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Roustabout Jobs: The Ultimate Guide

So you think you might want to work in the oilfield; you’re not alone! And for good reason. Oil field jobs offer better pay, job security and benefits than most any other job requiring the same experience. Even a Roustabout salary is quite high. Out on the rig, it’s about hard work, common sense and working your way up over time through training like our roustabout training course.

Now, I didn’t say easy money, I said hard work, and some people certainly aren’t cut out for it. But if you’ve got the grit to work long hours of manual labor, you’ll reap the benefits. After 6 months of good work in a roustabout job, many workers are promoted to Roughneck and can expect to make about $60,000 per year. After 5 years, consistently hard workers are promoted to Driller and can earn well over $100,000.

So, what’s it like to be a Roustabout?

A roustabout is the lowest level worker on a rig. Roustabouts are usually responsible for cleaning, working basic machinery, scraping paint and repainting, loading and unloading heavy shipments and helping with any miscellaneous tasks that arise.

In general, being a roustabout is very physically demanding and requires long hours. Roustabouts usually work for two weeks at a time, with the same amount of time off. They usually work a 12-hour shift each day called a tour (pronounced “tower”) for the 14 straight days that they are on the job, and they will work in all weather as long as it is safe.

“You go so long and so long you’re just drained. Then I’m back doing it again.”

One roustabout working onshore in Lisbon, Ohio said “You go so long and so long you’re just drained. Then I’m back doing it again.” It’s tough. In 2012, CareerCast ranked “oil rig worker” as one of the worst jobs in 2012. So, while you can work your way beyond being a Roustabout in a matter of months, the work is definitely not going to be easy.

However, many people also love the work. As one Roustabout in North Dakota put it, “when everything’s running smoothly, everything’s clean and working right, it’s probably the most laid back, easy going job out there. And I love every second of it. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Why now is the time: Demand and Benefits for Roustabouts and Oilfield Workers

With every day that passes, global energy demand is increasing. Developing nations like India and China are fueling this increase in international energy demand and are only expected to continue to grow, which means great job security in the oil industry and a great Roustabout salary.

Meanwhile, in America, the Baby Boomers make up a huge number of oilfield personnel and are beginning to retire. Beyond all this, the drilling industry is booming due to new innovations in hydraulic fracking and shale gas. So, with demand rising, drilling booming and many workers retiring, it’s one of the best times that there have ever been to go into drilling and this is why Roustabout salaries and Roughneck salaries are so high.

There are also a lot of perks to working as a Roustabout in addition to that salary. First off, since many oil field workers work two weeks on, two weeks off, you literally get half of the year off.

Second, all of your meals are paid for and prepared for you when on the job. You also won’t have to do laundry or cleaning in the living quarters. The majority of rigs offshore will also have a TV room, commons area, and weight room. Most Roustabout jobs offer insurance and investment opportunities through their companies as well.

Some locations will even pay you nearly double to work there!

There are also many opportunities to travel if you’d like to. You could go abroad to virtually any continent. Some locations will even pay you nearly double to work there! One example is Angola in Africa or Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.

Lastly, as we’re about to show you, there is a truly phenomenal and unique opportunity for career advancement from a reasonable Roustabout salary, to a substantial Roughneck salary, to the extremely lucrative salary of a Tool-pusher, and all without needing a college degree.

Let’s talk money: Roustabout Salary, Roughneck Salary and Career Advancement

Offshore the job progression is as follows:

Roustabout       $36K

Roughneck       $57K

Driller                $80K

Tool-pusher     $193K

With hard work, one can expect a promotion from Roustabout to Roughneck within a year and in as few as six months. Roughnecks are paid more because they have more experience than Roustabouts and as a result they do more skilled work.

Tasks for Roughneck jobs include making pipe connections, running and tripping pipe, operating the crane, operating the drilling engines or pipe tongs, moving mud weights, and making sure the shakers are working properly.

After establishing yourself as a successful Roughneck in a few years, you can expect to be promoted to Derrick Hand. This position is just below the Driller and is responsible for the drilling mud, mud pits, mud pumps and putting stands of pipe in and out of the fingers (way up in the derrick).

The Driller is in charge of a crew of Roughnecks. After about five years of experience in a roughneck job, if you continue to do well, you can work your way up to Driller. The Driller is in charge of a crew of Roughnecks. He or she is responsible for the rig’s machinery during drilling and making sure that the rig operations run smoothly while drilling.

If you play your cards right, you could even eventually work your way up to become a Tool-pusher. The Tool-pusher supervises over multiple crews and is responsible for overseeing the activities of the entire rig itself.

What does it take to get Roustabout jobs or Roughneck jobs: Basic Requirements

The basic requirements to get a Roustabout job are just that, basic. You will need to pass a drug test and a physical exam, be 18 years or older, and some companies require that you have your high school diploma or GED. However, you won’t get a roustabout job just by meeting these standards. The competition is stiff! We’ll talk more about how to get the job later.

Industry Advice: How to land the job

1. Get Clean.

Most oilfield drug tests are hair and urine drug tests. This means that they will show what you’ve done over at least the last 4 months. Only about 1 in 4 applicants pass the drug test. So make sure you’re clean before applying or you have absolutely no chance!

2. Make a resume.

A resume is a document that summarizes your skills and your work experience for the company screening you. If you are unsure of how to make a solid resume, read up on it online. Many sites are devoted to this. Employers will be looking for workers who have shown themselves to be consistent workers in the past.

Since the requirements for Roustabout jobs are fairly basic, you will have to set yourself apart from the other applicants. Employers will be looking for workers who have shown themselves to be consistent workers in the past (i.e. who have held jobs for an extended amount of time), who have experience in construction, and who have very little to no criminal history. Thus, emphasize all relevant experience you have and list references of people who you know will speak well of you to potential employers.

