Offshore Survival Guide
Everything you need to know to get into the oil industry.
Everything you need to start, saving you time, money, and with much greater success.
(Written and contributed by real oil/gas workers)
It’s well paid, exciting, you get flown to work in a helicopter (or sometimes by boat). It has one of the highest safety standards in world, and it is notoriously difficult to get into because the jobs are not listed anywhere.
To get a job in this industry you’ll need information(or contacts) and the timing, I’ll leave to you.
Offshore, everything is massive, it will blow your mind the scale and size of everything, and how all this was built(and still building) out at sea. You cannot get the same impression from looking at a photo.
If you have never seen what a £10 billion pound steel structure looks like, well now might be the time.
Below is the ‘Draugen’ platform in North Sea, Norwegian Sector.
Summery of Whats Inside the guide
The Offshore Survival guide is an ebook download(PDF doc).
- The agencies list (25)
- Companies you can apply to directly
- Insight to how the industry works
- How different skills can easily cross over to oil and gas
- Great info and tools on finding the right people within a company you are applying for
- You’ll be added to a google drive for any future revisions and additional resources
It’s made to hand you all the info you need on a plate if you are starting-out. If you are in the industry already then the agencies list is a gem, we asked loads of people to get a list of agencies that they were actually were hired by.
Email finding tool – there is an email finding tool that finds peoples emails and job positions in a company, It’s perfect for finding the best people to contact, and it’s free. (its further down this page)
Read the info below about some good and bad points about the industry + answered FAQs, it’s enough for you to decide if this guide(and a job in this industry) is for you.
Working in the Oil and Gas industry
Below are several sections on oil and gas, written in a casual informative way by worker(s) in the oil industry.
- Feast and famine industry
- Whats the money like
- Staff vs contract positions
- Higher paid jobs
- Crazy money
- Lack of information is the obstacle
- Working globally
- Woman in oil and gas
- Skills vs education
- Tips for emailing
- Do I need to live near the office
- The future of the industry
- Is it better to use agencies
- Cost for getting into the industry
Feast and Famine
The industry is feast or famine for many job types and for a variety of factors(companies are desperate for workers for a couple years, then the next it’s difficult to find a job). We are coming out of a 4 year low, and things are looking good for the next few years.
COVID caused a lot of problems like it is everywhere else, lots of redundancies + a year backlog of projects and non-essential maintenance. Which means not only will it all go back to normal soon but all the missed maintenance and construction will be in catch up mode, companies are not going to wait for COVID to end, they are now working around it. This is going to be great for jobs and it’s going to be a big feast again for a few years.
More reasons why I think this?
1) Agencies are literally telling experienced contractors that this year (2021) is due to be a really busy year.
2) ‘Invitations to tenders’ are coming in, which means that the Operators(The massive companies that own the oil rights (eg BP, shell, Chevron, Equinor, Exon mobile etc)) are moving forward on massive projects, that costs millions and billions.
This means the entire ecosystem of companies are being notified about up coming projects for this year and the up coming years and being asked to bid. This is happening already. And companies are currently massively understaffed to supply personnel (due to the amount of redundancies that happened over the past few years + COVID redundancies).
3) Oil prices are going up, everything becomes more profitable, getting more oil and gas out of the ground, and large projects get investment. This creates lots of jobs.
4) The Government is going more into debt at an alarming rate due to COVID. Renewable energy is costing the government money, whereas oil and gas puts money into the government, if there is more urgency to bring money in, then more Oil and green-lighting large projects will be feasible solution.
The signs are there.
Timing is important.
What is the money like?
Let’s be honest, the money is the reason why we do it.
The range is huge for what the payments are but its safe to say 1 month working offshore for an oil and gas company will earn you £4000 minimum for companies in the UK sector, and similar in the Renewables industry too. This is not a rule, this is more of a reality. Wages can increase(or decrease) depending on energy price and the sector you are in, drilling for example goes up and down really fast.
Assuming you are not a supervisor nor a super specialist. If you are competent at your job, most job types after you have some experience you can find contracts for £7000 for a month of working offshore (£240/day), and for staff its a bit different because you get a base salary(normally) with a daily ‘offshore bonus’.
