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Working offshore

Welcome to the Working Offshore Collection. Here you can find useful information and contact addresses for working offshore, including short courses, recruitment services, caterers, medical services, construction yards, operating companies and drilling contractors....


Presently the UK offshore industry is mainly located off the East coast of England and Scotland but exploration is also being carried out in the Western approaches, the Irish Sea and West of the Shetland Islands.
The industry currently employs about 28,000 core workers (those working over 100 nights a year offshore) including those working or engaged in:

  • drilling and production operations
  • construction of mobile drilling rigs and oil production platforms
  • pipe laying and support vessel activities
  • terminals where oil and gas pipelines come ashore

Types of offshore company

  • Operating companies (usually major oil companies) which hold the exploration and production licences and operate the production platforms.
  • Drilling companies which are contracted to undertake the drilling work.
  • Service companies which provide specialist assistance to both operating and drilling companies e.g. seismic firms, diving companies, drilling mud suppliers, cementing companies, well testing specialists, caterers etc.

Working conditions

Working hours are normally 12 hours on and 12 hours off continuously for two weeks followed by a two/three week rest period ashore. So home life is very disrupted. However, pay is good and there is usually a travel allowance provided for the journey to and from home. Those involved in offshore drilling are exposed to tough and demanding work often in dirty, wet and noisy conditions. Production Operators spend most of their time in a Control Room similar to that found in a refinery. Previous experience living in harsh conditions away from home is an obvious advantage. Ex-members of the forces, especially those with marine backgrounds, are particularly attractive to many drilling companies.

Age restrictions

The minimum age for working offshore is 18 but in practice workers are usually 21 or over. The long working day and the harsh weather conditions can be a test of ambition and many have started full of enthusiasm only to give up. Those who are over 28 years should have a relevant work history which has enabled them to develop useful transferable skills.

Finding a job is not easy. Relevant experience or training can help. However, offshore companies do provide training for new entrants. Trainees may be required to complete training courses during their onshore leave. There may be opportunities for training as a Roustabout under an Employment Training Scheme. Enquire at any Jobcentre.

Roustabout - This is the basic unskilled manual labouring job on a drilling rig or platform. Work involves cleaning, scraping and painting equipment; offloading supplies from boats and moving them to storage areas; moving supplies from storage areas to points of use; mixing and conditioning drilling mud under the direction of a mud specialist. The requirements of a Roustabout are practical and demand someone who is capable of hard physical labour.

Roustabout job profile.

Roughneck - A promotion from Roustabout. Roughnecks carry out the manual work of the drilling operation under the direction of the Driller. Training is provided as the job requires a high degree of teamwork, although it still involves hard physical labour.

Derrickman - Works on a platform up in the derrick about 85 feet above the rig floor handling the sections of drill pipe under the Driller's direction. When not working in the derrick has special responsibility for the proper working of the rig pumps, the condition of the drilling mud systems and the supervision of the Roughnecks.

Driller / Assistant driller - The Driller controls the drilling equipment and directs the work of the drilling team. With the right abilities and temperament it could take 3 to 5 years to progress from Roughneck to Driller. The Assistant Driller does the same job but under supervision and acts as the Driller's relief, usually keeping written records of the drilling operation.

Driller worker job profile

Toolpusher - The toolpusher oversees the whole drilling operation and may be responsible for the whole drilling rig, making sure that everything runs smoothly and that the necessary materials and equipment are available. To reach this post it is probable that all the jobs mentioned previously have been held in succession and the individual has acquired a great deal of experience. Often the Toolpusher has an assistant who is a graduate trainee, gaining experience of the overall drilling activity.

Mud logger - Despite its humble name this is a vital job that is normally filled by a highly trained Geologist who must know what rock formations are being drilled through. The mud logger looks out for the presence of hydrocarbons in the rock cuttings that are brought to the surface by the returning drilling mud and separated on the shale shakers.

Production operator - Production operations involve the management of hydrocarbons (oil and gas) from the reservoir to the initial customer. This in effect means producing, processing and delivering the correct quantity and quality of product and ensuring that all the production systems are operating in the most efficient way. The total production system can be divided into three distinct subsystems: subsurface (wells), surface handling (process facilities), and storage and sales terminal (terminal). Production operators are employed under supervision in various aspects of this work.

Maintenance personnel - In order to keep all the mechanical, electrical, instrument and telecommunications systems in good repair and running order, there are craftsmen and technicians who carry out the necessary maintenance work. Most of them will have learned their trade and obtained experience onshore.

Divers - Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are increasingly being used for subsea inspection and maintenance work. Nevertheless, there are still regular requirements for divers who possess specialist skills such as mechanical fitting, welding etc., in addition to their diving skills.

Catering staff - There are opportunities for Stewards and Catering Personnel but they will normally be employed by a Catering Contractor.

Professional posts - Graduates from Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Mathematics, Geology, Geophysics and Petroleum Engineering courses are all of interest to offshore companies in exploration and production roles such as:

  • Geologist and Geophysicists who undertake survey and interpretation work and assess the prospects for the production of oil or gas in new areas (Geologists also work as Mud loggers).

    Geologist job profile

  • Reservoir engineers who estimate field reserves of oil and gas using mathematical models and computers programmes.

  • Drilling engineers who analyse drilling performance and factors affecting cost and efficiency.

    Drilling engineer job profile

  • Petroleum engineers who apply the principles of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Engineering to the recovery and separation of hydrocarbons.

You can also view professional job profiles and find out about scholarships and financial assistance opportunities on our Energy Careers website.

Safet Vest Icon

The offshore survival course is an absolute necessity for those wanting to work offshore. The courses vary in length but the cost for a basic course is approximately £800, not including the cost of accommodation. Please note - doing a course does not guarantee that you will get work!
Unfortunately there are no course fee concessions for anyone who is unemployed and it is difficult to obtain company sponsorship for the course. Additionally, the courses are very popular and they become booked up very quickly. As a result you may have to apply for one far from where you live and possibly have to wait several months before you can attend it. We suggest that you contact some Offshore survival course organisers. Some operators will put employees through courses after recruitment.

Finance Icon

There is a lot of competition for offshore work; any relevant work experience is useful and, obviously, the more skills you possess, the better. Whilst waiting to take your offshore survival course it might be worthwhile to try and obtain work at one of the offshore installation construction yards in areas such as Aberdeen or Glasgow.Yet another possibility is to contact some of the onshore drilling companies in order to obtain some hands-on experience which would stand you in good stead should an offshore vacancy subsequently occur.

We strongly suggest that you contact some of the Recruitment companies and some of the Drilling contractors to find out what the current job situation is and to find out what kind of workers are needed.

OPITO, the skills body for the oil & gas sector, have a careers information site: - includes videos and case studies to help you find out more about life working offshore and the range of jobs that the industry can offer. We hope that you will be successful in your enquiries.

Useful contact addresses

Addresses Icon

Addresses for further information

Training Icon

Short courses for offshore work

Emergency Rescue Helicopter Icon

Emergency response & rescue vessel crew training and competency

Recruitment Services Icon

Recruitment services

Catering icon


Helicopter Icon

Helicopter services

Medical training icon

Medical services training

Companies North sea Icon

Operating companies in the North Sea

Drilling Icon

Drilling contractors

Well logging Icon

Well logging / testing

Inspection equipment Icon

Inspection equipment

Drilling Icon

Wireline operators, drilling bits & tools, exploration and completion

Innovation Icon


Seismic Icon

Geophysical and seismic

Diver Icon

Diving contractors / Diver training

Construction yard Icon

Construction yards