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Career Profile: Rotary Drill Operators, Oil and Gas

Set up or operate a variety of drills to remove underground oil and gas, or remove core samples for testing during oil and gas exploration.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 15,200 people employed as rotary drill operators, oil and gas in the United States. The median annual salary is $53,800. Entry level employees earn approximately $33,600 per year and senior employees earn approximately $90,640 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Remove core samples during drilling to determine the nature of the strata being drilled.
  • Cap wells with packers, or turn valves, to regulate outflow of oil from wells.
  • Count sections of drill rod to determine depths of boreholes.
  • Push levers and brake pedals to control gasoline, diesel, electric, or steam draw works that lower and raise drill pipes and casings in and out of wells.
  • Connect sections of drill pipe, using hand tools and powered wrenches and tongs.
  • Maintain records of footage drilled, location and nature of strata penetrated, materials and tools used, services rendered, and time required.
  • Maintain and adjust machinery to ensure proper performance.
  • Start and examine operation of slush pumps to ensure circulation and consistency of drilling fluid or mud in well.
  • Locate and recover lost or broken bits, casings, and drill pipes from wells, using special tools.
  • Weigh clay, and mix with water and chemicals to make drilling mud.
  • Direct rig crews in drilling and other activities, such as setting up rigs and completing or servicing wells.
  • Monitor progress of drilling operations, and select and change drill bits according to the nature of strata, using hand tools.
  • Repair or replace defective parts of machinery, such as rotary drill rigs, water trucks, air compressors, and pumps, using hand tools.
  • Clean and oil pulleys, blocks, and cables.
  • Bolt together pump and engine parts, and connect tanks and flow lines.
  • Train crews, and introduce procedures to make drill work more safe and effective.
  • Observe pressure gauge and move throttles and levers to control the speed of rotary tables, and to regulate pressure of tools at bottoms of boreholes.
  • Line drilled holes with pipes, and install all necessary hardware, to prepare new wells.
  • Position and prepare truck-mounted derricks at drilling areas specified on field maps.
  • Plug observation wells, and restore sites.
  • Lower and explode charges in boreholes to start flow of oil from wells.
  • Dig holes, set forms, and mix and pour concrete, for foundations of steel or wooden derricks.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
15,200
Annual Openings:
2,400
Increase in Openings by 2030:
26%
Annual Salary Range:
$33,600 - $90,640
Education Requirements:
Some high school