So for a staff position, is normally less money while offshore(compared with contract) but generally it balances out over the year because you get paid when you are not working too.
(It’s not superstar money but you’ll definitely notice that anyone who has worked offshore for a while has a pretty nice car, and comfortably paying off their house.)
Some people who don’t like being away from home, work only a few months a year on ‘contract’, make £20-30k and they live happily doing other bits and pieces throughout the year. Some want to work regular rotations so then never need the stress of not knowing when they will get their next job. Some work a mix of onshore and offshore. There are a lot of options, but getting your first job and that all important offshore experience should be your first priority.
Ok let’s define the difference between staff and contract.
Staff positions and contract positions
Staff positions for offshore workers usually have a base salary and offshore bonus. For example, a trainee engineer may have a £24k/year(£2000/month) salary, and have an offshore bonus of £100/day, if he/she goes out for a month that will be £5,000 for that month.
Contract workers(also called day-raters), which makes up a large proportion of the jobs due to the project nature of the industry. You will be hired for a period of time for a specific team and have their part to play in the project. The general rule is contractors get paid more for their working days, as they have no base salary or other staff benefits like holiday pay or pension.
For example a team of scaffolders will be needed for a period of 4 months on a specific platform during a period of extra maintenance. That worker may have a 1 month on, 1 month off period, let’s say the pay is £220/day, that’s a £6000 pay-check for that month.
This does mean that you will be paid nothing for the month you are off work, you can do another job during that time, or any other personal project/side job or whatever you want.
Contract positives = Paid more per day + more flexibility, you usually have to do your own taxes (also can be a negative).
Contract Negatives = Zero job security,
Staff positives = Base salary every month, free training, benefits like pension and all your taxes are done for you(This used to be a negative if you wanted to put your pay through a limited company, because now there is a new law called IR35 that stops people doing regular jobs and getting paid into a limited company).
Staff negatives = You might have to work a lot, less time at home(is a positive when you are single and wanting to stack some cash).
Higher paid jobs
The money can be significantly higher for different types of jobs, especially specialised skills. The highest end of payments for jobs are saturation diver jobs, working contracts, they often get £1500 approx /day (10k/week).
There are many jobs that pay in the £250-400 / day mark (7.5k – 12k / working month) especially if you are working for service companies that may want some mixed skills, for example; diesel mechanics, compressors operators, crane drivers, Health and safety workers, welders, welding inspectors, pipefitters, hydraulics specialists, managers, medics or electricians, camp boss(seriously, that is the name for head of catering).
Service companies are good for well paid positions because they tend to specialise in one particular thing and will go to many different locations, keeping things interesting and lots of travel potential.
Service company example: Your company specialised in installing a specific tool on the end of a pipe before it is laid subsea. It’s hard to find people with that Particular skill. They understand they usually have to hire and train people to use their tools and provide
There are non mechanical jobs too, like a medic, logistics admin, health and safety personnel, project managers etc. that receive high paychecks, even store-men get good wages.
Sometimes, for a variety of different factors you can get paid ridiculous amounts of money compared to the normal going rate for the same job. it’s not regular but it does happen.
To put things in perspective, for my job, working in a team (not the supervisor) I have seen a monthly wage(contract) range between £5,000 and £25,000 for exactly the same job.
These situation usually come when you are hired to work away from the UK.
(It’s generally all the same to you if its a rig in the UK or in Australia or Egypt, it will just be nicer weather. Everything will be more or less the the same regarding working environment.)
When you work for a UK company this will only happen when you work contract(uk based agency), not staff.
I’ll give you a short list of some factors:
In Australia it was ridiculous for a while. Everyone was getting paid a fortune. I was working on a vessel there(for a UK agency) and the stewards(people who clean your rooms, do laundry and some catering etc) were getting paid $1100/day, $30k a month to be a cleaner, it was mad!
Why did this happen?
In this particular case the Aussie government sold their gas to the Chinese for a super cheap price. But with the condition that they had to use Australian workers for the construction and running of everything. So to make up for the money they lost selling cheap, they increased everyones wages, and got the money through people’s income taxes. So the result everyone got massive wages.