3. Use your network.

I can’t say this enough: use your network. What I mean is, talk to anyone you know who works in the industry. If you don’t know anyone, ask friends and family if they know someone. When you find someone in the industry, ask them all about it. Ask them about their job and how they got there. Express your interest in Roustabout jobs and ask their advice about how to get there.

If they think you have what it takes, they will probably be able to get you an interview at their company or a company they know of. Even the smallest connection will go a very long way and this is how the majority of people make it to the industry in the first place. In the unlikely case that you don’t know anyone, don’t sweat it. Many people get in simply through hard work and their own merit.

4. Find job postings.

A simple Google search will bring up many results and most applications will be electronic, through a company’s website. However, you should also check job fairs in your area and the newspapers. Smaller and more old-fashioned companies are more likely to find applicants through local means like these.

Remember, the harder it is to find the job posting, the fewer applicants there will be for it and the more likely you are to get it. Also, be creative with social media. See if the company has a Facebook or Twitter account, read them and consider posting there or tweeting. You might just make a connection that will help you.

5. Apply.

The next step is to actually apply. Apply for every job you can find. Surprisingly, many people don’t take this step nearly seriously enough. They will apply for a few jobs and give up. Don’t be one of those people. You may be rejected by several companies. Keep applying anyway.

Research all that you can about the company you are applying to.

For each company you apply to, write a personalized cover letter. Research all that you can about the company you are applying to. Figure out what parts of their business appeal to you and emphasize these in your cover letter (if you’re unfamiliar with how to write a good cover letter, read about it online: this is important). Writing the cover letter and including specifics about their company will show your initiative and help distinguish you from your competition.

Also, be sure to follow up your application with an email or phone call. Taking the time to make this simple gesture will set you apart from other applicants and help you get an interview.

6. Interview.

If you get a job interview, then you’re halfway there! For this interview, brush up on all the research you did on the company. Be an expert on their company. During the interview, be confident in yourself, but never cocky and emphasize your willingness and desire to work hard.

7. Strengthen your resume and keep applying.

If you are rejected by a few companies, take a deep breath, a few steps back, and ask yourself why. Where is your resume lacking? How can you improve it?

One of the quickest ways to build your resume is to begin educating yourself about the oil field through online courses like those offered here through Doing so will help prepare you for when you do get a job and will set you apart from your competition.

If your resume is weak in one particular area, come up with an action plan to address it. For example, if you have a history of quitting jobs after 3 weeks, then find a job that is easier to get and work hard and consistently at it. Then, after a few months or a year, you can show that you have changed this old habit of yours. Furthermore, if you’ve worked very hard, you will have a solid reference, someone who can vouch for you and your work ethic.

If there is one reason in particular that you know you are being rejected, as a criminal offense, then take steps to distance yourself from this and show that you’ve learned your lesson. After doing this mention these things in your cover letter at the beginning of your application.

For example, if you have a DWI on your record, you might consider giving up alcohol altogether and getting involved with campaigns against drunk driving at a local high school. Then, when you apply in the future include a cover letter that openly admits that you have a DWI and shows how you have learned from this in your life, emphasizing that it will not happen again.

Many things in life don’t come easy, but hard work does pay off with time. Most of all don’t be discouraged. Finding work can be very difficult, and it is very competitive.

Industry Advice: How to thrive once offshore

If you got an offshore job, congratulations! You’ve made it and you should feel good about that. However, to thrive out there, you need to continue to set yourself apart. If you take the following tips to heart, you will be well on your way.

1. Take safety seriously.

While working roustabout jobs is significantly safer now than it has been in the past, there are still some big risks and you must be cautious and aware. Your supervisors, especially if you work for a major oil and gas company, will be pushing for safety. By taking it seriously and not being a liability to your crew, you won’t draw unwanted attention from supervisors.

2. Work hard all the time.

In a Roustabout job, you’re being paid for your physical labor so be ready to work hard. Try your best to work as quickly as you can without sacrificing the quality of work or safety. Volunteer to help wherever you can and don’t complain. When you can, take the more exhausting tasks.

If you do all this, you will gain respect and be better liked.

3. Learn fast.

As a Roustabout, you will be assisting with many processes and tasks. To be the best assistant you can be, you need to learn these processes well and anticipate what your coworker will need. Make sure your presence speeds up the job, instead of slowing it down.

If you find a more experienced oil field worker who is willing to teach you (and many are) ask them questions as long as you don’t get on their nerves. Their insight will prove very helpful in the long run! Also consider learning via courses like those offered by us here at We offer dynamic and interactive courses that are all about helping you become an expert. Constantly learning will make you a better Roustabout and will help you climb up the career ladder to get from a Roustabout salary to a Roughneck salary and beyond.

4. Learn how to make everyone happy.

When you come to a new workplace, you need to take time to learn the culture and the social environment. Observe who is respected and what they do, and take them as an example. Do your best to fit in within your rig crew while also gaining the respect of the supervisors. For instance, take an active role in safety meetings and show that you are serious about safety, but make sure that you don’t try to make yourself look better than everyone else.

Your supervisors will see what you’re doing, and even if they don’t, doing this will make your co-workers dislike you. Finding balance within the workforce in the field proves to be a huge problem for many people. If most people dislike you, you simply won’t do as well.

Online Roustabout Course – Enroll Now!

Liked what you read? Do you have it in you to become a successful Roustabout? Start now on one of our online comprehensive Roustabout training course and get yourself an IADC certificate on course completion. To know more click here.

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