Drilling engineers design, plan, cost, install and supervise the operation of drilling oil and gas wells. They make sure drilling projects meet international, environmental and health and safety standards.
You could be:
involved in selecting or designing the well and well equipment
planning the resources needed and estimating costs
working out the drilling programme and staff work schedules
planning for any unexpected problems that might affect health and safety or the project deadline
arranging the necessary equipment and service staff for the project
overseeing the progress and work of the drilling team and well operations
monitoring daily costs and making sure environmental standards are being met
liaising with other professionals such as geologists or engineers, as well as contractors, suppliers and clients
maintaining project documents and writing reports for management.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Starting pay for a drilling engineer is around £25,000 to £30,000 a year. With experience this increases to between £40,000 and £75,000 a year. At senior level the salary could be much higher. Performance-related bonus schemes increase salaries, and additional benefits may be available.
You can work in an office onshore or on a rig or platform offshore.
On ships and oil rigs it can be cold, wet and stormy.
Onshore hours are mostly regular, Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm, but you might occasionally work evenings and weekends.
Offshore working hours are normally 12-hour shifts, including nights, and you can spend one or two weeks there at a time.
Offshore there is often no mobile phone signal, but there are pay phones and usually internet access.
Alcohol is banned on rigs, and there is random alcohol and drug testing.
When offshore you would wear protective clothing and safety equipment such as gloves, boots and a hard hat.
You have to fly by helicopter (usually a large 18-seater) to and from the rig or platform. In Scotland, this is from Aberdeen.
When offshore, you would live in shared accommodation and meals are provided.
Robert Gordon University has a BEng Hons/MEng degree in Mechanical and Offshore Engineering. Entry requirements for the BEng are 4 Highers at ABBB including Maths and Physics or Engineering Science. For the MEng you require 4 Highers at AABB to include Maths and Physics or Engineering Science. In both cases, you need English at National 5, if you don't have it at Higher.
Other relevant degrees include mechanical engineering, which is widely available and petroleum, chemical or offshore engineering or energy technology. Entry requirements are usually 4 to 5 Highers including Maths and Physics, but check with individual institutions.
Postgraduate qualifications are available in oil-related engineering, including Drilling and Well Engineering at Robert Gordon University.
To work offshore you must pass a medical examination every 2 years.
You must also pass an offshore survival course such as the Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training Certificate (BOSIET).
You may also have to undertake the Minimum Industry Safety Training (MIST) course.
an analytical mind and good problem solving skills
initiative and self-reliance
a good technical understanding of geology, physics, maths and chemistry
the ability to lead and work within a team
the ability to work well under pressure
good verbal and written communication skills
good planning and organisational skills
a responsible attitude to health and safety
excellent IT and number skills.
Training is usually on the job and involves spending periods of time on offshore installations and observing people carrying out different related jobs.
With further training and practical experience you can register with the Engineering Council as a professional engineer - Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng).
For IEng you need to have a recognised Bachelor’s degree or a recognised HNC or HND plus further study to Bachelor’s degree level.
For CEng you need to have a recognised Bachelor’s degree with Honours plus a recognised Masters degree (or equivalent), or a recognised integrated Master of Engineering degree.
If you do not have any of the above qualifications you may still be able to achieve IEng or CEng by other approved routes. Check the website of the Engineering Council for more information.
You might complete drilling qualifications approved by the International Well Control Forum (IWCF).
You must update your skills and knowledge throughout your career.
You could move on to be a senior engineer or drilling manager.
Taking business qualifications such as an MBA might help.
You might become a self-employed engineering consultant.
There are opportunities to work abroad and this may be necessary for career advancement.
The Engineering Council sets and maintains the standards of the engineering profession in the UK. It does so through 36 professional engineering institutions which are Licensed Members of the Engineering Council.