In Norway they have a great setup too, they have ‘compensations’ set up so that you get paid extra for a variety of different reasons when you work offshore. And this is set and controlled by their government, so companies legally need to give you these benefits. The benefits are as follows
Double time after 14 days
Double time for hours worked after the standard 12 hours per day
Extra £50 per day for night shift
Extra 1.5 day wages for changing from day to night shit (or vice versa)
An extra days wages for if your helicopter is delayed due to weather (on top of your extra wages for being there)
Sharing a cabin with someone who is on the same shift time (£60 / day).
As you can imagine, if your job is delayed for any reason, and you are on night shift, with another guy in your cabin (all that is doubled too btw after 14 days) you will get a huge wage.
I worked in Norway for a UK based agency and got these benefits too.
When oil prices are high(or forecasted to be high), or government allowances happen that mean the profit margin for the top level companies become much larger, there will be a mad rush to capitalise on that. This will be mainly in areas that are not already operating as normal, so you are talking construction phases, and commissioning phase.
During these times the operator companies want to get as much out of the ground as fast a possible. Or the open up a new pipeline as fast as possible, so every contracted and subcontracted company(1000s of companies) in the chain will get higher incentives to get thing moving ASAP and this is represented on the contract prices.
Let’s say there is £20 million /day coming in from a production rig offshore, government is getting there cut, the company is getting the rest of the income, they also need to pay their over heads and massive initial investment.
Nobody here wants the money to stop, they will keep it running as long as possible, however, there is a balance, maintenance is required, expecially out at sea things get corroded badly. For all the maintenance that requires that the oil/gas is not flowing they will do it all as fast as possible at the 1 time. This is called a ‘shutdown’.
During a shutdown it’s all about speed. It is so busy on a rig, different work parties everywhere, stuff all over the place and the pace of work is high.
Shutdowns happen during certain times of the year where the weather is the best for hard work and less delays. In the UK it is summer, in warmer places it’s in their “winter” or dry season.
This is also a good time to get jobs for less experience or no experience people and also get more money, because sometimes every single experienced worker is offshore or not ready to go back out. If a company is 5 people short, an agency will find those people for them, by either finding a new guy or paying more to entice an experienced guy to change his holiday plans.
This is a nice extra bit of money for going to a place where all your expenses are not covered, the amount is different for each country but your company will pay you an amount of money (tax free) so that you don’t need to worry about day to day eating/drinking/laundry costs.
Per Diems can range between $30-$80/day. The more developed the country, the more you get(because everything is generally more expensive). You can chose to save it, or spend it. If you are in Vietnam for example and you get $40 every day, you can have quite a nice time, eating and drinking in nice places for that money and still have all your wages when you come back home.
Getting paid while in 5 star hotels
If your company sends you to another country, you had a work visa organised for you etc. Then you will be sent there ahead of time to make sure that your team(and equipment) arrived in country ok and are ready for the job.
Often you will be put up in a nice hotel (not always). You will probably live in this hotel until the rig or vessel offshore is ready for your team to do your job.
This is because offshore there are limited bed-space, there is a maximum allowable amount of people allowed onboard, and when there is a lot of maintenance or construction, often rigs are at full capacity.
Until they need you, and if they prioritise other work parties over your company, you might spend your a large portion of your rotation in a 5 star hotel on full pay, spending your days working on your tan. This is not uncommon and an occasional benefit of working for a global service company.
At the moment, although not so exciting, workers are paid to be hotels for COVID quarantine before going offshore.
Bridging the Gap
The main obstacle getting your job offshore, is the lack of information about how to get work, especially if you have no experience offshore. Because of this, normally it’s knowing someone in the industry who helps build the bridge for you.
A good piece of advice before would have been to hang out in a bar in Aberdeen and make friends with offshore workers to see if you can find a way in, it’s not possible at the moment.
There hasn’t been any guides made in the past that help people get into the industry, probably because there is not much incentive to do so. Also companies are really secretive, you are not allowed to take photos and talk about your job on social media, so it’s quite closed in many ways
I started putting notes together during some downtime over the course of a few trips offshore, and it gathered momentum pretty fast, people wanted to chip in some info, and now the guide is now 35+ pages.
I think this is the most useful time to have a guide like this, and it will give you the confidence to apply for offshore jobs.
