Jobs in drilling include junior positions on drilling and service rig crews. These occupations assist in the operation of the rig equipment when drilling, completing, or maintaining a well. This includes connecting and disconnecting pipes, handling, sorting and moving drill pipe or tubing, setting up and taking down the rig equipment and general clean-up of the rig area and lease site. Junior members of service rig crews may also drive trucks to transport materials and the rig equipment.

These jobs do not require formal education. Health and safety certification is key for these roles, and in some cases, a valid driver's license may be required.

Drilling a well beneath the surface of the North Sea is a similar process to drilling a hole in a piece of wood at home. The major difference is in the size and strength of the drill bit as it will be boring through some very hard rock formations. The depth of the well will depend on the site of the reservoir and can be from a thousand metres to a few kilometres deep. Lengths of drill pipe, on average 9 metres long, are attached to the drill bit and some drilling operations can take many hours to complete. The use of fluids, usually called drilling mud, to lubricate the drill bit can make the process very dirty and working on the drill floor means exposure to all types of weather conditions.

As the well is being drilled, a casing to prevent the hole from collapsing will be cemented in. Appraisal wells are drilled at the exploration phase and, following the decision for the field to go 'on stream', production wells are drilled. As technology advances, the technique of directional drilling is being used to maximise the performance of the reservoirs. In many locations the drilling is horizontal, which means that the well is more than 80 degrees from the vertical.

Career Paths

These are typically entry-level positions. Career advancement to operators and trades may be possible with appropriate educational qualifications, on-the-job training and completion of further technical and/or apprenticeship training.

Routine Work

This work is very hands-on, physically labour intensive and requires travel to project sites in sometimes remote locations. There are often opportunities for paid overtime.

On the job you learn:

  • Different drilling methods
  • Welding
  • Mechanical work
  • Driving trucks, rigs, tractors, 4wd’s
  • Engineering skills
  • Rig safety and emergency procedures
  • Working with drilling fluid systems
  • Working in teams
  • Communicating with customers and suppliers

Classification of Drilling Occupations

This role is generally unskilled manual labouring. The roustabout helps with the drilling activities and maintenance of the drilling area.

More skilled than the roustabout, the roughneck/floorman is directly involved in the drilling process under the supervision of the assistant driller. This position involves hard physical work.

Working about 90 feet above the floor of the rig in the 'derrick' (the distinctive high tower), the derrickman handles the section of drill pipe under the direction of the assistant driller.

Assistant Driller
The assistant driller co-ordinates the activities on the drill floor, reports to the driller and communicates instructions and information from the driller to those working on the drilling.

The driller is responsible for the drilling team and controlling the rate and continuity of the drilling. This is highly skilled as the drill may have to penetrate many different types of rock.

The toolpusher oversees the drilling operations at night. He also ensures that the necessary equipment and materials are available.

Rig Superintendent
The rig superintendent has overall responsibility for the drilling operation.

Drilling Engineer
The drilling engineer specifies the drilling program, what kind of 'mud' should be used and the casing required for the well.

Education/Qualification options:

Most jobs do not require training before employment.  The following organisations provide information on either on-job training or pre-entry training for health and safety, hazards.

Energy Skills Association - Promoting and developing talent for the New Zealand energy industry

Maintenance Technicians-Trades

Geoscience Professionals

Specialty Business Services



Marine and Nautical services


Energy Skills Association - Promoting and developing talent for the New Zealand energy industry