If you're about to graduate high school or receive your GED but aren't sure whether taking out loans to attend college is the right choice at this time in your life, you may be investigating careers that allow you quick upward mobility without a college degree. One career that offers high pay and travel in exchange for often-demanding working conditions is that of an oil drilling contractor or apprentice. Drilling rigs require a wide variety of skilled employees to keep operations moving, from forklift and crane operators to project managers and fuel accountants, and many of these positions require only professional certification rather than a college degree. Read on to learn more about the job market for drilling employees, as well as what you may be able to expect if you enter this field.
What careers on a drilling rig are available for those without a college degree?
Many heavy equipment operators who work on oil rigs do so with only a commercial driver's license (CDL) or other technical certification or license. Crane operators, forklift operators, and truck drivers shouldn't need more than a high school diploma or GED and the requisite certifications, which can usually be obtained after a few weeks or months of study and an exam. Health and safety inspectors can also work on oil rigs with no more than an OSHA certification, earning an average of $72,000 per year. Forklift operators can earn $20,000 more than OSHA inspectors, while truck drivers who hold a CDL can earn around $57,000 per year.
What can you expect from this career path?
For those who enjoy traveling to far-flung locations and have the ability to save a sizable proportion of their larger-than-average salary, oil rig careers can provide some great opportunities. Many U.S.-based oil companies have oil rights across the globe, from the Middle East to Australia, and you could be sent to just about any location without much notice. However, much of your stay will be spent on an offshore drilling rig or on-site at an oil field, which won't give you much opportunity for sight-seeing. Fortunately, you will be able to take brief leaves to enjoy your nearest city until your contract is up and you're allowed to return home.
Careers in the oil field are almost always well compensated -- but with this high salary comes some risk of instability. Oil prices and demand are subject to rapid and severe fluctuation, and during times of low gas prices or high supply, you could find yourself without work until further notice. You'll be able to combat some of this instability by leveraging your rig-earned skills in other contexts -- for example, operating a forklift at an online supply warehouse or rock quarry. You can also bank a large portion of your salary during times when work is plentiful to help get you through extended stretches of voluntary (or involuntary) unemployment. To learn more, get in touch with some oil companies like GeoTek Alaska Inc.