This industry is global
Keep in mind It’s not just the north sea that is managed by UK companies, they handle projects all over the world.So don’t close off the ideas of how big the reach of jobs are.
The oil and gas working language is English usually all procedures and meeting are in english. So when you are trained in a skill for a UK company you could be flown to all the corners of the earth to install equipment, service some equipment, or provide technical support.
UK companies handle mainly UK, Africa, central Asia. Smaller companies with very specific/super niche products and service might be servicing the whole world from the UK, as it doesn’t make sense to have offices everywhere, so when you work for them, you’ll have a pretty full passport.
(FYI you will get more passports, so that while you are away working your company can get visas for you for your next job)
For example: If 1 rig needs your service for 1 week per year. You could be in Turkmenistan 1 week. UK the next, then Saklin in Russia, then offshore Bali. It all depends on the type of business you work for.
Woman in Oil and Gas
There are not many woman working offshore in oil and gas. My guess is roughly 5% based on the sites I have worked on.
I have seen women working offshore mostly in the following positions: Steward, admin, medic, logistics, ROV pilot, survey, project engineer and I met 1 female pump operator.
The general opinion from men is that more woman should work offshore. There is something nice about a woman around and not just men.
Due to the positive discrimination guidelines to encourage more gender equal statistics, woman will be slightly more likely to job a job over a man if everything is equal(this is my opinion). Most of the jobs are mechanical/technical, there doesn’t seem to be as many woman skilled in these areas applying for jobs. I have never met a female diesel mechanic(for example), but if she was good, I think any company would her instantly.
Nobody onboard is going to act inappropriately, people care too much about their jobs to step out of line, there is no tolerance if offensive behaviour. If anything, woman are treated extra well, usually with their own cabins, private changing rooms etc.
Skills vs Education
There are many different jobs out there, and huge number of very specific and specialised products and services. There are room for both here.
Hands-on skills are more useful than a degree in most of the jobs. However a degree in engineering(of any type) is great credibility and speaks for itself in terms of ability to learn and grasping mechanical concepts quickly. If you have both, then this puts you in a great position regarding an attractive candidate for jobs.
Graduates with no hands-on skills can be hired as junior engineers. Learning the hands-on part over time. The operators like Shell, BP etc they hire the best master degree students and have a very system based hiring method, however the smaller service companies will hire lower grade graduates.
Other useful degrees are geologists, physics and maths. Chemical engineering is particularly sought after in the drilling sector.
Trades are very useful. Tradesmen have a higher chance of getting jobs, and interestingly enough farmers are a popular choice due to an assumed hard working and multi-skilled background.
FAQ: Any good ways direct email people.
Direct email to key people is important, or can be. It is about connecting with the right person near the time they need you, check out the screenshots of the guide below and you’ll see how it works.
The is a chrome plugin that gives you an icon on the top right of your browser.
When you are on a particular company’s website, press it, and it will give you a list of emails of people who have their emails somewhere on the website, even hidden places, it even says their positions. You get enough emails for free without paying for the service, it is so useful.
The guide has plenty of companies to try this out on.
Get this info for later
There’s a lot of information here so if you want a copy for later. Put your email in here and it will be sent to you, so you can come back to it whenever.
It’s also makes it easy if you want to send it on to someone else.
FAQ: Do I need to live near the company office?
No, you don’t. If you are totally new you will need to go and do training until you are ready to go offshore. Most of the job types are learned ‘on the job’. So you will be under the wing of the guys offshore.
If your staff job is fully offshore, then apart from basic training, you can live regionally wherever you want.
If your job is contract and fully offshore then you can also live regionally where ever you want.
If you have experience, and are previously trained, If you work for a company that provides their service globally from a UK office you might be able to live anywhere you want in the world with reasonable access to an international airport.
FAQ: Is oil and gas dead?
You’ll get mixed responses from people about this, especially this year, because 2020 has been the worst year ever!!
The truth is that oil and gas industry will die one day(stop using petrol/diesel/plastic/oils/lubricants etc), although it won’t be for another 20-40 years or so, more than enough for a career, and definitely enough for a few years of earning a chunk of cash.
