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Oil and Gas Rotary Drill Operator

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High school (GED) +

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What They Do

Rotary Drill Operators, Oil and Gas Career Video

About This Career

Sets up or operates a variety of drills to remove underground oil and gas, or removes core samples for testing during oil and gas exploration.

This career is part of the Architecture and Construction cluster Construction pathway.

A person in this career:

  • Trains crews, and introduces procedures to make drill work more safe and effective.
  • Observes pressure gauge and moves throttles and levers to control the speed of rotary tables, and to regulate pressure of tools at bottoms of boreholes.
  • Counts sections of drill rod to determine depths of boreholes.
  • Pushes levers and brake pedals to control gasoline, diesel, electric, or steam draw works that lower and raise drill pipes and casings in and out of wells.
  • Connects sections of drill pipe, using hand tools and powered wrenches and tongs.
  • Maintains records of footage drilled, location and nature of strata penetrated, materials and tools used, services rendered, and time required.
  • Maintains and adjusts machinery to ensure proper performance.
  • Starts and examines operation of slush pumps to ensure circulation and consistency of drilling fluid or mud in well.
  • Locates and recovers lost or broken bits, casings, and drill pipes from wells, using special tools.
  • Directs rig crews in drilling and other activities, such as setting up rigs and completing or servicing wells.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to conditions such as high voltage electricity, combustibles, explosives, and chemicals more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time
  • Whole body vibrations, such as when operating a jackhammer
  • Work at heights above 8 feet more than once a month on structures such as ladders, poles, scaffolding, and catwalks

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Overnight travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Daylight Driller
  • Drill Operator
  • Driller
  • Drilling Rig Operator
  • Motor Man
  • Oil Rig Driller
  • Relief Driller
  • Tool Pusher
  • Oil Well Driller


  • Email Support
  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900
  • North Dakota Career Resource Network
    ndcrn@nd.gov | (701) 328-9733