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Roughneck Job Description And Salary

...Tomiwa Oladipo Published November 2022

Are you interested in becoming an oilfield roughneck? Understanding the duties, demands, and how to pursue this career is essential. In this article, find out all you need to know about a roughneck: their responsibilities, salary, becoming one, what it takes to succeed as a roughneck, and much more.


What Is a Roughneck on an Oil Rig?

A roughneck or floorhand is a drilling crew member who works in highly physically demanding work conditions, under the driller's guidance, to make or break connections as the drill pipe trips in or out of the hole.


What Does a Roughneck Do?

A roughneck is a manual laborer in the oilfield and performs a variety of tasks, such as:

  • Loading and unloading various items
  • Inspecting and maintaining equipment
  • Operating machinery
  • Performing repairs
  • Assembling pipes
  • Driving trucks
  • Setting up and maintaining oil rigs
  • Preparing the area for drilling operations
  • Cleaning the worksite when drilling operations are complete.

They must also observe all safety protocols at the worksite.


Other Roughneck Skills and Job Requirements

Roughnecks need the following skills to excel in their careers:

  • Physical strength
  • Good practical skills
  • Dexterity
  • Teamwork
  • Attention to detail and safety
  • Ability to follow instructions
  • Mechanical aptitude (ability to read & interpret blueprints, build and repair equipment)
  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability


What Skills and Education Do You Need?

A roughneck needs to have the following qualifications:

1. Education

Usually, you don’t need a formal education to work as a roughneck. But some employers may require a high school diploma or an equivalent (GED) with a minimum grade point average.

But if you want to advance your career, earning an associate degree in petroleum technology or other related fields is a plus.


2. Training and Experience

Roughnecks receive most of their training on the job. They learn the safety procedure and specific techniques for their role while working with experienced roughnecks. They also receive on-the-job instructions on how to operate specific equipment.


3. Certifications and Licenses

A roughneck is a manual laborer in the oilfield and doesn’t require special certifications but earning the following credentials will make you outstanding among other job seekers:

  • Commercial Driver's License (CDL)
  • OSHA Safety Certificate
  • Certified Safety Professional (CSP)
  • Necessary Medical certificates
  • Minimum Industry Safety Training (MIST) certificates


To work offshore, you need the following credentials:

  • Offshore survival course certification, such as the Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training Certificate (BOSIET)


How to Become a Roughneck

Here’s what to do:

1. Complete a high school diploma or equivalent (GED)

Most employers prefer roughnecks with a high school diploma or equivalent. Some schools also offer vocational programs that equip students with the necessary skills to work as roughnecks, such as rigging and welding.

You can still become a roughneck without a high school diploma if you’re up to 18 years old.


2. Complete an apprenticeship program

Aspirants without a high school diploma or equivalent can still become roughnecks once they complete an apprenticeship program. Usually, these programs are offered through local communities and colleges and last between one and three years.

Students that enroll in these programs will learn the basics of oilfield work, including site layout, safety procedures, and equipment use. The programs also offer aspirants experience in the field, giving them an advantage over those that don’t.

Most employers prefer candidates with prior experience over those without it.


3. Obtain a valid driver’s license

Working as a roughneck requires operating equipment and driving large vehicles on the worksite. And as such, most employers require a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) from roughnecks.

Also, it’s essential to obtain hazardous materials permit for your CDL to work with chemicals and other dangerous substances.


4. Meet the physical requirements of the job

Roughnecks are manual laborers on the drilling site and may need to move up to 100 pounds or more sized pieces of equipment or materials around the drilling site. So, being physically fit is essential to handle the job demands.


5. Pass a drug test

The O&G industry has zero tolerance for using hard drugs and alcohol, as these substances can negatively affect a worker's safety and performance.


6. Keep a clean criminal record

Some employers conduct background tests on job applicants. Having a criminal record might disqualify you from becoming a roughneck.


7. Be comfortable working for long hours under challenging conditions

Some job sites are located in remote areas with harsh, unpredictable conditions. Besides, roughneck jobs often require working around the clock and including tasks such as responding to emergencies or repairing equipment.

Once you’re comfortable working under all these conditions, you’re one step closer to becoming a roughneck.



How much do roughnecks make?

The average yearly salary range for a precision drilling roughneck in the United States is approximately $68,380. The salary varies depending on the employer, location, education, job level, experience, and skills.


What skills do I need to be a roughneck?

You don’t need formal qualifications to work as a roughneck. Prior experience as a roustabout or in shipbuilding, engineering, or construction is a plus.


How long does it take to be a roughneck?

Six months.

With six months of relevant experience as a roustabout, you can be promoted to roughneck and earn up to $60,000 per year.

You can also opt-in for local apprenticeship programs to learn the basics of oilfield work, including site layout, safety procedures, and equipment use. These programs take between one to three years to complete.


What is the difference between roughneck and roustabout?

Roughnecks, like Roustabouts, also handle maintenance and repair. The difference is that they work directly on the drill and drilling platform themselves.

Roughneck is a step higher than a Roustabout and therefore considered more skilled. Roughnecks may also be tasked with filling in for other positions.


Is a floor hand and roughneck the same thing?

Yes. The floor hand is also called roughneck.


Who does a roughneck answer to?

The roughneck or floor hand reports directly to the Driller. They also assist other crew members in their duties and do other assigned duties.


Roughneck jobs near me

For more information on becoming a roughneck or finding floor hand jobs, please don’t hesitate to contact our support team. We're happy to chat about how our global energy talent marketplace can help connect you with oil and gas companies actively hiring rig crew members.

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