometimes be slick. All these conditions combine to make for a dangerous, physically challenging job that may not be open to everyone and is not for the faint-hearted.

Career Prospects

Roustabout is an entry level job and you can make your way up to the next level of a roughneck in a matter of months if you put your back into it. Oil rigs ordinarily have training programs to develop their workers and inculcate skills that help them to move up the ranks. Therefore, if you are just starting out, have no problem putting in the work to advance and are interested in a career in the oil and gas industry, becoming a roustabout is a promising albeit grueling way to proceed. However, the job may not be ideal for long-term prospects due to the declining oil reserves and the increasing clamor for clean, renewable energy sources.

Image Source: