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Oil Field Tool Pusher Salary

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Whether on land or off-shore, the most senior supervisory position on a drilling rig is held by the rig manager, or “toolpusher.” The toolpusher retains total control of all operations, including the crew, equipment and overall production operations. As the company representative on location, the toolpusher bears the responsibility for drilling safety and rig efficiency. Toolpusher salaries depend on the employer, whether the rig is drilling on or off-shore, geographical location, the level of responsibility the tool pusher assumes and the years of education and experience the toolpusher brings to the job.


Salaries for a toolpusher vary greatly. Toolpushers working for small, independent, land-based drilling contractors often cover dual duties. Toolpushers may also function as main drillers on rigs. The United States Department of Labor, or BLS, reports that rotary drill operators working in the oil and gas extraction industry received an hourly wage of $27.28, or a weekly salary of $1,120 as of May 2008. Regarding differences in location, jobs in Alaska can pay up to twice the salary as the lower forty-eight states to Toolpushers.

Income Considerations

Because drilling is a continuous process, the majority of toolpusher salaries are calculated and based on an 84-hour workweek, or 12 hours per day, 7 days per week. Most toolpushers working for major oil exploration companies are remote, working at offshore and international locations, requiring the them to leave home for long periods. Employment benefits typically include dental, vision, health and disability insurance, a 401(K) or pension plan, paid medical leave, holidays and vacation as well as travel pay, seniority bonuses and well completion bonuses. Uniforms, gloves, safety gear and all required equipment and supplies to do the toolpusher's job are normally provided by contractors or companies. Toolpushers are typically offered a 12-month renewable contract with a day rate of $450 onshore and $500 offshore.

Qualifications And Training

The majority of toolpushers are college graduates with a bachelor's or master's degrees in petroleum engineering, earth sciences or chemistry. They gain experience in the entire oil well drilling and completion process by working first as roustabouts or derrick hands, then progressing to head driller. Most toolpushers have several years of experience as a driller before progressing to head supervisor or toolpusher. Toolpushers should be physically fit, so they can lift heavy loads and perform manual labor. Although toolpusher are primarily the head supervisor, they often step in and demonstrate procedures or assist when additional physical help is required during drilling or the completion of an oil well. A toolpusher should have the agility to climb stairs, ladders, poles and scaffolding. Additionally, toolpushers should have excellent communication skills and aptitude with computers. Management skills and a close attention to detail are integral skills of a successful toolpusher.

Employment Opportunity Outlook

Newly-discovered oil and gas reserves in the U.S. have created an increased demand for experienced toolpushers. The United States Department of Labor predicts an 18 percent increase in employment opportunities for petroleum workers over the 2008-2018 decade. The United States Department of Labor classifies oil and gas extraction under the category of mining. The department reports there were around 717,000 salary and wage jobs in the mining industry in 2008. Approximately 161,6000 were in oil and gas extraction. Toolpusher jobs are concentrated in locations where large oil and gas reserves have been found. Accordingly, toolpushers are in high demand in Alaska, Louisiana, Texas, California, Oklahoma and North Dakota.


A passionate writer for more than 30 years, Marlene Affeld writes of her love of all things natural. Affeld's passion for the environment inspires her to write informative articles to assist others in living a green lifestyle. She writes for a prominent website as a nature travel writer and contributes articles to other online outlets covering wildlife, travel destinations and the beauty of nature.