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What Qualifications Do I Need to Start on an Oil Rig?

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Life on an oil rig, either onshore or offshore, can be grueling: rigs operate 24/7 regardless of the weather. According to the Oil Industry Jobs website, oil rigs offer entry-level job opportunities for those with no previous experience but a willingness to work hard for long hours. The entry-level job that launches oil rig careers, called a roustabout, has responsibility for rig maintenance, machinery repair and tasks requiring muscle and brawn. A high school diploma or equivalent is the only education needed.

Onshore Roustabout Skills

Land-based oil rigs need roustabouts to haul rods and pipe, dig lines and pits, and repair and install tanks. Onshore roustabouts also take care of the tools and equipment used by the rig crew. To qualify for a roustabout position on a land rig, you should be capable of operating construction equipment such as backhoes, forklifts and trenchers, and you should have the ability to drive a truck. Employers look for candidates who understand construction basics, such as road maintenance and fence building, and who know how to use a variety of hand tools.

Offshore Roustabout Skills

Duties performed by roustabouts on offshore oil rigs differ slightly from those done on land-based rigs. In addition to keeping the rig platform clean and repairing and maintaining machinery and equipment, offshore roustabouts handle cargo brought in from supply ships and helicopters. To be considered for a roustabout job on an offshore oil rig, you should be able to lift at least 100 pounds. and carry at least 50 pounds.

Roustabout Attributes

Being a roustabout requires mental toughness and physical fitness. Working for 21 straight days in 12 hour shifts while battling adverse weather conditions is not uncommon; this requires a great deal of stamina in order to adhere to safety procedures. Roustabouts should be versatile in order to move from task to task quickly and should be at least 18 years old. Successful roustabouts learn quickly, take orders well and have a positive attitude. Those assigned to offshore rigs also need to be comfortable living away from family and friends.


Land-based roustabouts should have a commercial driver's license; offshore roustabouts working in the Gulf of Mexico require a transportation worker identification credential from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Prospective roustabouts should expect a pre-employment background check, a drug and alcohol test and a physical exam. Some employers prefer industry experience, while others look for experience as a general laborer or in construction.


Pay varies by location, according to the BLS, with 2010 average mean annual wages ranging from $30,750 in northern Texas to $59,120 in Alaska. Nationally, the median roustabout salary was $31,770 in 2010.


Trudy Brunot began writing in 1992. Her work has appeared in "Quarterly," "Pennsylvania Health & You," "Constructor" and the "Tribune-Review" newspaper. Her domestic and international experience includes human resources, advertising, marketing, product and retail management positions. She holds a master's degree in international business administration from the University of South Carolina.

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