Roustabouts and Roughnecks

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The entry-level position on an oil rig is that of a roustabout and as they get more experienced and climb up the ladder become known as roughnecks. Most individuals get their foot in the door through this type of role, which is considered by many as the backbone of any successful oil rig. The job requires unskilled or semi skilled manual labor and includes all the peripheral tasks that have to be undertaken so that the rest of the team can focus on getting the oil out of the ocean bed smoothly.

Some of the tasks that roustabouts and roughnecks perform are listed below:

  • Repair or service the machinery and drills
  • Work on digging ditches, pouring concrete, preparing slabs and derricks using different types of machinery.
  • Ensure that the deck is always clear of any hazardous clutter and kept clean.
  • Heavy lifting of machinery or material across different parts of the rig as required.
  • Maintain the equipment by scraping rust off deteriorated parts, applying a fresh coat of paint and so on.
  • Any other tasks that do not require specific skills to perform but are essential for the smooth functioning of the drilling process.

On some rigs only roustabouts perform the above tasks. The roughnecks perform a more specialized skill involving threading drill bits and connecting the steel tubes. Most roughnecks begin with the roustabout job and then as they get more experienced, are assigned this more skill-oriented role. From an employer perspective, roughnecks and roustabouts are expected to be diligent and conscientious in their work so that they can be trusted to take on more challenging work. From an employee perspective, it is an opportunity to get onboard a rig and build your experience so that you can progress from this entry level position to a better paying more responsible job.

Most oil rigs have about 8 to 10 roughnecks or roustabouts, 2 being assigned to each crew or shift. The salary could range anywhere from $33,000 to $45000 per year depending on the company you are working for, with some companies paying even more. In most cases benefits are also included in the salary package.


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