Energy percentage trend
The general trend is that energy percentage produced by oil/gas is going down, renewables are heavily subsidised which costs our governments a lot, and after the huge COVID cost to the economy there is a good chance that oil will start getting more incentives now as it brings in so much money for the government, which will mean lots of jobs for several years.
Feast and famine creates pessimists
There will be lots of pessimists whenever there is an oil price low, you get lots of people getting paid off from staff jobs, and non essential workers aren’t required for a while. If you listen to complainers you will hear that it is all dead, it is just not true. This is an industry and goes up and down all the time you should be aware of that.
Some areas are increasing, like de-commissioning, which is essentially offshore de-construction of the old rigs and infrastructure, this is a huge amount of work.
Oil boomers retiring
There is a huge number of older workers in oil/gas from the 70s and 80s(so many), and they are all coming to retirement age, and this is going to open up a lot of job spaces.
There are positives and negatives for industry, and you can make the decision yourself if you want to be part of it.
Wind farms have produced a lot of work recently and many oil guys are moving into wind farms. There are lots of subsidies at the moment for greener energy so it’s going well there at the moment, who knows what will happen now that COVID has put most the country in massive amounts of debt, usual oil brings in the most money to the country.
There are a lot similar activities in wind farm construction as in oil and gas construction and the money is similar and sometimes better, the certs required for going on wind farm jobs are different so keep that in mind. Info on wind farms is something that will be added over time, so if you buy the guide then you’ll get the new revisions sent out.
FAQ: Is it better to use Agencies?
For people new to the industry, agencies are your best option for getting a job quickly.
To get ‘lucky’ regarding getting a start, you need to ‘make that luck’ by making everyone aware of you and why you are useful. Make sure that you have good keywords in your CV, because companies use software to search CVs now (will explain more in the guide).
The problem with this oil-school word-of-mouth industry is that many of these agencies don’t have websites optimised for google search engines, so you might never find them.
If you are searching the internet for agencies you’ll have to go through a lot of other websites, and you won’t know the difference between agencies that get the work and the ones that don’t, you’ll waste a lot of time.
This specific collection of agencies is probably the most important resource in this guide.
During the making of this guide, workers who were providing information(while at work offshore) were requesting a copy of this guide just for this agency list, that is how valuable it is. Even when you have a job already, it’s nice to hear of the opportunities and money that is offered.
FAQ: How much does it cost to get into the industry?
There are two ways really,
1) Get yourself offshore ready, and use agencies to use you when there is an available position. There will be some courses like the BOSIET, MIST and an OGUK medical, fitness to train certs(NEW) that you need to get, it can be up to £1000 to get yourself ‘offshore ready’, then it is important to get yourself known by the agencies, and SEO your CV making sure you have lots of important keywords in their, and that you are really specific about how useful you are.
2) Staff job. If you have a valuable skill/qualification then this going to help you get a job quickly, you can apply directly to companies and get hired(especially when projects are getting planned, like now), usually companies will put you through all of your certs for you (a £1000 course is nothing for an oil company). This can cost you nothing more than your effort.
If you are covering all your bases, and keen, then do both.
FAQ: What are the useful skills?
This is something that we mention a lot, because it’s important to know what to apply for, and how to position yourself. There are pages on this topic, so you can understand where to position yourself for getting a job. There are so many different types of services that getting an insight on the companies is really useful, and the ‘types’ of companies might use your skills
Here it is
The Offshore Survival guide is a downloadable ebook(PDF doc), written and contributed 100% by real offshore workers.
It’s 38 A4 pages, not too long, concise info and resources.
It’s prepared in a way to give you information you couldn’t get on your own and save you a hell of a lot of time. If you manage to get into this industry you will your bank pretty quickly and you’ll with you done it sooner.
I can only show you the door, you are the one that needs to walk through it.
If you buy the guide, you won’t regret it, and you will be buying a few pints for us to say thanks for putting it together.
Offshore Survival Guide
Oil and gas agencies you should contact
Oil companies to apply to directly
Insight into job accessible to people with no experience
Advice on applying for jobs and advertising your skills
Tools and tips to help you find emails and people to contact
You'll be added to a google drive where any future revisions and additional resources will available to you