Mapping Your Future logo

Career Profile: Service Unit Operators, Oil and Gas

Operate equipment to increase oil flow from producing wells or to remove stuck pipe, casing, tools, or other obstructions from drilling wells. Includes fishing-tool technicians.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 43,100 people employed as service unit operators, oil and gas in the United States. The median annual salary is $47,400. Entry level employees earn approximately $31,400 per year and senior employees earn approximately $79,750 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

  • Interpret instrument readings to ascertain the depth of obstruction.
  • Thread cables through derrick pulleys, using hand tools.
  • Select fishing methods or tools for removing obstacles such as liners, broken casing, screens, or drill pipe.
  • Close and seal wells no longer in use.
  • Direct drilling crews performing activities such as assembling and connecting pipe, applying weights to drill pipes, or drilling around lodged obstacles.
  • Apply green technologies or techniques, such as the use of coiled tubing, slim-hole drilling, horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, or gas lift systems.
  • Operate specialized equipment to remove obstructions by backing off or severing pipes by chemical or explosive action.
  • Perforate well casings or sidewalls of boreholes with explosive charges.
  • Examine unserviceable wells to determine actions to be taken to improve well conditions.
  • Monitor sound wave-generating or detecting mechanisms to determine well fluid levels.
  • Insert detection instruments into wells with obstructions.
  • Operate pumps that circulate water, oil, or other fluids through wells to remove sand or other materials obstructing the free flow of oil.
  • Drive truck-mounted units to well sites.
  • Maintain and perform safety inspections on equipment and tools.
  • Operate controls that raise derricks or level rigs.
  • Listen to engines, rotary chains, or other equipment to detect faulty operations or unusual well conditions.
  • Prepare reports of services rendered, tools used, or time required, for billing purposes.
  • Install pressure-control devices onto wellheads.
  • Confer with others to gather information regarding pipe or tool sizes or borehole conditions in wells.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
43,100
Annual Openings:
6,600
Increase in Openings by 2030:
23%
Annual Salary Range:
$31,400 - $79,750
Education Requirements:
Some high school